CEAS Colloquium Series

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

The military crackdown of the massive student movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4th of 1989 has created an unforgettable date of mourning in the minds of the Chinese people.  Although voices to reclaim the movement have been suppressed by the Chinese government, the last twenty five years saw an outpouring of poetry about the June 4th incident, constituting what Jiayan Mi would call “spectropoetics” that aims for conjuring up images of the dead, fighting against the loss of memory, and calling forth a better future. In this presentation, Mi will offer some reflections on the June...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

Are any other premodernists dissatisfied with the standard units of historical analysis? Concepts such as ‘states’, ‘peoples’, ‘territory’ and ‘cultures’ derive from modern concerns and are often a poor fit to premodern circumstances of slow communications, weak centralization, fluid loyalties, shifting boundaries, remarkable mobility, tremendous diversity and continual interaction and exchange. Analyses that start from the normative ideas too often generate forced explanations of how a heterogeneous and unstable clumping of diverse interests and resources was really a ‘people’ on a...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

The revival of Confucianism in contemporary China has many dimensions, among which the political, the educational, the ritual, and the ethical are the most prominent. In this lecture Anna Sun focuses on the last two, the ritual and the ethical revival of Confucianism in everyday practice. The work is based on extensive field research in Confucius temples, as well as interviews with ordinary people in urban China. The conclusions drawn from this research bear witness to the resilience of Confucianism as a structuring power in the religious, social, and ethical imagination of Chinese society...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

Was Japan isolated in the eighteenth century? For decades historians have struggled to make sense of early modern Japanese foreign policy: did the Tokugawa shoguns cut-off Japan from the outside world, or was this a more nuanced policy of limiting select foreign contacts? This talk examines the case of Russia’s 1792 attempt to open trade with Japan. It reveals that the attempt foundered more problems of translation and political culture than on a Tokugawa aversion to trade with the West. Mark Ravina (Ph.D. Stanford, 1991) is professor of history at Emory University. He has been a visiting...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

The Police Affairs Bureau of the Home Ministry (Naimusho Keihokyoku) carried out centralized, national film censorship from 1925 to 1940. Every single print of all sorts of films – domestic or foreign, dramatic or documentary, feature-length or short – had to undergo this process and receive the censor’s seal of approval in order to be screened for a public in the Japanese Empire. Despite its vital role, the Home Ministry’s censorship, especially its effects on individual films’ textual details, has not attracted sufficient scholarly attention. This presentation fills this gap by focusing on...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

This talk explores how public knowledge of Western things, such as the telescope and the camera obscura, took shape in late Joseon Korea, and how it was used in painting. Korean envoys to Beijing were key players in introducing and circulating Western curiosities and novelties. They brought numerous books on Europe and some of the Western scientific instruments to Korea, and laid the foundation for the rise of Western learning. Telescopes, self-sounding clocks, world maps, and books on European geometry, such as Matteo Ricci’s (1552-1610) Jihe yuanben (Elements of Geometry) of 1607, opened up...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

According to the United Nations, by 2025, 1.9 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water stress conditions. In this talk, Santos argues that one of the best ways to capture the making of contemporary water shortage anxieties is to explore the global history of the modern flush toilet and the hydraulic system of waste disposal supporting its operation. Drawing on historical and ethnographic research on the spread of the flush toilet in rural South China, this paper calls for the need to...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

The Northern Song saw major changes in the rhetoric and performance of filial piety. Compared to earlier times, a proper epitaph (muzhiming 墓誌銘) for one’s parents was increasingly seen as one of the most crucial filial obligations of the son. The son also occupied a more visible place in his parent’s muzhiming, routinely being portrayed as having braved extreme physical, emotional, and financial obstacles in order to secure a biographer for his father or mother. These developments did not necessarily mean that muzhiming writing was free of contention and negotiation between the filial...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

The early seventeenth century saw an unprecedented surge in connections between Japan and states across Southeast Asia. Japanese merchants, mercenaries and migrants started to appear in large numbers in ports across the region while the first Tokugawa shogun exchanged regular correspondence with a diverse array of rulers and officials. This began to change, however, in the 1620s as the Tokugawa regime severed these connections by rejecting a string of incoming diplomatic letters and embassies. This paper explores this process of diplomatic retreat but argues that it was accompanied by a...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

The fiction of the popular early-Tokugawa writer Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) is noteworthy for the tension between its narrator’s stern moral pronouncements regarding characters’ transgressive behavior and sympathetic, even heroic portrayals of these same characters. The resulting ambiguity has led scholars to radically differing interpretations of the ideological stance of these texts. This presentation will elucidate as a key to interpreting this ambiguity chapters in Saikaku’s first published work of fiction in which the narrator’s condemnations of hubristic behavior on the part of...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

In the last twenty years, Western scholars have begun to pay more attention to the importance of Manchu-language sources in the study of the history of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The recent discovery of the value of these materials ought more properly be regarded as a rediscovery, however, since in the early 19th century the first European sinologists had already begun to take a serious interest in the Manchu language, noting then its value for the study of Chinese history and the classics.  The pioneer in this regard was the remarkable Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat (1788-1832).  It was two...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

As part of the post-World War II democratization and modernization policies under US military occupation, the Japanese court system adopted the Anglo-American legal principle of direct trial and the adversarial system.  This innovation left behind the earlier inquisitorial system and foregrounded oral-based trials and cross-examination, and thus introduced live speech at the core of judicial processes.  This transformation was marked by the the adoption of the Japanese stenographic typewriter (sokutaipu) in 1950 as an official recording method to produce trial records. Drawing on interviews...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

Contrary to popular imaginings the Dharma has not historically been an inherently environmental religion. Rather, early Buddhism was a prosperity theology that succeeded largely on account of its willingness to exploit both people and natural resources on the commodity frontier. As such, by investigating the links between Buddhism and agricultural expansion this talk will explore how Buddhists radically transformed Asia’s environment. Johan Elverskog is Altshuler University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at SMU. He is the author of numerous books and articles...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

What does it mean to write literary history? How is it possible to reduce the vast arrays of literary data into a comprehensible historical narrative? And since it is not possible to include all literary data, then what is selected and what is omitted, and how are the selections representative of the whole of the data? This talk will take up the relationship between data and literary historical knowledge, focusing on the Quan Tang shi 全唐詩, the massive comprehensive anthology of Tang poetry that was produced during the Qing dynasty. The methodology that Chen employs is that of topic modeling,...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

Over the last two decades, rapid urban expansion building on landgrabs has become ubiquitous in China. The pursuit of urban-centered economic growth has created crises of land deprivation and rural identity in Chinese rural society. Land-related protests have become the focal point of movements for the protection of Chinese farmers’ rights. Drawing on ethnographic materials concerning a series of influential protests over landgrabs in Wukan village, this paper presents a critical rethinking of the economy and an examination of how the restoration of villagers’ collective identity has led to...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

The U.S. Constitution enshrined press freedoms in the First Amendment, ratified by the states in 1791. In the subsequent 223 years, the world’s leading economies, whether Britain or the U.S., generally held to be self-evident that a free press was necessary and good for the proper functioning of society and to provide a check on government’s power. Now China is poised to take the pole position as the world’s biggest economy, and its leaders have clearly shown their disdain for press freedoms, with new restrictions on one of the world’s most controlled media environments being introduced just...

Event
Posted : October 15, 2015

Focusing upon Anna May Wong, an early Twentieth-century Chinese-American screen and stage performer, this talk will delve into the intricacies of her vocal and visual performance at the transition from the silent to the talkie era in the international arena.  Wang’s previous writings have formulated concepts such as “yellow yellowface” performance (2005) and “minor” stardom (2010, drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s “minor literature”) to understand her ironic performance of Orientalist stereotypes and her performative production of gradational (as opposed to radical) difference from...

Event
Posted : September 4, 2015

The proliferation of power centers in Japan’s thirteenth and fourteenth centuries brought a corresponding boom in cultural activity, which has left an outsized footprint in the extant manuscript corpus. One of the most important centers for the collection and reproduction of books at this time was the Kanazawa Library, established near the shogunate headquarters in Kamakura. This library was unique in the success and scale of its acquisitions, but in fact shows significant continuities with larger patterns of book circulation among the military households of eastern Japan. Why did shogunate...

Event
Posted : September 4, 2015

The intensified interconnections between media after the 1960s entailed numerous shifts that still shape media culture in Japan today. This talk will explore several historical tipping points that negotiate a new economy of mediated life in the transforming media ecology. From the vivisection of giant monsters in the 1960s to the funeral ceremony for a post-apocalyptic warlord in 2007, a pattern of zombification emerges that is tailored to the rhythms of late-capitalist media culture.  

Event
Posted : September 4, 2015

Since 2003, a small group of Japanese sanitation workers has traveled annually from Tokyo to Chennai, India to meet with a group they understand as comrades - the Dalit. Every year, over the course of a week, the Japanese visitors tour Dalit places of work, their homes, and share with them stories of pain and discrimination – the difficulties of marginalization alongside the triumphs of resistance. Using this type of solidarity trip as an ethnographic crucible, my talk examines the internationalization of Japanese grassroots politics. I explore how boundaries – national, ethnic, linguistic,...

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