井底之蛙

10/10/2013

Syllabus blogging for Spring 2014-1

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:39 pm

Today is October 10, which is both an important day in Chinese history and also means that I am late in getting in my book orders for Spring. In the past I have always been way too late with syllabus blogging, so that while I get some useful suggestions it is too late to act on them. So while it may  be too late to get my book orders in on time, I am going to ask if anyone has some advice on

1. Using (or replacing) these books

2. Things to go with them

This class is ASIA 200, Introduction to Asian Studies a class required for all of our 50-odd Asian Studies majors and one of our recruiting tools. The class is built around a series of readings that expose students to different disciplinary traditions and parts of Asia. The point is not to teach them the entire History, Anthropology,Literature etc. of China, Japan, Iran, Indonesia etc.1 but to expose them to a lot of stuff they they would enjoy reading2 and I would like teaching.

My current ideas are

Journalism/India

Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, 2013.

I always do a journalism book to start with, in part because they are supposed to be approachable and easy to get into, but also because as budding Asianists the students need to learn why they should be sceptical of books written by people who parachute into a society AND how much they can learn from a good journalist/travel book. I will probably pair this with some stuff from Luyendijk, Joris. People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2009. Or maybe dump this and go back to Speed Tribes?

Novel/Indonesia

Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, and Max Lane. This Earth of Mankind. New York: Penguin, 1996.
I always include a least one novel, as they are easy for students to get into, and this one (a classic colonialism novel) seems to fit.
History/Taiwan/China
Andrade, Tonio. Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011.
China is always the easiest for me, since I can always think of lots of thing that would fit in History/Anthro, etc. As a(n) historian I always insist on including at least one book that deals with the pre-modern world. This one is both a Ripping Yarn and something were there is enough other stuff to give them -including Andrade’s other work and also primary stuff- that you can do a lot with it. Still, China is a place where I can think of lots of other things. Maybe instead use

Harrison, Henrietta. The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village University of California Press, 2013? Mann, Susan. The Talented Women of the Zhang Family. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. was a hit in this slot last time.
Anthropology/Korea
Oppenheim, Robert. Kyǒngju Things: Assembling Place. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
This worries me a bit. I always include one really hard-core academic monograph, and this certainly counts, although I am a bit scared about leading them through it. Not sure at all what to do along with it. The book itself deals with creating a city of historic culture in Korea, and I would need some stuff on, I guess, modern Korean cultural politics to go with it.
Film
We always do some films, and the students each do a presentation on an Asian film of their choosing. We usually do two as a group and I am thinking of Abu-Assad, Hany. Paradise Now, 2005, since it deals with Islamic radicalism, which they are always interested in (especially the vets.) and… a comedy. I always include one, since they all come in with the idea that Asia films are all about suffering peasants and star Gong Li. Last time I used Jiang, Wen. Let the Bullets Fly,  2010, which worked well, but I think ideally I would like a funny yet insightful film on being middle class in… I guess Thailand?
Manga/Japan
Barefoot Gen? It works, and there is a lot to go with it, (Maybe I will put Grave of the Fireflies in the movie section. It’s animated, it must be funny!) but I would like something more pre-modern, although I can’t think of anything.
The last book out was Suleri, Sara. Meatless Days. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. which is a good memoir on Pakistan that includes gender more explicitly than anything else on the list, (which is the most important gap at present)  and I guess would replace the Toer.
So, any suggestions?
  1. although I did have one student walk out on the first day when I explained we would not be doing that []
  2. Honestly, if you read and though about 4 good books in each undergraduate class, how well educated would you be? []

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