井の中の蛙

5/28/2009

Ron Takaki has passed away

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:59 pm Print

AndrewMc passes on the word from AsianWeek that one of the founders of ethnic studies and real multi-ethnic immigration history has passed away. Takaki was an Americanist primarily, but as I said at PH,

Takaki’s scholarship on ethnicity and immigration were part of the generation of scholarship which cracked the “Great White Men” historiography in both US and World studies.

Certainly my own scholarship on migration would be inconceivable without scholars like him raising issues and questions.

….the next generation, and ours, building on Takaki’s foundations, which began to make the study of migration truly transnational.

I never got to meet Takaki, though I suppose I was only a handshake away from him during my Berkeley sojourn, but I benefitted immensely from the institutions he helped build and the scholarship he fostered.

5/27/2009

Association for Asian Studies Publications

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 1:51 pm Print

I just received Tools of Culture: Japan’s Cultural, Intellectual, Medical, and Technological Contacts in East Asia, 1000s-1500s, part of the Asia Past and Present book series. I hadn’t ordered a book from the AAS previously and didn’t know what to expect. A pamphlet? Something printed on a desktop? I was pleasantly surprised to see that this inexpensive paperback book (just $22.40 with the AAS member discount!) is a high quality product equal to anything you would see from a university press. I haven’t read the book, but the form is reassuring, and the blurbs by prominent premodern Japanese historians on the back also convince. This looks like an excellent publishing option. As it gets harder to publish with the usual suspects, alternatives such as the various East Asia Center presses (Harvard, Michigan, Cornell), the new PMJS Papers, and other options that I probably don’t know about yet become attactive and important ways of maintaining scholarly standards while still getting our work into print.

5/25/2009

Young Samurai Book One (of at least three): Harry Potter Bushido

I almost didn’t check Chris Bradford‘s Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior out of the library when I saw it, but some instinct told me that it was something I should read. Perhaps it was the realization that Young Samurai was the first book in a series — oddly, though, there was no information on the other books1 — and therefore likely to have some serious publicity support from the publisher. Perhaps it was the realization that the publisher was Disney/Hyperion, which more or less guarantees a pretty substantial distribution and readership. Perhaps it was the hope that I might find, finally, some historical fiction worth recommending…..

The book is about a young English boy who’s shipwrecked in Japan in 1611, and gets adopted by a samurai family, while being stalked by the ninja pirates who killed his father and crewmates. So it was a bit Karate Kid and a bit of the story of Will Adams (more Samurai William than Shogun); nothing surprising, really, but all a bit familiar. Aside from fairly predictable ahistorical elements,2 commonplaces of martial arts fiction, and the implausible interpersonal relationships, nothing out of the ordinary.

I was about halfway through the book, though, when I realized what I was reading: it was the scene where Jack, the young Englishman, shows up at the school of his adopted father/patron — a formidable warrior — and all the students are introduced to the instructors at a big banquet. I put down the book, walked into the other room and said to my wife, “It’s Harry Potter in Japan!”

[spoilers, of course, under the fold]

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  1. As near as I can tell from the websites, the second book is coming out in the UK shortly, with the third book scheduled for next year and a TV deal in the works, but nothing on the US side about when the sequels might be available here. []
  2. ninja, yes, and wakou pirates (who are also ninja) off the coast of eastern Japan in 1611, and the post-Enlightenment attitudes of the protagonist []

5/11/2009

Productive Procrastination

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 9:59 pm Print

The Journal of the Historical Society has put five recent articles up for free, including a four-year old essay by Herman Ooms on the state of Tokugawa intellectual history. Aside from the gallop through the history of state-of-the-field essays, it includes a quick, very positive, look at European scholarship in French and German. I’m not sure how long these articles (the rest of them look interesting, too, but not Asian studies) will be up, but I’ll be going back there for fun in between stacks of grading this week and weekend.

And, as a bonus, some 1920s British Jiujitsu demonstration films which really need someone who knows more about martial arts history to put into proper context.

5/5/2009

Dangerous Data

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:05 pm Print

By now most of you have probably heard of the erasure of buraku — the segregated communities of Japanese outcastes — from Google Earth.1 The continuing discrimination against burakumin — hisabetsuminzoku2 is the phrase I was taught to use in the late ’80s, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck — which often uses their unique geographic footprint as a tool for identifying the otherwise indistinguishable burakumin from the rest of the Japanese population was the issue: having the maps on Google Earth made it too easy.

The discussion at H-Japan has been fairly low-key3 and the UCB Library has calmed the scholars’ fears by announcing that the only alterations were made to the Google Earth versions, not to the online digital archive versions. That narrows the problem a bit…
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  1. I got that from a student just before it showed up on H-Japan. []
  2. literally “peoples who have been discriminated against” []
  3. though Paul Stephen Lim’s story of government pressure to downplay burakumin issues is pretty shocking []

Film Festival

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 3:31 pm Print

Just received this from friends at the Japanese American National Museum:

The Japanese American National Museum is accepting film & video submissions for their Second annual ID Film Festival, a series of films that challenge and celebrate what it means to be Asian.

To take place from October 1-3, ID Film Fest will showcase both shorts and features to be screened digitally in the Democracy Forum, a state of the art theater in downtown Los Angeles.

ID Film Fest welcomes film and video works of all lengths and genres that challenge and celebrate what it means to be Asian and/or Asian American. Please direct all inquiries to ksakai@janm.org

To see the films that we screened at last year’s festival, visit http://www.janm.org/events/2008/idfilmfest/films/
Please send a one-paged synopsis of the work along with contacts (e-mail, address and phone), a short biography of the filmmaker and a DVD screener to the:

Japanese American National Museum
Attention: Koji Steven Sakai
369 E. First St.
Los Angeles CA 90012

There is no submission fee and no entry form is required. Submission deadline is AUGUST 1, 2009.

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