Asian History Carnival Coming Soon!

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:51 pm

I will be hosting the third edition of the Asian History Carnival on Sunday, March 5. Deadline for nominations of posts — anything about Asian history written since the last edition in mid-December — is Saturday, March 4th.

You can send nominations to me (jonathan at froginawell dot net) or use the handy Blog Carnival Submission Form.

Spread the word!


Meetings, On and Off Line

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:42 am

This just came across the H-Japan list:

From: Kristin Lehner

The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University is happy to announce that our website Women in World History (http://chnm.gmu.edu/wwh/) will host the fourth in its series of four month-long online forums in March 2006.

These forums give world history teachers the chance to talk about ways to teach issues surrounding women and gender in world history, and how to access classroom resources, including online primary sources. An educator with high school classroom experience and a historian moderates each forum. Each forum is an accessible email listserv that allows all participants to post comments and see all responses.

Our third forum begins March 1: Women in Asia, moderated by Dorothy Ko (Barnard College) and Kurt Waters (Virginia Public Schools).

To register for the Women in Asia forum:

Subscribe (join) via e-mail:
1.Address an e-mail message to listserv@listserv.gmu.edu
2.Put the following in the body of the message:
subscribe WOMENINASIA-L yourfirstname yourlastname

A confirmation message will be sent to your e-mail address asking you to confirm your subscription request. You must reply to this message with “ok” in the body of the message. Leave the subject unchanged.

Once you have subscribed to the list, you can post messages to the list by sending e-mail to WOMENINASIA-L@listserv.gmu.edu

For more information see http://chnm.gmu.edu/wwh/forum.html

For help registering contact wwh@chnm.gmu.edu

Obviously, I’m a bit of a sucker for CHNM projects, being an HNN editor and Cliopatria alum. This really is neat stuff that they’re doing.

Another project of mine is the Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast conference. The call for papers deadline is approaching:

ASPAC’s next meeting will be held June 16-18, 2006 on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

Washington State University, the WSU College of Liberal Arts, the WSU Department of History, and the WSU Asia Program all warmly welcome you to Pullman and the 2006 ASPAC annual meeting. We welcome participants from universities along the Pacific Rim, including Canada and Asia, members of the Association for Asian Studies and all others with an interest in Asia.


Topics: Proposals for panels, individual papers and roundtables are welcome in all geographical regions and academic fields of Asian Studies. All research topics are welcome. The ASPAC 2006 Steering Committee particularly encourages panel and paper proposals dealing with: 1) Peace and Security in Asia; 2) Crossing “Borders:” Disciplinary, Geographic, and Temporal; and 3) Teaching Asia-Pedagogical Approaches.

Proposals: Each proposed paper should include an abstract not to exceed one page.

Panels and Roundtables: Complete panels should include three to four paper presenters, a chairperson and a discussant (if desired). Each participant and paper title must be listed on the panel proposal. Roundtable proposals should also list all participants.

Graduate Student Award: The John and Mae Esterline Prize for outstanding student papers will be awarded at the ASPAC 2006 conference (Application deadline: April 15, 2006).

Submission of Proposals: Please print and fill out the ASPAC Proposal Form and return it by either mail, fax, or email (as an attachment) to the address below.

Noriko Kawamura, ASPAC 2006 Co-Chair
Department of History
Washington State University
Box 644030
Pullman, WA 99164 USA
Email: aspac2006@wsu.edu
Tel: (509) 335-5428
Fax: (509) 335-4171

I’m still wavering on my proposal, to be honest. My dream panel actually would be a roundtable on Chang/Halliday’s Mao: The Untold Story as a teaching text. It’s a very interesting book: terribly ambitious, and clearly overreaching, but, barring some scandalous revelation on the part of the authors, it’s likely to set the research agenda on 20th century Chinese political history for a decade. So even if you don’t assign it, its claims will need to be addressed at some level… I’d like to spend some time thinking more about that (before I have to teach 20c China again), and about the way in which bad books can be incredibly important to us as teachers.


Data: Personal v. Historical

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:36 pm

A recent initiative in the US to limit access to birth and death records [via] along with other personal data would severely limit the ability of historical and geneaological researchers, not to mention the epidemiological studies mentioned in the article.

This reminded me that I’d meant to blog a long time ago about Sharon Domier’s H-Japan announcement that a similar law in Japan passed last year was hindering historical researchers. I’ve removed a few of the URLs she provided because they don’t seem to work anymore, but I’d be happy to provide them if anyone wants to root around in the archives.

The Japanese government recently enacted a Personal Information Protection Law that is having a significant impact on both publishing and research. In Japanese it is called Kojin Joho hogo ho.

The Japan Media Review is a good place to read about the effect of the new law on publishing. Here is an article in English: http://www.japanmediareview.com/japan/media/1060286367.php

What this means to libraries is that many are withdrawing meibo (registers) that contain personal information. School yearbooks are off limits as are many biographical registers. If you subscribe to online databases that include biographical information, you may find that the content has changed significantly in order to comply with the law. Many of the librarians that I have talked to in my recent travels are grappling with how to preserve materials and be in compliance with the law.

For an article that explains how one library handled historical material (court cases from the Meiji-Taisho period), please see this Asahi Shinbun article in Japanese. http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0414/OSK200504130060.html [I can't seem to find this, either at Asahi or in Lexis-Nexis, sorry]

Please note that libraries are removing the bibliographic records from OPACs so that there is no public trace of the materials that are problematic.

As I replied to Domier at the time, My research probably will be affected, but I haven’t done a Japanese archive trip in a while, so I can’t be sure. It sounds like some of what I had access to — official records with names and addresses — might well be included, so I’m sitting on a stash of “gray market” evidence. One of my concerns — aside from the obvious — is that research already done with these records will now be unverifiable by future researchers. Have you run into a problem in the last year or so? Let us know.

This is a serious issue: privacy and personal information protection are indeed valuable principles worthy of care and protection. But there has to be some way to preserve those principles without seriously compromising our ability to do legitimate research.

Wartime Media

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:46 am

Brett at Airminded notes the Japanese National Archives war poster collection including detailed poison gas attack instructions and anti-fire civil defense. The level of detail in these instructional posters is quite intense, and would be really useful in classroom situations. Brett has a few questions about them, that I’ve tried to answer, but go on over and lend a hand, will you?


AHC #3 Coming Soon!

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 9:02 pm

The third edition of the Asian History Carnival will be on March 3rd (3/3), but we still don’t have a volunteer for host! So, if you’re an Asian History Blogger, or some relevant combination of those three things, and would like to host, let me know; the fun/work ratio is good, and the result is a permanent place in the blogging history (not to mention traffic and links!).

Until we have a volunteer, articles can be submitted to me: jonathan[at]froginawell[dot]net

Homosexuality in Japan: The Meiji Gap

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:00 am

The effects of Meiji reforms on women have been pretty well documented: the continued legality of prostitution, including indenture; the consolidation of male power within family law and politics; the rise of the “Good Wife; Wise Mother” cult of femininity, education; etc. There’s been relatively little research that I’m aware of which really takes the male experience of Meiji all that seriously, separate from the general “Japanese” experience. One of the areas in which that’s really obvious, even to my students, is sexuality.

How quickly can the closet door close? One of the as-yet unstudied oddities of Japanese history is the shift in male sexuality from the Tokugawa to Meiji eras. As an example of the state of the field, here’s a recently published translation of a Japanese article from about two years ago:

Although there are many literary and artistic representations dating from the Edo period (1603-1857) which describe sexual acts which took place between men using terms such as danshoku and wakashu, at that time participating in such acts did not designate a specific type of person and so these records cannot be read as part of the history of ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ men. The so-called ‘birth’ of the homosexual took place in Japan in the Meiji (1858-1912) and Taisho (1912-25) periods when participating in same-sex sexual acts came to be understood as the result of a personal disposition, but almost no first-person narratives survive from this time.

The only records which remain from this period are case studies and analyses from a genre of sexology publications dating from 1900 which treated ‘homosexuality’ as one example of ‘perverse sexuality.’ There are also some articles and reports about cross-dressing male prostitutes who existed before and after World War II, but these reports, are also ‘about’ homosexuals and do not represent their own voices. However, this period of silence in which there were no records created by homosexuals themselves began to change in 1950 with the appearance of magazines such as Amatoria which took sex as their theme.

The near-total silence of Meiji sources is quite remarkable. It’s not like all the samurai just disappeared, and there’s a great deal of continuity in social, family, consumptive and cultural practices between Tokugawa and Meiji. I’m quite sure that the influence of Western sexual taboos is very strong in this regard, but it’s somewhat surprising that the deliberately transgressive and sexual “I-novel” writings of the Meiji and Taisho eras, for example, contain no (as far as I know) considerations of homosexuality.

It’s possible, I suppose, that the “Tokugawa” traditions of male-male sexual practices are really “early-mid” Tokugawa practices, which had mostly died out by the 19th century, but that’s a question for someone who knows the literature better than I. It’s also possible that the silence in the sources is a temporary thing, a result of our research interests, but there are people actively studying sexuality in Japan and it strikes me as odd, but not at all dispositive, that so little has been found.



I think we need a new word for the study of colonialism, imperialism and the post-colonial discourses, pro and con. Pro? Who’s in favor of it? Well, this is what makes it interesting, these days: there are a lot of former colonial powers out there whose citizens and leaders, in their heart of hearts, still believe that they accomplished something that was ultimately positive, who still believe that their developmental initiatives and their anti-communist (or anti-capitalist) positions were justified by subsequent developments. This is usually — explicitly or implicitly — intended to mitigate or cancel out any discussions of political repression, economic exploitation, military atrocities or strategic abandonment. Sometimes it’s just good historical sense, but then it usually comes with very careful caveats about not canceling out the other stuff.


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