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1/21/2007

Trying not to whine….

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:45 am Print

It's syllabus time here at FrogInAWell. I've got a bit of an overload this semester, and I'm trying to be really good-humored about it, but I suspect that the mid-semester crunch is going to strain my acting abilities. I got dragooned into teaching a course in our graduate program, our US-China Masters degree (no, they haven't built the dorms yet, either), but the History department really can't give me a release to go do something in another course, so I'm teaching it as an overload. Then my seminar on Meiji Japan came in under the limit for enrollment, so it was decided to drop it and have me teach a second section of World History; more grading, but it means one less course prep, so I said OK. It would have ended there -- three preps, four sections -- but a few of the students who had registered for the Meiji course actually need it (or something like it) to graduate, so I agreed to tutor them through the course as a directed study. So I'm up to the functional equivalent of five sections of four preparations.

My Early Japan course (pre-1600) is very similar to the last iteration, with the biggest difference being the addition of Mary Elizabeth Berry's Culture of Civil War in Kyoto as a capstone reading. It'll be a challenge, but it's the kind of secondary scholarship I love: richly detailed with primary materials, with a kind of "core sample" approach that gives a taste of what's going on from the highest to lowest levels of society. The Meiji Japan course is mostly material that I've read over the years.... except for Donald Keene's biography of the Meiji Emperor -- I think "magisterial" is the only word we're permitted to use to refer to books of that magnitude -- which I'm really looking forward to seeing students respond to. If my dedicated directed study kids can handle it, it might work in actual classes.

Finally, there's my China course, the first time I've ever gotten to teach a "what's happening now" instead of a historical syllabus, not to mention my first graduate course. It's fun! I did have to do some scrambling on readings, though, including one I just picked up in Atlanta. On the other hand, any news articles on China that come out in the next three months are classroom fodder.

1/7/2007

So long, it’s been good to know ya’

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:21 pm Print

The AHA Annual meeting is over, and I'm packing up to go home. I have some Japan panels left to blog, as well as some Islamic history ones. There's a discussion of the business meeting fiasco (ongoing) at Cliopatria, and reports from HNN's Rick Shenkman, including the arrest of an historian for jaywalking.

The picture below is my plunder from the book exhibit Sunday morning fire sale: $10-15 hardbacks and $3-5 paperbacks. Except the Berry: I paid the normal conference discount for that one, because I just want it.

Dresner AHA Scavenging - small version

1/6/2007

Imperial Tombs Finally Opened to Archaeologists…Sorta

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 10:10 pm Print
It was quietly announced this week that researchers would be allowed to examine 11 ancient Japanese tombs, said to be the final resting places of Japan's earliest emperors.  The Japanese islands are dotted with thousands of kofun - hill tombs that house the remains of some of Japan's earliest bigwigs.  While a few of these tombs have been excavated, most of the largest ones have never been touched, because local tradition has assigned them to be the tomb of one or another of Japan's quasi-mythical early emperors; in the Meiji period, ownership of kofun associated with emperors, no matter how tenuously, was turned over to the Imperial Household Agency, which has not allowed archaeologists to even so much as set foot on them in over a century. This prohibition has been unfortunate because contents of these tombs promise answers about one of the least understood and most controversial era's in Japanese history, if only they could be examined.  Circumstantial archaeological evidence has increasingly pointed to Japan's imperial family having strong connections to Korea, but without examining the contents of the tombs it has been hard to definitively confirm or deny these theories. Alas, the current relaxation of restrictions--the result of a 2005 petition to the Japanese government by a consortium of concerned scholars from Japan and abroad--only eases the prohibition against walking on the hill tombs, but excavations of any kind are still forbidden, so it is unclear what new information, if any, can be gleaned by just walking around on top of these huge man-made hills. Still it's a step forward of sorts, if only a baby step.  I am still hopeful that one day we will not only know the contents of these tombs, but also that they will get the attention they deserve as some of the most amazing constructions ever built by man.  After all, the supposed tomb of Emperor Nintoku, which is among the 11 opened to examination, is the largest tomb ever built in history, about two times as big as the Great Pyramid by total volume. But hardly anyone even knows about it because nobody is allowed to go near it.

1/4/2007

AHA Blogging Day One: Between Naps

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:20 pm Print
They call it a "red eye flight" for a reason. I really hope that none of the panelists at "Unstable Bodies, Unsettled Movements: Sport, Performance and Nation in Japan" took my nodding off personally: I really did want to hear what they had to say. (If anyone went to the Historians in Public roundtable and wants to share, I'd be grateful, by the way: that was my second choice.)

Aside from hearing the panelists, I got to meet not one, but two of my fellow Frog-bloggers: Dennis Frost, who was on the panel, and Michael Wert, who was in the audience with me. Tomorrow I get to hang out with Cliopatriots (being emeritoid, myself) and find out who won the Clios for last year! I love it.

The panel really was interesting, more so than I -- who can be a bit skeptical of cultural studies type topics -- was expecting. Our own Dr. Frost (congratulations!) talked about the remarkably career and tragic death of Kinue Hitomi, and how public discourse around her career and death both highlighted "woman problem" anxieties and also gave a huge boost to sports medicine, and to the medicalization of women's issues. The incompetence and perfidy of her Mainichi Shinbun boss and supposed sports doctor Kinoshita deserves special mention: it takes a huge dose of chutzpah to claim on the one hand that there was no medical connection between Kinue's competitions, her gender, and her death, and on the other that what's needed for women athletes is more sports medicine (in spite of the fact that having a doctor along didn't help her one bit).

Following the theme of self-contradicting dicta, Rebecca Nickerson talked about women's physical education scholar and advocate Fujimura Toyo, who apparently blamed the poor health and posture of her contemporaries (she was active in the Taisho era, mostly) on bunmei (civilization) and incompetent physical education programs. She was particularly down on tight-obi'd kimono -- which she considered an aspect of a distinctively Japanese modernity, along with physical education and compulsory classroom attendance -- arguing that the Genroku-style loose obi and a healthy rural lifestyle -- Ainu were considered very healthy, apparently -- were the key to proper posture and health. Looser, western style clothes and moderate western style calisthenics were her keys to a uniquely Japanese healthy women's lifestyle..... I was struck by the parallels to the agrarian nationalists of the same time period, who create a sort of fantastical idyllic, authentic and pre-modern past, then invoke the instruments of modernity and Westernization to try to force society back into that shape.

Paul Droubie's talk on the scientification of athletic training in the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics raised all kinds of great issues. That the program was partially successful (16 golds, but blanks in track and swimming) raised hackles, mostly by those who were in favor of better and more "scientific" methods. He argued that application of those technical methods of improvement to normal people would be sharply resisted, but athletes, in their capacity as national representatives, do not entirely own their bodies and as such were "fair game."

Finally, Valerie Barske presented a great wealth of material on the use and abuse of Ryukyuan dance to construct Okinawan identity, from the Edo period up to the "Wakanatsu Kokutai" event celebrating the reversion of Okinawa (half of it, anyway) to Japanese control in 1973. The most surprising section, to me, was the way in which the US admnistration in Okinawa used (and dramatically altered) Ryukyuan dances to bolster Ryukyuan identity, presumably to reduce the sense of connection to Japan and create a stronger case for continued stewardship. The Okinawans then turned that around in 1973 to use their traditional and modernized dances to present themselves as politically unified and equal to the rest of Japan, while culturally and ethnically distinct.

At least, I'm pretty sure that's what they were talking about! Any errors I'll chalk up to jet-lag, and my co-bloggers can correct me (and fill me in on the post-paper discussion, which I missed entirely) at their leisure. I rounded out the day with Fish and Chips (They were fantastic, but I better get some BBQ soon!), and now it's time to rest up for tomorrow's adventures.

2007: Japanese Works Now in the Public Domain

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:33 pm Print
Matt over at No-Sword has listed and linked to a few Japanese authors who, due to the life+50 years copyright rule, now have all of their works released into the public domain: Public Domain Day: Japan Also take a look at a list of many other authors whose works are now in the public domain at Copyright Watch. Matt links to the author entries at Auzora Bunko, where you can read various full texts of authors. It is also where I first heard about a movement to oppose a lengthening of the copyright term in Japan to life+70. I must admit I was ignorant that there was an attempt to extend the copyright protection in the works. I don't know how far it has come but I find it deeply troubling. Already the life+50 rule has kept out of the public domain a great many out-of-print, rare, and historically valuable materials that would never see the light of a computer screen, let alone publication which could be easily shared and appreciated much more widely. Some works, such as the writings and recorded musical performances of my favorite traitor, Kawashima Yoshiko, are only in the public domain because she was executed at a young age in the early postwar, and even then it is really hard to get out of the restrictive licenses of archives that contain her now, ostensibly, public domain works. As has been the case in the United States, which has a ridiculously long, complex, and stifling copyright regime, the main benefactor of any extension would be large corporations. In other cases, I am personally completely unconvinced that the benefits of providing the mere possibility of royalties for several generations of descendants can come close to outweighing the benefit to society as a whole of releasing works into the public domain in a timely manner. You can read more about the movement against the extension here. They even have their own icon: You can read more in the Japanese news about the attempt to extent the law here. I personally liked this quote in the article:
著作の多くをフリーで公開することで知られている評論家・翻訳家の山形浩生さんは、保護期間延長に反対の立場だ。「私が2050年に死ぬとして、2100年まで守られていた著作権が2120年まで延びると言われても、『すばらしい! これで安心して創作活動できる!』などと思うわけがない」(山形さん)
In this quote an author by the name of Yamagata Hirô, who is active in the free culture movement says, "If I were to die in 2050 and my copyrights, which are currently protected until 2100, were extended to 2120, I would hardly say, 'Great! I can now put my mind at ease and be creative!'" Some more links on the topic: Wikipedia: 著作権の保護期間 「著作権保護期間の延長を」——権利者団体が要望書 ネット時代も意識 著作権関連16団体、著作権の保護期間を「死後70年」に延長を求める共同声明 著作権保護期間、死後50年から70年への延長を巡って賛成・反対両派が議論 Authors By Year of Death Index

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