Somehow the items that have caught my eye since the last Asia Carnival are more cultural than historical – future carnivals will right the balance. But culture, after all, can’t be separated from history. History doesn’t stop. As Ambrose King of
December offers a number of days to remember. I’m sure you’re all looking forward to the
To celebrate, the nomination for the year’s most original use of the concept “Cultural Revolution” is an editorial in
In a more scholarly vein, popular movements in
Also free online is How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century by Tonio Andrade, published in the Columbia University Press Gutenberg-e project (all books in the project are now online for free). Andrade argues that it was Dutch protection that made Chinese settlement on
[Addendum: After I posted this edition of the Carnival, Michael Turton at The View from Taiwan added to his string of analytical and deeply informed articles “Minimum Differentiation, Maximum Indentification” (December 14). Michael points out that aside from (very important?) difference of being either “pro-Taiwan” or “pro-China,” the two parties have basically similar stances on a range of important issues. The “renaming of the Memorial Formerly Known as CKS must be seen as part of the normal electoral dance between the two parties…” not as primal warfare. My only complaint about this article is that I wish I had read it two days before.]
Returning to Mao. At the Harvard Business Review, Kuang S. Yeh and Shaomin Li report on “Mao’s Pervasive Influence on Chinese CEOS.” Executives over the age of forty are deeply influenced by Mao. They often use “Mao-style tactics,” such as mobilizing workers at the level below a leader to defy him in order to force him to resign, playing one group off against another, and the reluctance to appoint a successor. Now I wonder if this isn’t using exotic concepts to explain behavior that can be better explained by circumstances. Each of the examples, it seems, is common enough in places where Mao is scarcely known, much less “pervasive.” To be sure, the executives themselves said they turned to Mao for inspiration, but more skepticism from the authors would make their conclusions more convincing.
The etymology of the word “carnival” involves “carne,” or meat. Meat without spice is dull, so it’s appropriate to welcome Stewart Gordon’s handsome new website Spices and Networks. Pages include a long one on Gordon’s writings (five books on
Gordon’s most recent blog piece, Spices, Networks, and Asian History (December 10) explores how study of the 12th – 14th century spice trade can help historians avoid a long standing trap. Modern historical study takes the nation as its basic unit, so the temptation has been to use the boundaries of present day nations as cookie cutters to make pre-modern geographical units. Gordon wants to avoid this falseness by using “social network theory” to identify what we could call, to borrow a phrase from the news, “reality based” units. Social network analysis “looks at how relationships, especially social pressures, around a person, group, or organization affect beliefs or behaviors” and sees “properties of relations between, people, rather than the characteristics of individuals.” Networks form around any kind of exchange, whether of knowledge, slaves, spices, or blog postings. For the historian with adequate data, this has many advantages. By focusing on networks rather than regions, social network analysis “sidesteps the discussion whether change was ‘external’ or ‘internal’ and focuses attention away from ‘cores’ and ‘peripheries.’” And it “avoids European ‘exceptionalism’ by accepting that some networks included
To keep up on Korea, Asia Carnival often depends on Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling. Well, he’s done it again, this time with “1941’s ‘Volunteer,’” a presentation of films from the Korean language DVD box set “Unearthing the Past.” The set consists of four films made in
Mark Russell, who brought these films to Matt’s attention, presides over Korea Pop Wars: Notes on Entertainment, Culture, and More from Korea (Or Wherever). For instance, the New York Philharmonic recently agreed, under State Department pressure, to visit
Gusts of Popular Feeling also links to the red hot “I Got Arrested for Calling the Police“ on Scribblings of the Metropolitician. Mike, an African-American photographer and Korean speaking resident of
Rashomon this is not, though the wild and diverse comments following the piece hardly seem to be seeing the same incident. The academic interest for us at Frog is the cultural reasoning on display in the comments section, as if in a museum, just lacking labels and accession numbers. Some make racist attacks on
One such comment links to “Honesty vs. Loyalty: Which is More Important?” by Horace Underwood, grandson of the founder of
Well, peace to Mike, sobriety to the drunk Korean, and apologies to both for talking about them without having met them. To the commenters, thanks for demonstrating the challenges in explaining differences in culture (the article on the pervasive influence of Mao may show the dangers of assuming that culture explains behavior).
Japan Focus frequently runs articles on this question, most recently a sharp debate on Ruth Benedict’s classic The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946). Toru Uno’s “How to Critique: Lummis on the Legacy of Ruth Benedict,” (December 4) responds to C.
1) Benedict confuses ideology with culture.
2) She treats
3) She sees Japanese culture as essentially static. More precisely, she sees it as incapable of change from within, though it can be changed by intervention from outside (the Occupation).
4) She claims that Japanese ethics are entirely based on shame, and that guilt plays virtually no role there
5) She claims that American culture is the almost perfectly matched opposite to this.
6) As the combined consequence of 1~5, the book is not merely ethnocentric, but gives ethnocentrism a new basis, replacing race with culture.
A baleful anniversary: the entry of the Japanese Army into
David McNeill’s Look Back in Anger: Filming the Nanjing Massacre (Japan Focus December 6) reports that there are at least a dozen films being made in
Let’s not leave
Dan Harris at China Law Blog said “right on” in his Planes, Trains And Automobiles: The China Way (December 3), but Paul Midler at The China Game wasn’t about to let them get away with it (James Fallows Turns On His Television Set; December 3). “Nearly anyone who has lived in
The exchange is all in good humor, but the serious question remains. Do you have to be trained in Asianology before you are licensed to opine or can you just go on the basis of what you see? Are we just regurgitating Arthur Smith’s Chinese Characteristics (1894)?
One of Smith’s Chinese characteristics was “absence of sincerity.” Josh’s “Cross-cultural Honesty Catalysis“ (December 7) at Sinosplice comments on a movement for “radical honesty,” that is, saying exactly, I mean, exactly what you think. He got to “thinking about whether this could ever conceivably be tried in
The radical honesty movement reminds me of George Orwell’s comment that “it’s fine to call a spade a spade, but you don’t have to call it a @#$ing shovel.”
Speaking of which…
In “The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation“ (December 9 guest post at Language Log), Victor Mair takes on the problem of Chinglish and the widespread appearance of “f*ck” in PRC signs and menus. When I first went to
There continue to be predictions of
Ralph Harrington, a fellow Independent Scholar, critiques Zizek in his December 7 “China’s Future is Not Europe’s Past,” (thegraycat blog, reprinted, History News Network Roundup section (where it was the number two most viewed piece as of December 12).
Rowan Collick’s The China Model (The American December 7) asks “How long can economic freedom and political repression coexist?” Developing countries in Asia and
One last December anniversary. Although I did not see significant postings on the December 7 beginning of the war between the US and Japan, there was well flung controversy over the end of it.
At History News Network is “Conservative Revisionists and Hiroshima” (December 12) in which Leo Maley III and Uday Mohan comment on reactions to the November 1 death of Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the plane which dropped the Hiroshima bomb
The HNN page Hiroshima: What People Think Now has links to dozens of articles which they reprinted from many locations.
Finally, a few resources:
Recent articles about China are organized at China Digital Times, where you can search or read them. CDT is run by the Berkeley China Internet Project out of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. For instance, searching the tag “Foreigners in China“ yields 41 recent items. CDT also has photos, announcements, podcasts.
Asia Media (UCLA Asia Institute) selects English language news stories from all over
Resources on Korean Film include:
Koreanfilm.org, maintained for many years by Darcy Paquet. The site includes reviews of Korean films year by year from the 1940s to the present, essays, and other resources and references. Especially useful is “South Korean Films About the Korean War….”
Korean Cinema Edition, a site rich with information, but unfortunately not mainained after 2004.
Korean Film Archive In Korean only.
Korean Film Council. The official government body. Detailed information on current and recent films, often with screen shots.
Japan in War and Peace (New York: New Press, 1993): 33-54. ↩