Welcome to the 2nd bi-monthly Asian History Carnival. Thanks to those who offered submissions to the carnival. I think we have an excellent spread of region and time period but my choices reflect the range of submissions I received for inclusion and the limits of my own online reading. Remember, if you feel your region was neglected or that excellent postings went unmentioned, consider nominating them for the next carnival, to be held February 2nd, 2006. If you are interested in hosting the next asian history carnival, please contact me at konrad [at] lawson.net. We will post information on the next hosting at the carnival’s homepage as soon as we have a host.
And now for the postings:
Ancient Peoples, National Origins, and Ethnic Cleansing
Savage Minds is a wonderful group weblog dedicated to anthropology but there are often postings which any aspiring historian can benefit from. While not limiting his discussion to Asia, Taiwan specialist Kerim Friedman’s recent posting Ancient People: We are All Modern Now examines the cliché of “ancient people” in the media and elsewhere. Kerim reminds us that these “traditional” peoples are in fact continuously undergoing change and that frequently the tribes themselves are invented during period of colonization. He also suggests that the idea of “ancient languages” is equally problematic. He concludes that the idea of an “ancient people,” often used by people in reference to themselves, represents, “the dream of continuity in the face of ever accelerating change.” See also some discussion of this at Antropologi.info posting Our obsession with the notion of the primitive society.
In a Singapore related posting at Higher Criticism, Sheilax has a posting entitled The Malays of Tumasik- forgotten history which suggests that, “Singapore’s humble beginnings is inextricably linked with the Malay kingdoms that flourished in the region since two thousand years ago.” The posting is motivated by an admirable desire to challenge the standard narrative of Singapore history which dates the origins of its national community rather late and primarily to migrant groups and overlooks Malay connections. However, one question we might have for the writer, who wants to tie the nation of Singapore in some way to its “ancient” predecessors, is whether projecting the origins of a nation on a geographic basis, even to communities that we admit are culturally distinct, we aren’t contributing to the contradictions of the project to establish an unbroken line of “ancient” legitimacy for modern nations.
Laurence at Rejistan has given us a review of a book on the origins and destiny of another national people, Sons of the Conquerers – Rise of the Turkic World. He is pleased with the book, which addresses contemporary issues in Central Asia, as well as the legacy pan-Turanian visions, and how Turkish peoples adjust to the many lands they have settled in.
J. Otto Pohl, a scholar of migration and ethnic cleansing in the Soviet Union, has an interesting posting on one specific group among the Turks in his recent posting More Thoughts on Meskhetian Turks. He attempts to follow their attempts at repatriation and settlement outside of their homeland, after their initial expulsion from a part of Georgia by Stalin in 1944.
In other postings on ancient peoples, Shashwati Talukdar has some comments on the issues of religion, conversion, and the claims to being connected to an “ancient” community, the Bnei Menashe who claim to be none other than one of the Lost Tribes of Israel who were ethnically cleansed by the Assyrians. A community in Northeastern India was accepted as one of the lost tribes but had to go through a process of ritual conversion before migrating to Israel, which initiated an unfriendly response from the Indian government.
Owen over at Kotaji has two interesting posts on Said’s Orientalism. In his The Problem with Orientalism, Part I and The Problem with Orientalism, Part II he engages a critique of Said by Indian scholar Irfan Habib. Owen finds himself agreeing with much that Habib has to say and then goes on to apply some of these observations to the historiography of Korea. Meanwhile over at Sepia Mutiny An Oriental Gives Up when finding that an Indian television station has a finance program entitled “Oriental & Occidental”
Korean Economics and Colonial Rule
Foreign Dispatch has written a posting on The Korean Economy Under Japanese Rule, challenging some of the more dismal characterizations in the historiography of the colonial period. The post prompted extensive debate in the comments. Mike at Histor¥, who is an expert on financial reforms in Meiji Japan has expressed some doubts about the entire approach of the article. Other recent postings on Korean economics include one by Owen at Frog in a Well – Korea about the theory of uneven and combined development and Pak Noja’s discussion of the late development of market exchange and use of coinage in ancient Korea.
For another fascinating set of articles, many of which are related to imperialism and the colonial experience in Asia, see the newest newsletter from IIAS: Newsletter 38 for October. It includes intresting contributions including one by Poshek Fu (whose book on intellectuals in occupied Shanghai I strongly recommend) about recent historiography On Occupied China, and Kyu Hyun Kim’s article on War and the Colonial Legacy in South Korean Scholarship. I believe the IIAS Newsletter, along with Japan Focus are both excellent examples of how to bridge the gap between academic journals and history blogging. They include articles in the range of 2000 words per piece written by leading scholars in the field as well as graduate students and other qualified contributors.
Other Great Postings
Be sure to check out Matthew Penny’s “The Most Crucial Education”: Saotome Katsumoto and Japanese Anti-War Thought a sensitive and fascinating article focusing on three works by Saotome Katsumoto and exploring of his attempt to confront the tensions in his discussions of Japan’s wartime past and efforts for anti-war education.
Natalie Bennett has an interesting post about her visit to the Royal Academy’s Chinese exhibition: Royal Academy – China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795, giving us a room by room account as well as some comments about the somewhat derivative style of some of the offerings presented. Also read an interesting posting on Chinese badges on her personal weblog in a posting entitled Learning to Love Mao.
Alan Baumler has gotten considerable attention recently at Frog in a Well – China, especially for his postings on women holding up half of heaven and a discussion of the absence of foot binding among Manchus. I would like, however, to highlight an interesting discussion he has about Chinese witness accounts about dragons and the relationship between pseudo-science and modern science in his posting Last night I saw upon the stair a little man who was not there.
It was Alan, actually, who introduced me to my most delightful new blog discovery: Blogging…Walk the Talk. See for example their posting on Ketchup and the Manufacturing Myth in Hong Kong. He looks at an 1881 governor’s report to look at earlier origins of manufacturing in the region. Other posts worth looking at this wonderful weblog include Imperialism and the Kowloon-Canton Railway and the interesting posting The Writing on the Wall: Hong Kong, 1938 which quotes from a 1938 police report.
Matt over at Gusts of Popular Feeling has an interesting posting on some of his reading about foreigners in Korea during the Kwangju uprising: Some Reading Material. Another interesting posting on the uprising can be found on Antti Leppänen’s weblog Hunjangûl karûch’im in his posting on Kwangju 1980 and An Byeong-ha. Matt also has an interesting posting collecting some information on recent efforts to investigate the military incidents of Korea’s recent past in Investigating the Past. The title of his site, by the way, comes from the interesting passage in the travel writings of Isabella Bird Bishop from the end of the 19th century, in which she says “Gusts of popular feeling which pass for public opinion in a land where no such thing exists are known only in Seoul. It is in the capital that the Korean feels the first stress of its unsought and altogether undesired contact with Western civilization, and resembles nothing so much as a man awakening from a profound sleep, rubbing his eyes half-dazed and looking dreamily about him, not quite sure where he is.” (Korea and Her Neighbors, 59)
Roy Berman over at Mutant Frog has a fascinating posting about an old Taiwanese (Republic of China) military manual for teaching English: ROC Armed Forces English Manual. This is no ordinary textbook, as he shows us through some selections.
Finally, in Another Nail in the Ninja Coffin Jonathan Dresner adds some comments to a recent important posting on H-Net Japan related to the state of Ninja research. Referring to his earlier posting on some of his reading on the topic, he reminds us of the difficulty of doing the history of something as popularized as ninja history and the invented traditions of our times. Incidentally, it is wonderful that H-Net Japan, which is perhaps the best listserve related to Japanese history is getting some of its good materials brought into the online dialogue of weblogs. As in the case of Japan Focus and the IIAS newsletters mentioned above, it is important that we realize that there are a full range of mediums beyond those of traditional published scholarship in which questions about history are discussed and debated.