UCLA at the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting -- New York, March 27-30
Thousands of people interested in Asia will gather in New York City, many to hear presentations made by UCLA scholars, students, and alumni.
UCLA scholars, students, and alumni have contributed a great deal to developing Asian studies and continue to offer pioneering scholarship. At the 2003 meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, thirty-four present papers, chair sessions, or serve as discussants -- the largest contingent from any university. Three of the conference's panels were organized by UCLA history graduate students, Margaret Kuo, Nhung Tuyet Tran, and Jason Creigh. A fourth panel was organized by Eileen Cheng, a graduate student in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Another was assembled by art history professor Burglind Jungmann. Three others were initiated by UCLA alumni: Hiromi Mizuno, teaching at the University of Minnesota, Esther Yau, teaching at Occidental College, and Yibing Huang, teaching at Connecticut College.
Below we present abstracts of the papers presented by and the panels organized by members of the UCLA Asian Studies family.
More information about the AAS and its annual meeting is available at aasianst.org. The 2004 meeting will be held in San Diego on March 4-7.
News from the annual meeting: David Schaberg's A Patterned Past receives top AAS book award: The 2003 Joseph Levenson Prize
|Ben-Dor, Zvi||Mizuno, Hiromi|
|Cheng, Eileen||Oak, Sung-Deuk|
|Creigh, Jason||Schaberg, David|
|Dutton, George||Takeuchi, Michiko|
|Ginoza, Naomi||Tran, Nhung Tuyet|
|Jeong, Kelly Yoojeong||Wang, Chaohua|
|Jungmann, Burglind||Yau, Esther|
von Glahn, Richard
“Good Wives, Bad Wives: Family Ideology in Republican China”
Organized by Margaret Kuo, History, UCLA
The members of our panel investigate attempts in Republican China to transform that most ubiquitous of gender identities, the wife, from a bearer of traditional virtues into a representative of modern values. Her daily tasks of housekeeping and child rearing, moreover, aroused the attention of reformers and revolutionaries who resolved to remodel these routine chores into dynamic household management skills that served state-building and national resistance efforts. Conceptions of wives and their behavior have possessed enormous moral power throughout Chinese history. But as China experienced political and economic upheaval, invasion and occupation, and social and physical dislocation in the first half of the twentieth century, the ideological foundations of the good wife and the ideal family underwent severe disruption. Writers, politicians, feminists, policymakers, and judges all struggled to redefine what constituted the proper wife—her characteristics and her activities. Our papers collectively explore these discursive debates over wives and their duties in the contexts of Communist Party resistance politics in occupied Shanghai (Susan Glosser), Guomindang family education experiments in rural Sichuan (Helen Schneider), litigation over GMD marriage provisions (Margaret Kuo), and variations on “good wife wise mother-isms” in print culture (Ling-ling Lien). Each paper also illustrates related examples of improper wifehood and objectionable domestic activities. Although our inquiry into the burgeoning meanings of wifehood in the new nation elicits questions of how to unbind wives from the narrow confines of the family, our answers, ironically, link wives ever closer to underlying changes in family ideology. Finally, our discussant, anthropologist Ann Anagnost, will raise interdisciplinary insights and draw theoretical connections between Republican and contemporary family ideology.
Homemaking as Resistance in Occupied Shanghai, 1937–1941
Susan L. Glosser, Lewis & Clark College
Litigious Husbands and Runaway Wives: Cohabitation Suits in Republican China
Margaret Kuo, UCLA
The mutual obligation that a husband and wife live together (tongju) derived from the German Civil Code, but its implementation in the Republican period generated plenty of litigation distinctive to Chinese society. Husbands, who firmly believed that marriage granted husbands and their families custody of wives, used the obligation as a legal weapon to demand the return of wives who had run away from them. And wives, long accustomed to seeking refuge with their natal families, defied the obligation when the conditions of living with their husbands and in-laws turned out to be intolerable. Although cohabitation lawsuits pitted possessive husbands against truant wives, the case records underscore the importance of the tensions, not between individuals, but rather between in-laws and natal families. In this paper I focus on domestic disputes brought before the courts under the cohabitation provision, in order to illustrate the incompatibility between the legislative principles of gender equality and personal freedom, and the traditional practice of patrilocality in marriage. I examine the legislative rationale for the cohabitation obligation in the 1929–1931 Civil Code; the petitions, answers, depositions, and settlements filed in cohabitation lawsuits from the 1930s and 1940s; and the judgments handed down at the local, provincial, and Supreme Court levels. My study of legislators, litigants, and judges demonstrates that traditional patrilocal ideas persisted and even thrived within a Western legal framework. The legislators’ initial vision of conjugal harmony, moreover, bore little resemblance to the grievances recounted by litigants and the moral and practical considerations weighed by judges in the actual disputes.
Old Wine in a New Bottle? Constructing the "Good Wife and Wise Mother" in Republican China
Ling-ling Lien, University of California, Riverside
Experimenting with the Family: Family Education during the Sino-Japanese War
Helen Schneider, University of Washington
De-mystifying the Woman: Gender in Vietnamese History and Historiography
Organized by Nhung Tuyet Tran, History, UCLA
In the scholarship on Viet Nam, women signify the nation’s unique cultural heritage and serve as a marker of tradition or modernity emerging in three reified forms: as signs of Confucian oppression, of Vietnamese uniqueness, or of Southeast Asian permissiveness. Between the two cultural traditions of the Southeast Asian and Sinic world, another model of Vietnamese womanhood emerged. This model emphasized Vietnamese uniqueness, and the woman embodied an ostensibly unified national culture that predates Chinese influence. As markers of tradition, the existing literature relegates women’s experiences to their contribution to the meta-narrative of Vietnamese history. As a result, we still know very little about their lives. What then were women’s lives like?
This panel challenges assertions of Vietnamese women’s uniqueness by examining their lives through their participation in the marketplace, village and urban society, and literature. Two of the papers, Nhung Tuyet Tran’s and Wynn Wilcox’s, examine the ways in which early modern village society and urban colonial society, respectively, constructed gendered roles and set the rules of sexual activity. Liam Kelley’s reading of Doan Thi Diem’s eighteenth-century poetry challenges the mystique of Ho Xuan Huong, whose apparent sexually-charged poetry has captured the imagination of Western audiences. George Dutton’s examination of women’s participation in the market from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries at last gives attention to their actual experience in the marketplace. These papers challenge the existing literature by writing about women’s lives without limiting the discussion to Vietnamese identity, whether Chinese, Southeast Asian, or uniquely national.
Chair and Discussant: John K. Whitmore, University of Michigan
- Sex in the Village: Local Authority and the Regulation of Women’s Sexuality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century An Nam
Nhung Tuyet Tran, History, UCLA
Though scholars often highlight the permissiveness of traditional Vietnamese society towards women’s sexual behavior, there has been no attempt to test such assertions beyond allusion to disconnected Chinese and European observations. This paper seeks to fill this gap by examining how local authority regulated women’s sexuality and constructed gender roles through legal, moral and medical mechanisms. Local authority includes officials, custom, and religious authority. Local medicine, transmitted among the populace in a form of vernacular poetry, constructed and defined the feminine body in a certain way; understanding how everyday people understood women’s bodies allows additional insight into women’s roles and participation in the village.
I will focus on how women’s sexual activity was regulated by code, custom and practice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This period has a particularly important proliferation of morality texts from state, religious (Buddhist and Catholic), and local sources. How did each level regulate sexuality? Was there any perceivable difference between the way religious teaching, neo-Confucian morality, and local custom constructed gender? The web of regulations during a period of intense economic and religious activity reveals in greater relief an aspect of women’s lives often alluded to but seldom examined. Research for this paper is based on state records, including morality codes, and magistrates’ manuals; religious manuals; and other local records, including village regulations, stele inscriptions, and medical texts written in classical Chinese and the demotic script (chu nôm) and collected from various archives in Viet Nam. Observations from missionaries, located at the Missions Etrangeres Archives (Paris) and the Jesuit Archives (Rome) provide valuable ethnographic data.
- That Other Vietnamese Woman: Doan Thi Diem and the Truyen Ky Tan Pha
Liam C. Kelley, University of Hawaii, Manoa
- Vietnamese Women in the Marketplace: A Historical Overview
George Dutton, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Scholars have long commented on the involvement of Vietnamese women in the economy of Viet Nam, noting the contrast between this involvement and the alleged greater circumscription of women’s involvement in other realms of society. There has, however, been no closer examination of this phenomenon and its historical manifestations. This paper is designed as a preliminary examination of the ways in which Vietnamese women have historically involved themselves in economic activity, and more specifically in the commercial venues of the marketplace. In it, I propose to use available sources, most notably reports of visiting Europeans, but also what references are found in Vietnamese materials, to sketch aspects of the roles that women played in this arena.
I will focus on a number of different aspects of women’s involvement in market activities, including the types of goods being sold, the degree of participation in the procurement and distribution of goods, and their involvement in the monetary or goods-exchange economies. I also propose, to the extent that the sources allow, to compare the nature and degree of women’s involvement over time and space, looking at female participation in various larger market settings in different regions of Viet Nam. This paper will focus primarily on the period between about 1700 and 1900, a time-frame guided largely by the availability of sources, but also one that allows a focus on pre-twentieth-century and pre-colonial economic activity, about which there is virtually no existing scholarship. In focusing on this earlier period, the paper will provide the basis for a more concrete understanding of what has often been a convenient generalization about Vietnamese women rather than a more carefully explored phenomenon.
- Woman as Wholesome National Culture: Configurations of Desire and Identity in "The Western Vietnamese"
Wynn Wilcox, University of Oregon
Individual and Institution:
How Korean Paintings Reflect Social and Political Circumstances
Organized by Burglind Jungmann, Art History, UCLA
Korean art has been mainly investigated in terms of its stylistic evolution. Although usually accompanied by a short introduction to cultural and political circumstances few studies in Korean painting have made efforts to directly link the visual material to its cultural, political and social contexts. The panel attempts to approach the field under different perspectives, through case studies on individual painters and a government institution, and through Taoist and Buddhist themes used at times when Confucian ideology was strong.
Jeonghye Park will shed light on one of the most powerful government institutions of the Choson period (1392–1910). Introducing documentary paintings commissioned by the Office of Statesmen of Venerable Age she will investigate the political character of the visual material as well as social life inside government agencies.
Burglind Jungmann will introduce the case of Kim Che, a painter whose life and work was overshadowed by internal and external political conflicts. She will show that his paintings rather than being examples of a leisurely pastime can be interpreted as evidence of retreat and thus as reactions to contemporary political conditions.
Seunghye Sun investigates Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist iconography in Choson painting and how the symbolism of the "three religions" amalgamates in the visualization of a Korean novel.
Finally the discussion of a modern painter, Kim Kich’ang, by Joohyun Lee will show how Korea’s political struggle in the 20th century affected painting history and how the heritage of the Choson period helped painters to find their identity in the modern world.
Revering the Elderly: Documentary Paintings of the Office of Statesmen of Venerable Age during the Choson Dynasty
Jeonghye Park, Academy of Korean Studies
Dreaming of Seclusion in Times of Turmoil: Paintings by Kim Che (1524–1593)
Burglind Jungmann, Art History, UCLA
Kim Che, according to contemporary records, was a most prominent and influential painter during the 16th century. However, two historical events have obscured the reception of his work, the career of his over-ambitious father and the invasions of Korea under Japanese warlord Hideyoshi.
Kim Che is credited with the adoption of the so-called Zhe school style, but there is a certain calmness about his paintings of figures and animals in landscape settings, of birds on trees, that goes beyond the constraints of this Chinese court mode and links him to earlier scholarly painting traditions. Curiously, his paintings stand in strong contrast to the political conditions of his time as well as his personal situation. His father, Kim Allo (1481–1537), a powerful politician, played a crucial role in fights between political factions, and he was subsequently forced to commit suicide. Kim Che himself never assumed any high government position; he rather seems to have chosen painting as a means of retreat.
My paper attempts to reach beyond current interpretations of Kim Che’s paintings as mere adaptations of a Chinese style. Introducing literary sources, I will shed light on his personal situation and on the evaluation of his works by contemporaries. Discussing his paintings in the context of political and social conditions I attempt to reinterpret them as political statements. Moreover, I will discuss a number of paintings in Japanese collections which may have reached Japan before or during the Hideyoshi invasions and have so far attracted little attention.
Storytelling in Korean Painting
Seunghye Sun, National Museum of Korea
In Search of Identity: Figure Paintings by Kim Kich’ang (1913–2001) between 1945 and 1975
Joohyun Lee, Hongik University
Rereading a Revolutionary Icon: Qiu Jin through Texts, Images, and Gestures
Organized by Eileen J. Cheng, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Through the use of existing and previously overlooked sources and a variety of innovative perspectives, this panel offers a radical departure from conventional scholarship on Qiu Jin (1875–1907). Qiu Jin has become an iconic image, a revolutionary martyr canonized by both nationalists and communists. What made her such a remarkable figure in her time, however, is not solely nor even predominantly her role as a revolutionary, as much scholarship suggests; it is, rather, the ways in which she was able to forge and negotiate a variety of public identities including that of a writer, anarchist, revolutionary, and feminist.
The panel explores the complexities and contrad-ictions of Qiu Jin’s multiple identities through a variety of perspectives and sources. These include: an analysis of the material details behind and the gendered and cultural implications of photographic images of Qiu Jin in light of previously overlooked Japanese sources; an examination of Qiu Jin’s body as a site of her own self-creation and a source of widespread controversy through memoirs left by her contemporaries; an exploration of the intersection between gender and genre in Qiu Jin’s writings and in the late Qing more generally through a close reading of her shi, ci, songs, political essays, private correspondences, public speeches, etc.; and an inquiry into her subjectivity as it emerged in her autobiographical writings. In allowing the complexities and contradictions of Qiu Jin’s multiple identities to emerge, the panel will also offer new insights on the interconnections between gender and nationalism in the late Qing.
Chair: Joan Judge, University of California, Santa Barbara
Discussant: Mary B. Rankin, Independent Scholar
Three Images of Qiu Jin: Reassessing a Cultural Icon in Light of Japanese Sources
Joan Judge, University of California, Santa Barbara
The Menacing Public Body: Qiu Jin’s Troubling Gender
Eileen J. Cheng, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Scholarship on Qiu Jin has tended to appropriate her martial body as a symbol of nationalism and revolution. Such treatment, however, largely ignores the complexities behind her identity as a woman and revolutionary, as well as the tactical nature of Qiu Jin’s self-presentations. What is at stake in such occlusions?
This paper will focus on Qiu Jin’s body—as a site which Qiu Jin manipulated in the process of personal and political transformation, as well as a site that generated widespread controversy. Qiu Jin’s writings lament the exclusion of women from public spaces; her cross-dressing and adoption of a male persona served as a means for her to negotiate and circumvent such exclusions. That Qiu Jin’s public and political identity was forged by a visual gender transformation of sorts points to the dilemma of a public woman in the late Qing: her voice and public legitimacy had to be mediated through a renunciation of sexuality and the female body. Yet, despite and in spite of her gender transformation, Qiu Jin’s body continued to be a site of attention, fascination, and controversy throughout her lifetime. That subsequent scholarship has overlooked this issue may be due to several factors: traditional notions of gender, in which the woman’s body and its publicity is linked with social and moral bankruptcy; as well as to the fact that Qiu Jin’s public body and her ability to transgress and blur gender boundaries may have proved a menace to prevailing gender discourses.
Herself Multiplied: Qiu Jin in Different Genres
Ying Hu, University of California, Irvine
Woman, Writing and National Embodiment: A Study of Qiu Jin’s Life and Autobiographical Writing
Lingzhen Wang, Brown University
Politicizing Japanese Science Fiction
Organized by Hiromi Mizuno, University of Minnesota (UCLA History graduate)
This interdisciplinary panel examines the politics of science fiction in twentieth-century Japan, with each paper analyzing widely consumed yet understudied works from the 1900s (Bensky), the late 1930s–early 1940s (Mizuno), the 1950s (Marran), and the 1980s–90s (Long). The aim of this panel is to explore critical and historical readings of science fiction. In order to create focused and active discussion, we will follow an unconventional format. We will start with the announcement of two sets of questions, to which each presenter will respond in his/her paper, and end with the discussant’s own interpretation of the questions to help us draw historical, literary, and sociological conclusions.
The questions are: (1) What can intellectuals say about contemporary society in the language of science fiction that they cannot say otherwise? Does science fiction necessarily defamilialize the present as Fredric Jameson and others argue? (2) What kind of science is invoked for what vision? For example, what sorts of the bodies (gendered, racial, national, etc.) are imagined based on what kinds of science (medical, military, reproductive, etc.)? How is a particular body of science used to promote or deny a particular ideological world?
Scholarly examination of Japanese science fiction has recently begun, but much of its attention has been paid to post-1950s works. This panel covers the early to late twentieth century, seeing how styles, tropes, and themes in science fiction change over time. While we trace the history of the genre, our primary concern is to explore what we mean when we speak of "science" in science fiction and to examine expressions of ideological coercion and critique.
Chair: Susan J. Napier, University of Texas, Austin
Discussant: Sharalyn Orbaugh, University of British Columbia
Adventure and Empire: Meiji Era Science Fiction
Xavier Benjamin Bensky, University of Chicago
From Science to Utopia: Wartime Science Fiction in Japan
Hiromi Mizuno, University of Minnesota
This paper examines works published as "science fiction" during the Pacific War (1937–1942), mainly Unno Jûza’s Floating Airfield [Ukabu Hikôtô] (1938) and Kigi Takatarô’s The Flag of the Green Rising Sun [Midori no Nisshôki] (1939–1940). First serialized in popular children’s magazines, both works portrayed a scientific Japan but in different ways. Unno’s work, arguably the best known science fiction novel of the time, is an action-adventure story of Japanese soldiers who disable a Western powers’ secret mission. Kigi’s lesser known work provides a fascinating example of how "scientific" Japan was imagined in the colonial context; in Kigi’s work, Manchuria provides a site for scientific and technological perfection. Despite their popularity and influence on postwar science fiction, scholars have yet to seriously examined wartime science fiction.
Does science fiction function as a critique of existing systems or rather turn attention away from the present? Wartime science fiction in fact does not fit either interpretation. In Unno’s and Kigi’s works, inventions—strictly related to production and military technology—devised a technologically invincible and scientifically superior Japan and expressed the loyal imperial body, both male and female. While their works can be read as a critique of unscientific Japan, I argue that such a critique went hand in hand with the wartime state’s mobilization of science. I call this politics of wartime science fiction "scientific nationalism"—the mobilization of the youth with the vision of a scientific Japan for the division of the world according to the official ideology.
Race in Space: Numa Shozo’s Pet Yapoo
Christine Marran, University of Minnesota
Are Otaku Naturally Selected? Some Feminist Implications
Margherita Long, State University of New York, Buffalo
The Social Life of Books in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Japan
Organized by Jason Creigh, History, UCLA
Despite occasional murmurs of revision, approaches to the book in the field of Japanese cultural history tend to run along one of two paths. Along one path, the book serves as a window unto social reality. Largely unmediated and cut off from the social base of its production, the book functions as pure source material. Along the other, the book exists primarily as a world turned in upon itself. As a closed set of signs, the book is an effect of discourse, offering up example terms and concepts. In both cases, the book’s status as a material object is taken for granted or overlooked. In keeping with recent trends in the history of the book, this panel seeks to address the problem of the book as a material object embedded in specific social contexts of patronage, publishing, circulation, reading, and preservation. By tracing the lives of particular books in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the presentations taken as a whole both expose a critical transition in the history of book-making technologies—from manu-scripts and block-printing to movable-type printing and the mass-produced book—and also comment upon larger cultural dynamics, including the market in political ideas, the spatial dimension of cultural consumption, the role of images in structuring class affinities, and the effects of form on cultural description. In the end, at a time when the archive is increasingly being digitalized, these presentations demonstrate the continuing relevance and necessity of encountering books in their original forms.
Chair: Jonathan Zwicker, University of Michigan
Discussant: Leslie Pincus, University of Michigan
The Prehistory of a Book: Seji kenmonroku and Its Readers in Nineteenth-Century Japan
Jason Creigh, History, UCLA
Since an authoritative modern edition was published in 1926, the Seji kenmonroku (1816), or "Record of Worldly Things Both Seen and Heard," has remained a central source for the study of early-nineteenth-century Japanese cultural history. Part moral-politico comm-entary, part micro-cultural analysis, its pages have been culled time and time again for colorful descriptions of life in Edo and its environs in the waning years of the Tokugawa era. The fact that the text was written anonymously has only enhanced its truth-telling aura. Divorced from a life history or collection of works, it appears as pure discourse, lending itself easily to the evidentiary needs of researchers. Equipped with a readable modern edition, researchers have felt little need to repeat the steps taken generations ago and to dig up the primary versions. When we do this, however, an entirely new history presents itself. This is the history of the book. In the absence of an "original," we are left with a variety of handwritten copies and partial woodblock-printed editions. In reconstructing the prehistory of these different versions and the paths they took to their final forms, including the marginalia written in them by their readers, we encounter the history of official and commercial book production, of the scribe and the printer, and of the effects of form on meaning in the nineteenth century. In this way, the Seji kenmonroku, positioned at the intersection of a diversity of competing writing, printing, and reading practices, takes on a new and unexpected significance.
Importing the Novel to Japan: The Jin Yun Qiao and the Viscidities of Cultural Consumption in Nineteenth-Century Japan
Jonathan Zwicker, University of Michigan
Hand-Held Cameras and Pocket Knowledge: How-To Books and the Camera Enthusiast in Interwar Japan
Kerry L. Ross, Columbia University
The Discovery of Folklore Studies: Yanagida Kunio and the Book
Kenji Sato, University of Tokyo
Chinese Cinemas and "the Ruin"
Organized by Esther Yau, Occidental College (UCLA Film Studies graduate)
The "ruin" is a critical and historical figure for cultural criticism and national cinema. To Walter Benjamin, the allegorical exemplar is the ruin: "allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things." The "ruin" has appeared as a powerful trope of history in Chinese films: from Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town (1948) to Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite (1992), ruins provoke thoughts of the nation’s traumatic pasts and of decadence. Taking an allegorical turn in the direction of rewriting cinema history and aesthetics, the essays in this panel depart from the dominant uses in Chinese films of the "ruin." The essays attempt to rewrite film aesthetics, film genres, and local agency through the notions of unraveling, rebuilding, re-mapping, and anti-monumentalizing. These essays engage the temporal notion of decay, the idea of weak redemptive power, and the role of slighter texts. They approach the screen images as the palimpsest and the ephemeral, and they characterize Chinese and Hong Kong cinema as an apparatus of fear production and a screen of incomplete ethical agency. The "ruin" in these essays became allegorical for "the other beginnings" of critical approaches in Chinese film studies and cinema historiography. It no longer remains the illusive, fear-inspiring center of the nation’s traumatic encounter with history. The "ruin" is the site where work for a liberated future for Chinese film studies is being done.
Discussant: Hector Rodriguez, City University of Hong Kong
Ruin and the Real: A Certain Aesthetic in Chinese Cinema
Leo Chanjen Chen, Film Studies, UCLA
Ruin features prominently, both literal and figural, in Chinese cinema. Ranging from an aesthetic of decay visually presented through the dramatic personae of ruin in Spring in a Small Town (1948) to the reconstruction of a collective imaginary/real in the settings of ruin from King Hu’s films, ruin as a trope and a visual form mediates the intertwining discourses of diaspora, historiography, and nation-building. This paper breaks down in pairs the "signature" characteristics of Fei Mu’s and King Hu’s cinematic styles: Fei Mu’s static long take with short pan vs. King Hu’s constantly moving camera that goes both vertically and horizontally; Fei Mu’s in-camera dissolves vs. King Hu’s modular editing. These enumerated contrasts shed light on their aesthetics while shot analysis, mise-en-scene, and framing devices engage with the issue of a cultural specific film theory and film style. Firmly established as the palimpsest of Chinese film, it is in their shared belief in adapting elements of calligraphy painting and theatricality that a cinematic style of Chineseness become crystallized. Predicating and rebuilding on Ruin, there emerges an aesthetic of transparency in their stylization which provides access to an episteme while undergoes an exacerbation in every tumultuous historical juncture where no periphery was left for Chinese intellectuals cum scavengers to dwell in. Perhaps only in media res (film), where every frame is ephemeral and with every celluloid frame saturated with opacity (the image), there is always a complementary transparency (the celluloid) that lets the light through.
Shadow Citizens of the Cold War Cinema Screen
Esther Yau, Occidental College
Spies pose threats to the nation as homeland and they undo the inside/outside opposition that peasants are made to sustain. Spies in their everyday guises and peasants with their docile appearances could throw normative perception off guard at any moment. They are shadow citizens who could bring about a collapse of the national security state from the inside. The subjects of a paranoid vision, they turn looking into surveillance—all visible surfaces will be monitored yet sights are not to be trusted. In Chinese cinema, the "espionage" genre (fante pian) and the "village" genre (nongcum pian) turn cinema into an apparatus for the mass production of fear. The dark world that appears in the counter-intelligence narratives is also the only legitimate setting for screen murders, suicides, affairs, and decadent behavior. To the extent that these elements have been completely purged from the sunny and productive countryside in the village film and from "worker-peasant-soldier" films altogether, the espionage genre became a pretext for traces of capitalist modernity to maintain their attraction on screen as an open secret during the Maoist era. This essay approaches the espionage film and the village film as complementary genres that make up an illusive, fear-inspiring center of the national imaginary during the Cold War. It examines cinema visuality as transformed by the looks of fear and it reconfigures fetishism and fantasy in the context of surveillance. Selective films of the 1950s will be discussed and compared with film and television drama series of recent years.
Slicing, Street-Mapping, and Fractured Reality: From the Nation-State to Screen Citizenship
Linda Chiu-Han Lai, City University of Hong Kong
Hybridizing "Chineseness": Contemporary Chinese and Chinese American Poets
Organized by Yibing Huang, Connecticut College
(UCLA Comparative Literature Graduate)
The panel attempts to break down boundaries between studies on contemporary Chinese poetry and Chinese American poetry and to start a new and meaningful dialogue between these two fields so far separated in discipline. The panelists share the same belief that Chinese and Chinese American poets can no longer be bounded by a single national identity; instead, their identities must be multiple and hybrid. While this cultural hybridity has always been one of the most important concerns for Chinese American poets, it has also increasingly generated much discussion and debate among contemporary Chinese poets who are now entering into an era when transnational and diasporic culture and identity are significant. Their different experiences of hybridizing "Chineseness" are certainly illuminating to each other.
All of the three panelists, besides being scholars, are poets themselves. They have all experienced and witnessed different moments of recent Chinese and Chinese American poetry history, which they discuss respectively in their papers. Jianhua Chen presents on underground poetry in Shanghai from the 1960s to the 1970s, of which he himself was a participant and witness. Russell Leong, the well-known Asian American poet and critic, chooses two famous Chinese American poets and compares their different conceptions of engaged enlightenment. Finally, Yibing Huang focuses upon the "after history" theme in contemporary Chinese poetry by examining how Chinese poets have striven for new alternatives and hybrid identities which can eventually break down the once narrowly defined category of "Chinese poetry" against a transnational and "post-history" new world.
Historicizing the Underground Romanticism: A Shanghai Poetic Group in the 1960s
Jianhua Chen, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Chinese American Poets: Elements of Engaged Enlightenment
Russell Leong, Asian American Studies, UCLA
Chinese American poets such as Alan Chong Lau or Lee Young Li have most often been studied ethnographically—that is, in terms of the nature of their content and what their writing reveals about Chinese American identity. The poets themselves, while utilizing elements of their past and background, through language and structure—and through dramatic artifice—have, in fact, helped to create elegant poetic dynamics that reveal their aesthetics and nature of their craft. Lau, I maintain, creates a poetics of "the people," while Lee opts for a poetics of "individual transcendence." Both are highly distinctive, yet equally valid approaches, to reaching a kind of engaged modern enlightenment—the former buddhistic in the case of Lau, and the latter Christian-tinged, in the case of Lee.
After History: Re-positioning Contemporary Chinese Poetry
Yibing Huang, Connecticut College (UCLA Comparative Literature graduate)
Since 1989, contemporary Chinese poetry has experienced a profound identity crisis. On the one hand, many Chinese poets went into exile and had to confront a series of new challenges in relatively unfamiliar cultural environments. On the other hand, as China has begun to enter into a new era of rapid capitalization, the social role of poetry has also been questioned and re-scrutinized by those poets who have stayed in China. In either case, there persists a sense of loss and anxiety of history seemingly having come to an end. How can one write poetry after history? This Ardononian question demands a timely answer.
My paper will focus on this "after history" theme and present a series of answers offered by different Chinese poets, such as Gu Cheng, Duoduo, Wang Jiaxin, Ouyang Jianghe, Xichuan and Zang Di. They each have discussed and re-examined the long-standing issues in modern and contemporary Chinese poetry: history, nation, exile, revolution and language. While pointing out all the places where they agree or disagree with each other, I will emphasize that it is through this negotiation with a transnational and hybrid "after history" that contemporary Chinese poetry has re-opened itself to embrace new alternatives and has been instilled with new vitality.
Discussant: Yunte Huang, Harvard University
Written Texts in Oral Contexts: Memorization, Performance and Transmission in Early China
Speaking of Documents: Shu Citations in Warring States Texts
David C. Schaberg, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
(also chair of the panel)
Citations of the Shu in Warring States texts show that the writers of that period had access both to variant versions of extant Shu chapters and to chapters that are no longer extant. Such citations have been tabulated and analyzed by Matsumoto Masa’aki and others. Shu citations in recently recovered tomb texts, including the Guodian and "Shanghai Museum" texts, have not yet received comparable attention, but they too show that writers had access to Shu chapters that were only rarely identical to our received version.
The sometimes radical variations among versions of cited Shu passages raise anew the question of how Warring States writers acquired and used the Shu. The prevailing view holds that these writers read and cited written versions of authentic early chapters. The scholars who support this view recognize that different versions of the Shu circulated during the pre-Qin period but do not explain how assumed practices of copying could have produced such differences.
We may account for the available data more precisely by recognizing that any copying of early Shu texts must certainly have proceeded in conjunction with frequent viva voce citation, recitation, teaching, discussion, and even improvisation. This paper aims to reconstruct practices of Shu discussion in light of the full range of relevant material, including the variant citations, the chapters that were produced partly or wholly during the Warring States period, and Shu-like lore found in Lunyu, in Yi Zhoushu, and in many other texts.
On the Move: Women in Rural-Urban Migration in Contemporary China
Out to the City and Back to the Village: The Experiences and Contributions of Rural Women Migrating from Sichuan and Anhui
Cindy Fan, Geography, UCLA
Research on migration in China has generally downplayed the agency, contributions and experiences of migrants, and is even scantier on rural women migrants. In this paper, I analyze the Interview Records of the 1995 Sichuan and Anhui Survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, to examine four aspects of the experiences and contributions of rural women migrants. First, I argue that rural women, when given the opportunity to pursue migrant work, are as economically active as their male counterparts and are able to make important economic contributions to the village household. Second, I illustrate the central role women migrants play in forging networks of rural-urban migrants. These networks are highly gendered. They facilitate the migration of women migrants but also channel them into segregated jobs and homogenize their urban experiences. Third, I show that women migrants are empowered by their urban work experiences, and that they are potential agents of social change in rural areas. Fourth, I emphasize that sociocultural traditions related to marriage continue to be a powerful constraint on the economic and physical mobility of single and married women alike, and that such constraint limits rural women’s agency and contributions. The qualitative data examined in this paper highlight the utility of using migrants’ narratives to study their experiences and agency.
The Ambivalent Qing: The Politics and Ethics of Translating Emotion in Early Republican China
Chair and Discussant: Theodore D. Huters, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Affective Reconfiguration and Moral Sentiment in Lin Shu’s Translations
Li Li, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Current scholarship identifies Lin Shu primarily as a Confucian scholar, who, via his translations of Western fiction, strove to prove the universal value of Confucian morality. I intend to bring a new critical inquiry into this assumption by calling attention to the notion of qing (emotion, feeling and affection) presented in Lin Shu’s translations and exploring how the changes in the conceptions of qing in late Qing shaped Lin Shu’s cultural imagination.
On the social-political level, Lin Shu’s attitude toward China and the West was rather ambivalent. On the one hand, he criticized Chinese social reality and called for reform; on the other hand, he was harsh on the dark side of the West, particularly the impoverished state in Victorian England. However, taking Lin Shu’s work as a whole, we find that his reaction to the West constituted neither a critique nor an approval. Rather, it is an affective reconfiguration and remapping of the universal structure based on his notion of qing. By projecting the authorial qing to those who were economically deprived, socially humiliated, politically oppressed and ethically disgraced, Lin Shu, on the one hand, revealed qing as a fundamental and universal pathos, and on the other hand, cast a moral repellent toward the agents which were deprived of the sentiment of qing. In this light, the excessive emotion and empathic registers in Lin Shu’s translations are not only romantic or literary, they also construct a new universal moral sentiment.
Modernity and the Project of Self-Cultivation: Shûyô from Late Meiji to Early Shôwa
Cultivating Women, Cultivating Workers in Interwar Japan
Elyssa M. Faison, University of Oklahoma (UCLA graduate)
By the time of the emergence in 1920s Japan of what Barbara Hamill Sato has referred to as the "shûyô boom," cultivation (shûyô) had come to mark a crucial site for the rehabilitation of village youth, of women, and of workers. According to social reformers, the new capitalist class and members of the political elite, reform among these most backward elements of society was necessary in order for Japan to claim its place among civilized nations.
For those who formed the object of the discourse on cultivation, shûyô could be either (or both) an avenue of advancement, or an oppressive ideology of control. The labor organization Yuaikai founded by Suzuki Bunji in 1911 promoted shûyô as a means of bettering the lives of workers; but by 1930 female textile laborers were referring to the "evil" cultivation associations that company managers promoted in their factories as a means to control labor organizing.
Considering the broader context of the shûyô movement, this paper examines popular women’s magazines, women’s labor journals, labor management practices and strikes in order to analyze shûyô’s deploy-ment both as an ideology of personal accomplishment and as an institutionalized disciplinary strategy, and the ways its meanings were both gender and class specific.
Female Desires in Movement: Longings, Acts, and Policies in Contemporary Vietnam
- Longing for Elsewhere: Workers and Class Femininities in Vietnam and the Diaspora
Thu-huong Nguyen-vo, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
This paper examines fiction and ethnographic data to shed light on working class desire as it is connected to femininity and sexuality as women traverse the distance between rural and urban, national and diasporic locations. Among other things, it will deal with how working women negotiate sexualization and its discipline for production in very different spaces. For the Vietnamese workers in Vietnam, the embodiment of sexualized longing for an urban middle-class femininity dismembers their subject position in the working class and thus their voice as workers. For the Vietnamese workers abroad, longing for a national subject position vis-à-vis the old country, coupled with perhaps promises of the American dream as another national subject position, is channeled into racialized and gendered labor in the sweatshops of the First World. This longing draws the women out of their class subject position, and thus fragments their collective class voice. The data suggest that workers’ acts, including their speech acts, operate within this field of disembodiment, and thus workers seek to re-embody their language in their efforts to represent their interests. The paper uses Vietnamese and diasporic fiction as well as ethnographic interviews of garment workers in Vietnam.
Conquerors and Concubines: The U.S. Military in Japan, 1945–1953
Gendered Nationalism and Sexuality: Japanese State-Sanctioned Prostitution for the U.S. Occupation Forces
Michiko Takeuchi, UCLA
Japan’s defeat in World War II marked the beginning of its term as an occupied country, from 1945 to 1952. One consequence of the Occupation was the control that the conqueror (the U.S.) had over the conquered (Japan) and over the, sexuality of some Japanese women. My paper explores this aspect of the Occupation, focusing on a group of Japanese women specifically organized and sanctioned by the Japanese government, to satiate the sexual "needs" of the U.S. Occupation Forces ("Special Comfort Women"). I argue that the Japanese government mobilized nationalist sentiment to induce these women to participate in this enterprise. The government’s use of nationalism reveals its deeper psychosocial and cultural concerns with the "pure blood" and the chastity of "good" Japanese women. The vast proportion of women who served as "Special Comfort Women" were "ordinary" Japanese women, impoverished by the devastating effect of the war, not prostitutes by trade.
It was not only the Japanese government that was concerned with the sexuality of Japanese women. The U.S. Occupation forces exercised their prerogative power over the sexuality of conquered Japanese women as a sign of victory. The significance of my research is situated in the transnational commodification of women by both conqueror and conquered. Both the United States and Japan benefited from this commodification in different ways despite their asymmetrical power relationship.
Japanese Empire in the Everyday Life: Film and Literature of the 1920s and 1930s as a Colonial Frontier
The Uncanny Advent of the Film Japan in Time of Emergency (1933) during "The Interval of Peace"
Naomi Ginoza, UCLA
This paper discusses the Army-backed film, "Hijoji Nippon" (Japan in Time of Emergency, 1933). While historical studies have illuminated the process of Japan’s so-called "fascization" in the 1930s, popular memories of the early and mid-1930s tend to emphasize the flourishing culture of consumption, as if Japan had enjoyed an "interval of peace" between two historical incidents—the 1931 Manchurian Incident and the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident (the outbreak of total war with China). In fact, urban dwellers continued to go shopping, dancing and to the movies, in contrast with their counterparts in devastated agrarian communities. Unlike its title, Japan in Time of Emergency informs the social psyche of the interval of peace, more than emergency: what the film calls the crisis of the national spirit is expressed through the figures of a dance-crazy mother and an aggressive "modern" girl, who are equated with Western vices. While consumption seized the Japanese populace, the Army studied mobilization, and the police and Home Ministry suppressed communists. At this ideological juncture, this film was born from the collaboration of three agents: one major newspaper, the Army and one film company. The Osaka Mainichi chose as the main speaker in the film the incumbent Army Minister, Araki Sadao, who was popular for his jovial personality. His participation ensured wide support from the military. The film emphasizes the Imperial Army’s presence on the Chinese continent as the core of Japan’s international security after its secession from the League of Nations. My paper examines how rhetoric peculiar to the early 1930s is revealed in a bizarre mixture of the general’s didactic narration, documentary footage, and inserted omnibus dramas.
Religious Syncretism and Cliff Sculpture at Dazu, Sichuan during the Song Dynasty
Discussant: Richard von Glahn, History, UCLA
Law, Policy, and Identity in Modern China
Japanese Imperialism and the Shaping of Chinese-Muslim Minority Nationalism in Republican China
Zvi Ben-Dor, Boston University
Drawing on hitherto unexamined Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic sources, this paper presents and discusses the scholarly activities of nationalist Chinese-Muslims during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Specifically, it focuses on the activities of the Japanese occupying forces in Manchukuo and their role in promoting a Chinese-Muslim identity that saw itself as distinct and separate from China and the Chinese.
The paper also explores the reactions of the Chinese nationalist government and of Chinese Muslims in the rest of China to the Japanese initiative. It suggests that, paradoxically the Japanese efforts in Manchukuo helped shape a Chinese-Muslim identity which both saw itself as strongly connected to China and ultimately gained the close attention and the support of the Chinese government.
Ecological Modernization and Its Discontents: Green Development in China
China’s Logging Ban: Environmental Narratives and Policy Impacts
Justin Zackey, Geography, UCLA
After the devastating flooding of the Yangtze River in 1998, the Chinese Central Government, as part of the larger National Natural Forest Protection Program, imposed a logging ban on the upper reaches of the Yangtze watershed. This paper explores the environmental narratives that have justified China’s logging ban, and looks at some of the social and environmental externalities of the policy. I argue that although the logging ban has certain successes, it is a reactionary and problematic solution to failures in China’s environmental policy. It represents another dramatic shift in forestry policy that has changed, not stopped, the nature of deforestation in China. The logging ban, combined with other factors, has made village collective forests more vulnerable to deforestation, and thus undermines the long-term "sustainability" of village life that depends on forests. Theoretically, this paper addresses links between perceptions of environmental crisis and policy-making, and subsequently how the resulting "environmental interventions" impact local communities and environments. This paper draws on extensive village-based field research in northwestern Yunnan Province during 2000–2002, and focuses on high-altitude, rural communities.
Memories of Manchuria: Past and Present of a Historical Borderland
How Does "Memoir" Differ from "Memory"? Some Thoughts on the "Memoir" of the Japanese Colonial Elite in Manchukuo
Mariko Tamanoi, Anthropology, UCLA
Through the critical reading of kaisô-roku (memoir) written by the Japanese colonial elite in Manchukuo, this paper questions the nature of this particular historical/literary genre. The memoir author utilizes his special position (or source of knowledge) in writing an autobiography. Restated, his "power," which he does not share with many others, could potentially "justify" his "memory." Reading the memoirs by Furumi Tadayuki, Hoshino Naoki, and Muto Tomio—the three high-ranking civil servants of the Manchukuo government—this paper examines their politics of memory. What did they remember? For what end did they mobilize those particular memories?
Imagining Colonial Identities in Korean and Japanese Cultural Production
The Paradox of Korean Colonial Modernity: Images of the New Woman in Colonial Literature
Kelly Yoojeong Jeong, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
In the early 20th century, the pre-existing notions of Korean womanhood became antiquated when more opportunities for women’s education opened up outside of the traditional domestic sphere. Beginning in the 1910s until the end of the 1930s, images and debates about the New Woman, fascinating proto-feminists and intellectuals of their time, came to preoccupy the imaginations of the nation’s intellectuals, as her high visibility in literature of this period testifies. Despite such popular debates among intellectuals, the New Woman’s relatively high education, mobility, and modernized consciousness made her an anachronism in the socio-cultural environment of colonial Korea, a conflicted nation caught between traditional Confucian patriarchy and colonial Japanese modernity. My paper explores images of the New Woman in two novels of the 1930s, Yom Sang-sob’s Three Generations (Samdae, 1931) and Ch’ae Man-sik’s Muddy Water (T’angnyu, 1937), to show the ways in which the New Woman figures in the texts embody the dilemma of colonial Korea. Indeed, my paper will discuss how the fall from grace that the New Woman characters experience in the narratives in fact underlines the rupture between Korea’s modern ideals and its colonial reality. Finally, my reading of the texts will explain how the images of this new feminine identity in literature reveal and reflect the internal struggles of colonial Korea that are exacerbated by the trauma of the simultaneous and over-determined nature of colonization and modernization.
Discussant: Namhee Lee, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
On the Margins? Re-examining Hijiri and Buddhist Institutions in Medieval Japan
Discussant: Janet Goodwin, Independent Scholar (and sometime Professor of History, UCLA)
Money and Democracy in Early Twentieth-Century China
Chair and Discussant: Bradly W. Reed, University of Virginia (and UCLA History graduate)
"Hananim": The Term Question in Korea, 1881–1911
Sung-Deuk Oak, Center for Korean Studies, UCLA
The Korean Protestant Church officially adopted "Hananim" as the term for God by using it in the first authorized Korean New Testament published in 1904; it was also retained in the first Korean Old Testament, published in 1911. "Hanamin" is now the standard term for God among Korean Protestants, but that was hardly the case during the two decades preceding 1904. Quite the contrary—when missionary John Ross first adopted it in 1881, it was just one of several terms in contention; and from 1893 till 1904, a heated debate ensued among the missionaries and Korean Protestants as to which of them should be selected for that most important concept in their religion. This debate bears a close examination, inasmuch as it betrays telling interpretations and negotiations whereby Protestantism became Koreanized. More specifically, it reveals how the North American missionaries understood the etymology of "Hananim" and why they subscribed to the notion that Korean myths contained a "primitive monotheism." In addition, the debate reveals what "Hananim" meant in the context of contemporary Korean Shamanism, and affords an insight into the power dynamics that existed among the Protestants in Korea at the turn of the 20th century—among the missionaries, Korean Protestants, and missionary organizations. This paper focuses on two main issues: (1) the transformation of "Hananim" from being the word for a polytheistic Korean supreme god to the word for the monotheistic Christian God; (2) the three shortcomings of the term—its patriarchal image, provincialism, and syncretism.
Accommodating the Provocative Others: Knowledge Re-Production in Late Qing China
The Sum of All Variants: Cosmopolitan Confucianism of Qing Exegesis of Classics (Huang Qing Jingjie)
Minghui Hu, University of California, Irvine (and UCLA History graduate student)
What happened after the ridiculous had been accommodated, domesticated, and even made into the league of the sublime? In this paper, I will examine the circulation of Qing Exegesis of Classics (Huang Qing Jingjie), published in Canton in 1829. This collection and its sequel, compiled in Jiangyin in 1888, were disseminated widely among the increasingly disenfranchised elite in nineteenth-century China. I suggest that Qing Exegesis comprises of a grand vision of cosmos and polity (which I dub as cosmopolitan Confucianism) and propose to analyze the classificatory system and selected certain key concepts to illustrate the vision of Qing Exegesis.
Cosmopolitan Confucianism is constructed based upon a selection of rigorous scholarship and yet it also claims to be universal, comprehensive, and systematic. Yu Yue (1821–1906), successor of Ruan Yuan (1764–1849) in Hangzhou, made a remarkable effort to use, disseminate, and reproduce Qing Exegesis in Confucian academies. Accordingly Qing Exegesis had developed into the repertoire for late Qing scholars to orchestrate their debates. Some literati challenged this vision and sought to reorient the state orthodoxy toward more immediate social, economical, and political problems in China and to call for wider participation of the literati. Against these literati, I identify the group of cosmopolitan Confucians who supported the vision of Qing Exegesis. The new generations of cosmopolitan Confucians, I argue, withdrew to a defensive position on their second confrontation with the dramatically different West. Their collective voice retreated to its last stronghold in a very conservative form and eventually collapsed in 1898.
Making of a Modern Educator: Cai Yuanpei in 1901–1904
Chaohua Wang, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Cai Yuanpei has been best remembered as a leading figure of the May Fourth period (1917–1923). Occasionally his earlier activities are set in the context of turn-of-the-century political radicalism. Rarely has his intellectual development been compared to that of Tan Sitong, three years his senior, or Liang Qichao, six years his junior, both intellectual leaders of the 1890s. I contend that Cai’s intellectual trajectory and radical activities of 1901–1904 suggest certain ways in which the late Qing elite vigorously explored alternative options of a Chinese modernity. My paper provides a close reading of five documents Cai produced in early 1901, when he underwent a sudden intellectual transformation. Inspired by—and following the works of—Tan Sitong, Liang Qichao, Yan Fu, and certain Japanese thinkers, Cai drew on ideas from mutually antagonistic schools of Confucianism, as well as Mahayana Buddhism, to envisage an egalitarian utopia that was distinctively his own. Cai imagined a nation as a public company founded on a division of labor, marriage based on contract, and a student body delving into imported subjects for their own sake, in pursuit of cultural values transcending national interest, and discarding notions of sacred scripts. When he put these convictions into practice, his commitment for educational reform inevitably became radical activism. Belief in gender equality made him the principal of Shanghai’s Patriotic Girls School in 1901; teacher-student equality led him to set up a separate Patriotic School in 1902; and his anarchist leanings involved him in secret societies plotting assassination schemes in 1904.
Women, Work, and Society in China
In the Name of the Mother: The Development of Women’s Education in Early Twentieth-Century Northeast China
Elizabeth VanderVen, History, UCLA
Most scholarship on female education in the early twentieth century focuses on urban areas, especially the Jiangnan region. There has been an enduring assumption that in rural areas, especially in north China, girls and women simply did not attend school until after the Communist take-over in 1949. That rural girls did not attend school has been explained in terms of local conservatism creating ideological resistance to female education. This paper, based on archival sources, argues that, on the contrary, after 1907 (when the Qing formally sanctioned girls’ schools) and peaking during the teens and twenties, individuals and communities in Haicheng County, rural northeast China founded numerous well-attended primary schools for girls. Furthermore, these local reformers successfully sought financial and organizational help from the county government. Their success in winning over the state as well as their own communities can be explained by their selective adherence to early national debates on women’s education, in particular the views embodied by Liang Qichao. When petitioning for funds, local reformers drew on the aspects of Liang’s thought that emphasized the xianqi, liangmu (virtuous wives, good mothers) ideal and passed over the aspect of his ideology that suggested women should enter the work force. Nonetheless, these reformers embraced Liang’s notion of universal education and were successful in providing an education to hundreds of young women in towns and villages across the county.
South Asians in East Africa: Rethinking Culture, Commerce, and Colonialism
Discussants: Vinay Lal and Edward Alpers, History, UCLA
Cashing in on Sôseki: Modern Japanese Literature, Critical Reception, and the State
The Never-Ending Story: Kokoro and Contemporary Japanese Cultural Criticism
Michael Bourdaghs, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
In the mid-1980s, the world of literary criticism in Japan was occupied by a fierce debate over Natsume Sôseki’s Kokoro (1914), one ignited by radical re-readings of the novel proposed by a new generation of critics and scholars. The debate marked a crucial turning point in the acceptance of new theories and methodologies of literary criticism in Japan, including structuralism, psychoanalysis, and semiotics. Moreover, as the "old guard" opponents to the new re-readings declared, the younger generation of critics presumed, among other things, the death of the author—the keystone that had anchored previous versions of interpretation and canonicity.
This conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy can be understood in part through Bourdieu’s sociology of cultural production, an approach that allows us to see the debate as an active sate for working through the tensions of its historical situation.
But other aspects evade a sociological approach—including the uncanny manner in which, as earlier commentators have noted, the structure of the debate came to resemble the plot of the novel Kokoro itself. This paper explores the debate in terms of its structure as an object of sociological knowledge, but also takes up those aspects that fall within the blind spots of the sociological gaze and which demand an alternative, perhaps literary, form of understanding. It argues that contemporary cultural criticism must employ both forms of knowledge in a process of never-ending mutual supplementation to recover critical possibilities from the Kokoro text and its (inevitably failed) attempts to represent death.
Innovation, Media, and Global Networks
Country, City and Borderline Crossing: A Case Study of Two Left-Wing Chinese Films of the 1930s
Vivian Shen, Davidson College (UCLA Graduate)
This paper contends that the majority of 1930s left-wing Chinese cinema involves issues of country, city, and the borderline crossings between the two. By examining two similar popular films, Small Toys (Sun Yu, 1933) and Songs of Fishermen (Cai Chusheng,1934) it will demonstrate that borderline crossings from country to city in the 1930s reveal disparities and conflicts between the center (typically Shanghai) and the rural periphery. These crossings also reveal even more profound conflicts between the Chinese upper and lower classes, between modernization/Westernization and Chinese traditions, between agrarian society and industrial society, and between patriotism and imperialism.
Contrary to Ernest Gellner’s assessment, the transition from agrarian society to industrial society in the 1930s was forced upon the Chinese peasant as a direct or indirect result of imperial aggression, according to these films. Furthermore, China’s social, political, and economic realities potentially posed disastrous problems for the peasants to march toward an industrial society.
Although most Chinese peasants were rarely touched by films of any kind, as Jay Leyda has observed, "the portrayal of peasant problems was nevertheless a crucial revolutionary claim for the left filmmakers to emphasize." However, the tragic ending of both films suggests, understandably, that left-wing directors were not able to resolve these conflicts.
Published: Friday, March 21, 2003