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Self-Introduction: Jonathan Dresner

Posted By Jonathan Dresner On 11/4/2005 @ 4:31 am In Academia,English,General,Korea-Japan | 8 Comments

I’m very grateful to Konrad for including me in this project. I’ve really enjoyed blogging in the Japan and China Frogs and I’m looking forward to this one as well. These are really ambitious projects, extending academic blogging into East Asian History, and vice versa, in what I hope will be very productive ways. These blogs have the potential to not just supplement our communications within our disciplines, but to bring new audiences and to challenge our conventional historiographical boundaries. For an example, check out the Korean-Japanese topics from the Japan blog.

This is what really interests me about being part of the Korean and Chinese blogs. I’m a Japanese historian by trade and training, but I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied, intellectually and pedagogically, with the conventional “national history” tropes. I’m particularly interested in greater integration of Korean and Japanese histories. It’s not just the frequent points of intersection and conflict (premodern migration, Paekche/Yamato cultural influences, Mongol Invasions, Hideyoshi Wars, colonial era; trade throughout history) but also their very different cultural trajectories. They faced some very similar challenges (Chinese empires, Mongols, the modern West; local/central authority, warrior traditions) and ideas (Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, imperialism) and almost invariably their paths diverge. I think studying those “choice points” in comparison rather than in the relative isolation of national historiography would be extremely fruitful.

My dream (i.e. a project to be taken up after tenure) is to produce a balanced and integrated Korean-Japanese history. One that’s not too China-heavy but rather takes China as a given that both societies interact with in different ways at different times. I’ve got a long way to go on this project. I already have started teaching the two countries together in my World History surveys. I’m taking a big step next semester: I’m teaching an undergraduate seminar on Korean History through Primary Sources which is the first step towards developing a stand-alone Korean history survey (if there’s sufficient student interest, which I doubt in the short term, I’d probably expand this to two semesters; I’ve expanded the China and Japan surveys to three semesters each). This will force me to work through the materials, gain facility with the history. I’ve taught Korean history before, as part of East Asian surveys, but never in this kind of depth. It’ll be a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m sure a great deal of my posting here will be in the form of questions and confusions. I hope that putting my ignorance on display (and, as Konrad notes below, the very name of the site evokes the limits of our knowledge) will not only draw in those who know more than I, but also embolden others to extend their teaching and learning into new directions.


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