Asian Studies

New Books in April

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Curling up on the couch with a great book is an excellent way to practice social distancing this month. All these titles will deliver before our sale ends on May 1, so check our website regularly. You can save 50% on all in-stock titles with coupon SPRING50

Tyler Bickford traces the dramatic rise of the “tween” pop music industry in Tween Pop, showing how it marshaled childishness as a key element in legitimizing children’s participation in public culture.

The contributors to Playing for Keeps examine the ways in which musical improvisation can serve as a way to negotiate violence, trauma, systemic inequality, and the aftermaths of war and colonialism. This volume is edited by Daniel Fischlin and Eric Porter.

John F. Szwed’s Space is the Place is the definitive biography of Sun Ra—composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, and a founder of Afrofuturism. We are pleased to be bringing this classic back into print with a new preface.

In Vital Decomposition, Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations in which she follows state soil scientists and peasant farmers in Colombia’s Putumayo region, showing how their relationship with soil is key to caring for the forest and growing non-illicit crops in the face of violence, militarism, and environmental destruction.

Micha Rahder explores how multiple ways of knowing the forest of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve shape conservation practice, local livelihoods, and landscapes in An Ecology of Knowledges.

In Relations, Marilyn Strathern provides a critical account of anthropology’s key concept of relation and its usage and significance in the English-speaking world, showing how its evolving use over the last three centuries reflects changing thinking about knowledge-making and kin-making.

In Virtual Pedophilia, Gillian Harkins traces the genealogy of the transformation of cultural construction of the pedophile as a social outcast into the image of normative white masculinity from the 1980s to the present, showing how his “normalcy” makes him hard to identify and stop.

In A People’s History of Detroit, Mark Jay and Philip Conklin use a Marxist framework to tell a sweeping story of Detroit from 1913 to the present, outlining the complex socio-political dynamics underlying major events in Detroit’s past, from the rise of Fordism and the formation of labor unions to deindustrialization and the city’s recent bankruptcy.

In Revolution and Disenchantment, Fadi A. Bardawil explores the hopes for and disenchantments with Marxism-Leninism in the writings and actions of revolutionary intellectuals within the 1960s Arab New Left.

In Tehrangeles Dreaming, Farzaneh Hemmasi draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles and musical and textual analysis to examine how the pop music, music videos, and television made by Iranian expatriates express modes of Iranianness not possible in Iran.

The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life.

Drawing on Whitman and Adorno, Morton Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized other in A Democratic Enlightenment.

In Kwaito Bodies, Xavier Livermon examines the cultural politics of the youthful black body in South Africa through the performance, representation, and consumption of Kwaito—a style of electronic dance music that emerged following the end of apartheid.

Reflecting on the experience, philosophy, and practice of Latin American indigenous and Afro-descendant activist-intellectuals who mobilize to defend their territories from large-scale extraction, Arturo Escobar shows in Pluriversal Politics how the key to addressing planetary crises is the creation of the pluriverse—a world of many epistemological and ontological worlds.

The contributors to AIDS and the Distribution of Crises outline the myriad ways that the AIDS pandemic exists within a network of varied historical, overlapping, and ongoing crises borne of global capitalism and colonial, racialized, and gendered violence. This collection is edited by Jih-Fei Cheng, Alexandra Juhasz, and Nishant Shahani. It is currently available to read free online as part of our Navigating the Threat of Pandemic syllabus.

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New Titles in Asian Studies

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Every year we look forward to connecting with scholars at the Association for Asian Studies conference. We will miss meeting with authors and editors and selling books at this year’s conference, which has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We know that many of you look forward to stocking up on new books at special discounts at our conferences, so we are pleased to extend a 50% discount on all in-stock books and journal issues through May 1. In addition, if you spend $100 or more, we are offering free shipping to U.S. addresses. Journal subscriptions and society memberships don’t qualify for the 50% discount, but they do count toward the $100 threshold.

Here are some of the great titles in Asian Studies that we were planning to feature in our booth at AAS.

Experimental BeijingCongratulations to Sasha Su-Ling Welland, whose book Experimental Beijing: Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art is the winner of the AAS’s 2020 Joseph Levenson Post-1900 Book Prize.

We also congratulate Juno Salazar Parreñas, whose book Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation received honorable mention for the Harry J. Benda Prize, presented by the Southeast Asia Council (SEAC) of the AAS.

Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China is new this month. She explores how artistic appropriations of historical images effectively articulate the openly unsayable and counter the public secrecy that erases traumatic episodes from China’s past.

Harry Harootunian is best known as a scholar of Japanese history, but recently he turned his pen to memoir, writing about his parents’ escape from the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century in The Unspoken as Heritage: The Armenian Genocide and Its Unaccounted Lives.

UnderglobalizationIn Underglobalization: Beijing’s Media Urbanism and the Chimera of Legitimacy, Joshua Neves examines the cultural politics of the “fake” and how frictions between legality and legitimacy propel dominant models of economic development and political life in contemporary China. See his recent blog post on the coronavirus.

In Invisibility by Design Women and Labor in Japan’s Digital Economy, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Avian Reservoirs: Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts by Frédéric Keck is unfortunately very timely right now. Keck Avian Reservoirstraces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics. Check out his posts on the coronavirus’s impact in Wuhan in The Conversation and Somatosphere.

In his experimental work Ethnography #9, Alan Klima examines moneylending, gambling, funeral casinos, and the consultations of spirits and mediums to predict winning lottery numbers to illustrate the relationship between contemporary Thai spiritual and financial practices and global capitalism’s abstraction of monetary value.

Please check out all the titles we were planning on featuring in our program ad for the meeting. And see a complete list of our Asian Studies titles here.

EAS_new_prWe’re always excited to share our great Asian studies journals: Archives of Asian ArtComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle EastEast Asian Science, Technology and Society, the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, the Journal of Korean Studies, positions: asia critique, and Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. Special issues are included in our 50%-off sale, and subscriptions are always available.

We also offer an Asian Studies e-book collection, which moves beyond traditional area studies to include titles addressing individual Asian countries as well as regional and transnational issues. Ask your librarian to learn more.

If you were hoping to connect with one of our editors about your book project at AAS, please reach out to them by email. See our editors’ specialties and contact information here and our submissions guidelines here.

Once again, we’re sorry to miss you in person but hope the 50% discount with free U.S. shipping on orders over $100 will make it possible for you to pick up some new books and journal issues. Use coupon SPRING50 at checkout and see the fine print on the sale here.

Joshua Neves on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Anti-Chinese Racism, and the Politics of Underglobalization

Neves, Joshua photoJoshua Neves, author of Underglobalization:
Beijing’s Media Urbanism and the Chimera of Legitimacy
, is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Film Studies at Concordia University and coeditor of Asian Video Cultures, also published by Duke University Press. He wrote this post on February 21, 2020 and updated the statistics today, March 11.

In the 2018-19 flu season, the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 16.5 million Americans saw a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 people were hospitalized, and 34,200 people died from influenza. Such data helps us to temper recent panic about the coronavirus, contagion narratives, and the repressive Chinese state. 

To be sure, the strict management of information and party-state bureaucracy have plagued China’s response to the virus. My aim here is not to downplay what are very grave challenges to public health, but rather to turn attention to the ways the viral outbreak has also been swollen by frenzied news and social media around the world. Among the many responses in North America and Europe, for example, is a resurgent anti-Chinese racism. This includes suspicions about exotic animals and racialized ideas about sickness and disease, as well as alarm about surgical mask shortages, government cover ups, and entire cities under quarantine. As a recent US headline puts it, “First the media sold you overblown fears. Now it’s selling false comfort.”

But there is little new in this hysteria over China as a breeding ground for pandemics. From counterfeit medicine to authoritarian capitalism, China plays a complicated role in stories about the world system. On the one hand, it’s laboring population serves as factory to the world and has sustained the global economy through stagnation and crisis. It both produces the world’s best known things and is derided as a menial laborer or copycat—and not, that is, a designer. A major theme in recent news coverage centers on profits lost to factory closures. In many such stories, concerns about the well-being of migrant workers, among others, seems limited to their inability to get to work. On the other hand, even while China co-creates what we have come to know as globalization, its ambition and the challenges it poses to the Washington Consensus have led many to see the country as a global villain. Alongside Russia, Iran, etc., the PRC increasingly fills an imaginary void in post-Cold War geopolitics. It is the “other” that “we” organize our anger or fear around. 

What interests me about the tensions framing the COVID-19 outbreak is that China is at once understood to be inside and outside of the world or proper society of nations. It is both a prime mover and sickly underminer. This contradiction—including mistrust, intolerance, fear—must be tied to a history of anti-Chinese racism in North America and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the current “yellow peril” is once again linked to the exploitation of Chinese workers, as well as a deep suspicion of these same people’s motives and lifeworlds. It highlights the inequality of global supply chains—a current logic of racialized capitalism—which seek to move things in specific directions and keep everyone in their place. It is this sense of global order that the virus ignores with its potential to spread where it should not. Contagion thus not only refers to the unruliness of new flu strains, but to the new mobilities of Chinese people, products, and technologies. The latter includes US attempts to block the Chinese company, Huawei, from building 5G infrastructure around the world. Officials claim that Chinese built networks will allow Beijing to infiltrate critical telecom infrastructure, making them insecure and threatening. These same reports rely on language that could just as well describe panic about the infectivity of influenza. Per Vice President Mike Pence, “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”

The point of highlighting such tensions is not to bracket the very real problems posed by the People’s Republic of China or its vision of the future. But it is to refuse sweeping and prejudicial assessments of China and the Chinese, which inform insidious racisms by tethering ideas about counterfeits, censorship, exotic animals, the flu, and much more, to particular bodies. Put simply, these critiques are widespread, confused, epidemic—and demand more nuanced attention from journalists, scholars, and publics. What remains undigested by routine critiques of China, and is once again brought into relief by the recent outbreak of the outbreak narrative, is how smug dismissals buttress troubling ideas about the munificent “West” and the “free world.” This is one of the most menacing and normalized aspects of anti-Chinese racism in the North Atlantic. It locates viral contagion in Asian cities and populations, naming them as external threats, thereby consolidating a violent clash of civilization understanding of the earth. Here is safe; there is toxic.

It is important to add that, contrary to Euro-American assumptions about Chinese repression and citizen compliance, political dissent is endemic and visible across the PRC. For example, in Social Protests and Contentious Authoritarianism in China, political scientist Xi Chen describes both the dramatic rise and routinization of social protest in China and also how, “beneath the surface of noise and anxiety,” China’s political system remains stable. This is a complex political formation and no doubt differs from the imagination of protest in places like the US. But these differences notwithstanding, it is important to understand that protest and dissensus are frequent responses to life in contemporary China—and many Chinese citizens are “more than ready to blame the Communist Party for suppressing public health information and closing ranks against the people.” What is distinct, and marks an increasingly global condition, is that such protests are not made within formal civil society. Instead they are quasi- or il-legal, and suggest new modes of political society. Consider the January 2020 essay, “When Fury Becomes Fear,” from the outspoken former academic and critic, Xu Zhangrun. In searing prose, Xu argues that the current epidemic sounds a “viral alarm” and “has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance.” See Geremie R. Barmé’s translation of Xu’s essay here, a Wuhan diary here, a typical report about netizen responses here, or the Sinophobia tracker here. What matters about such examples, is that they refuse the self-righteous politics of pity—where, for example, Americans are free and Chinese are controlled—and instead demands that we re-examine the workings of popular politics under globalization, which includes China and the so-called “West.”

Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 12.42.46 PMAs I write, 4,379 people have died from the coronavirus and nearly 119,108 cases have been confirmed. Currently over 1000 deaths have been reported outside of China, with Wuhan, Hubei Province, still the most affected area. While details vary, reports indicate that lockdowns and curfews affect hundreds of millions Chinese citizens. The strictest rules, per the South China Morning Post, keep 60 million Hubei residents from leaving their homes. Further coverage suggests that the epidemic may now have peaked, as its spread slows in China, though others note that Japan is now a hotbed for the virus, with new cases also confirmed in the Philippines, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, and others. I linger on the current flu epidemic, stories about its (mis)management, and its Asian hosts and itineraries because they bring into relief a range of issues that are critical to what I call underglobalization

978-1-4780-0805-7When writing Underglobalization, I struggled to make sense of the contradictory and often racist understandings of China that co-exist in much official and popular discourse. As above, I was struck by the way that China is both dismissed as a fake, parasite or outlier nation and, at the same time, is critical to both the global economy and institutions, and to the everyday experience of the world. This paradox brings into relief deep structural conflicts over what constitutes political, economic, and social legitimacy in the present and future. Against such antagonisms, Underglobalization charts how a wide range of social actors underperform or refuse to implement the specific procedures and protocols required by globalization at different scales. Put differently, what international law (like the TRIPS Agreement) identifies as illegal must also be understood, in many contexts, to be locally valid. One important ramification of this claim is the recognition that contemporary global dynamics are shaped by increasing tensions between (il)legality and (il)legitimacy. Most simply the book asks: what happens when legal contracts around the world—including rights, civil society and citizenship—fail or become dangerous, and on what ground are political relationships reclaimed and sustained? 

Save 30% on the paperback edition of Joshua Neves’ Underglobalization using the coupon code E20NEVES and download the introduction here.

 

(en)gendering: Chinese Women’s Art in the Making

“(en)gendering: Chinese Women’s Art in the Making,” the latest issue of positions: asia critique, edited by Shuqin Cui, is available now.

"(en)gendering: Chinese Women’s Art in the Making" cover

While contemporary Chinese art has arrived as a critical subject in art history and found market success, current art criticism has yet to fully engage with art made by Chinese women, especially from the perspective of gender politics. In this special issue, contributors consider how the work of contemporary women artists has generated new approaches to and perspectives on the Chinese art canon.

The issue begins by laying a historical framework for the potentials and problems regarding the interpretation of Chinese women’s art, tracing its evolution throughout a century of Chinese history. Next, the issue addresses the spatial notion of boundary crossing, addressing how travel across national and theoretical boundaries affects the perception of artworks, and explores the misgivings of Chinese women artists about participating in a global exhibition system in which their artwork stands for “China” and “Women.” The issue concludes by looking at the idea of (en)gendering as a revision of women’s art prompting artists and the viewers of women’s artworks to challenge the conventional gaze that has dominated our ways of seeing.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction, freely available.

New Books in March

Spring is just around the corner—so it’s time to stock up on books for a whole new season of reading. Check out all of these titles arriving in March!

In I Never Left Home, poet and revolutionary Margaret Randall tells the moving, captivating, and astonishing story of her life, from her childhood in New York to joining the Sandanista movement in Nicaragua, from escaping political repression in Mexico to raising a family and teaching college.

Demanding Images is Karen Strassler’s ethnography of Indonesia’s post-authoritarian public sphere, exploring the role of public images as they gave visual form to the ideals, aspirations, and anxieties of democracy.

Focusing on a wide range of media technologies and practices in Beijing, Underglobalization by Joshua Neves examines the cultural politics of the “fake” and how frictions between legality and legitimacy propel dominant models of economic development and political life in contemporary China.

A writing manual as well as a manifesto, Every Day I Write the Book combines novelist and essayist Amitava Kumar’s practical writing advice with interviews with prominent writers, offering guidance and inspiration for academic writers at all levels.

In Negative Exposures, Margaret Hillenbrand explores how artistic appropriations of historical images effectively articulate the openly unsayable and counter the public secrecy that erases traumatic episodes from China’s past.

The contributors to Visualizing Fascism, edited by Julia Adeney Thomas and Geoff Eley, examine the imagery and visual rhetoric of interwar fascism in East Asia, southern Africa, and Europe to explore how fascism was visualized as a global and aesthetic phenomenon.

In his new book-length prose poem, The Voice in the Headphones, musician David Grubbs draws on decades of recording experience, taking readers into the recording studio to tell the story of an unnamed musician who struggles to complete a film soundtrack in a day-long marathon recording session.

Rahul Mukherjee explores how the media coverage of and debates about nuclear power plants and cellular phone antennas in India frames and sustains environmental activism in Radiant Infrastructures.

Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky theorizes the process genre—a filmic genre characterized by its representation of chronologically ordered steps in which some form of labor results in a finished product—in The Process Genre.

In The Queer Games Avant-Garde, Bonnie Ruberg presents twenty interviews with twenty-two queer video developers whose radical, experimental, vibrant, and deeply queer work is driving a momentous shift in the medium of video games.

Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas traces how parenting practices among urban elites in Brazil and Puerto Rico preserve and reproduce white privilege and economic inequality in Parenting Empires.

In Rock | Water | Life, Lesley Green examines the interwoven realities of inequality, racism, colonialism, and environmental destruction in South Africa, calling for environmental research and governance to transition to an ecopolitical approach that could address South Africa’s history of racial oppression and environmental exploitation.

Matt Brim shifts queer studies away from sites of elite education toward poor and working-class students and locations in Poor Queer Studies, showing how the field is driven by those flagship institutions that perpetuate class and race inequity in higher education.

In Paris in the Dark, Eric Smoodin takes readers on a journey through the streets, cinemas, and theaters of Paris to sketch a comprehensive picture of French film culture during the 1930s and 1940s.

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New Books in February

This month, we’re releasing an array of new reads in all of the subjects you love. Take a look at these new books coming this February!

The concluding volume in a poetic triptych, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony takes inspiration from theorist Sylvia Wynter, dub poetry, and ocean life to offer a catalog of possible methods for remembering, healing, listening, and living otherwise.

In Wild Blue Media, Melody Jue destabilizes terrestrial-based media theory frameworks and reorients the perception of the world by considering the ocean itself as a media environment—a place where the weight and opacity of seawater transforms how information is created, stored, transmitted, and perceived.

In The Ocean in the School, Rick Bonus tells the stories of Pacific Islander students at the University of Washington as they and their allies struggled to transform a university they believed did not value their presence into a space based on meaningfulness, respect, and multiple notions of student success.

In Orozco’s American Epic, Mary K. Coffey examines José Clemente Orozco’s mural cycle Epic of American Civilization, which indicts history as complicit in colonial violence and questions the claims of Manifest Destiny in the United States and the Mexican desire to mend the wounds of conquest in pursuit of a postcolonial national project.

Nandita Sharma traces the development of the categories of migrants and natives from the nineteenth century to the present in Home Rule to theorize how the idea of people’s rights being tied to geographical notions of belonging came to be.

In Unfixed, Jennifer Bajorek traces the relationship between photography and decolonial politics in Francophone west Africa in the years immediately leading up to and following independence from French colonial rule in 1960, showing how photography both reflected and actively contributed to social and political change.

In Are You Entertained?, a collection of essays, interviews, visual art, and artist statements on topics ranging from music and dance to Black Twitter and the NBA’s dress code, the contributors consider what culture and Blackness mean in the twenty-first century’s digital consumer economy. This volume is edited by Simone C. Drake and Dwan K. Henderson.

In Musicophilia in Mumbai, Tejaswini Niranjana traces the place of Hindustani classical music in Mumbai throughout the long twentieth century, showing how the widespread love of music throughout the city created a culture of collective listening and social subjects who embodied new forms of modernity.

Focusing on the work of a Marxist anticolonial literary group active in India between the 1930s and 1950s, Neetu Khanna rethinks the project of decolonization in The Visceral Logics of Decolonization by showing how embodied and affective responses to colonial subjugation provide the catalyst for developing revolutionary consciousness.

Contributors to Queer Korea, edited by Todd A. Henry, offer interdisciplinary analyses of non-normative sexuality and gender nonconformity in Korea, extending individualized notions of queer neoliberalism beyond those set in Western queer theory.

Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics and film from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal postsocialist China in Urban Horror.

The contributors to Affective Trajectories examine the mutual and highly complex entwinements between religion and affect in urban Africa in the early twenty-first century, tracing the myriad ways religious ideas, practices, and materialities interact with affect to configure life in urban African spaces. This collection is edited by Hansjörg Dilger, Astrid Bochow, Marian Burchardt, and Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon.

In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate explores how the deployment of defiant nakedness by mature women in Africa challenges longstanding assumptions about women’s political agency.

From The Guiding Light to Passions, Elana Levine traces the history of daytime television soap operas as an innovative and highly gendered mass cultural form in Her Stories.

In Seeing by Electricity, Doron Galili traces television’s early history, from the fantastical devices initially imagined fifty years before the first television prototypes to the emergence of broadcast television in the 1930s, showing how television was always discussed and treated in relation to cinema.

Jeremy Packer and Joshua Reeves provide a critical account of the history and future of automation in warfare in Killer Apps by highlighting the threats posed by the latest advances in media technology and artificial intelligence.

Originally published in German in 1978 and appearing here in English for the first time, the second volume of Peter Weiss’s three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance depicts anti-fascist resistance, radical proletarian political movements, and the relationship between art and resistance from the late 1930s to World War II.

Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop by Sarah Eckhardt accompanies the exhibition of the photography of Virginia artist Louis Draper and other members of the Kamoinge Workshop that opens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in February 2020. We are distributing it for the museum.

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New Books in January

If one of your resolutions for 2020 is to read more books, we’ve got you covered. Ring in the new year with these captivating new releases!

In Beneath the Surface, Lynn M. Thomas constructs a transnational history of skin lighteners in South Africa and beyond, theorizing skin and skin color as a site for antiracist struggle and lighteners as a technology of visibility that both challenges and entrenches racial and gender hierarchies.

Weaving U.S. history into the larger fabric of world history, the contributors to Crossing Empires de-exceptionalize the American empire, placing it in a global transimperial context as a way to grasp the power relations that shape imperial formations. This collection is edited by Kristin L. Hoganson and Jay Sexton.

Engaging contemporary photography by Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and others, Shawn Michelle Smith traces how historical moments come to be known photographically and the ways in which the past continues to inhabit, punctuate, and transform the present through the photographic medium in Photographic Returns.

Spanning the centuries between pre-contact indigenous Haiti to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the selections in The Haiti Reader introduce readers to Haiti’s dynamic history and culture from the viewpoint of Haitians from all walks of life. This volume is edited by Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyné, and Chantalle F. Verna.

The contributors to Futureproof (edited by D. Asher Ghertner, Hudson McFann, and Daniel M. Goldstein) examine the affective and aesthetic dimensions of security infrastructures and technology with studies ranging from Jamaica and Jakarta to Colombia and the US-Mexico border.

Examining abjection in a range of visual and material culture, the contributors to Abjection Incorporated move beyond critiques of abjection as a punitive form of social death to theorizing how it has become a means to acquire political and cultural capital in the twenty-first century. This volume is edited by Maggie Hennefeld and Nicholas Sammond.

Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga argue that border wall construction along the U.S.–Mexico border manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion in Fencing in Democracy.

In Politics of Rightful Killing, Sima Shakhsari analyzes the growth of Weblogistan—the online and real-life transnational network of Iranian bloggers in the early 2000s—and the ways in which despite being an effective venue for Iranians to pursue their political agendas, it was the site for surveillance, cooptation, and self-governance.

In Invisibility by Design, Gabriella Lukács traces how young Japanese women’s unpaid labor as bloggers, net idols, “girly” photographers, online traders, and cell phone novelists was central to the development of Japan’s digital economy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Presented in the context of the nonprofit arts collective More Art’s fifteen-year history, and featuring first-person testimony, critical essays, and in-depth documentary materials, More Art in the Public Eye is an essential, experiential guide to the field of socially engaged public art and its increasing relevance. This volume is edited by Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, and Emma Drew, and we are distributing it for More Art.

Shana L. Redmond traces Paul Robeson’s continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics in Everything Man, showing how he remains a vital force and presence for all those he inspired.

In The Complete Lives of Camp People, Rudolf Mrázek presents a sweeping study of the material and cultural lives of internees of two twentieth-century concentration camps and the multiple ways in which their experiences speak to and reveal the fundamental logics of modernity.

In Avian Reservoirs, Frédéric Keck traces how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, showing that humans’ reliance on birds is key to mitigating future pandemics.

Collecting texts from all corners of the world that span antiquity to the present, The Ocean Reader (edited by Eric Paul Roorda) charts humans’ relationship to the ocean, treating it as a dynamic site of history, culture, and politics.

The contributors to Blue Legalities attend to the seas as a legally and politically conflicted space to analyze the conflicts that emerge where systems of governance interact with complex geophysical, ecological, economic, biological, and technological processes. This collection is edited by Irus Braverman and Elizabeth R. Johnson.

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Harry Harootunian on the Ironies of the Armenian Genocide

Harry Harootunian is Max Palevsky Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Chicago; professor emeritus of East Asian studies at New York University; and the author of numerous books, most recently, Uneven Moments: Reflections on Japan’s Modern History. In this guest post, he discusses the challenges of uncovering the truth of his parents’ experiences in the Armenian genocide while writing his memoir The Unspoken as Heritage: The Armenian Genocide and Its Unnaccounted Lives and grapples with the multigenerational echoes of the event amidst a resurgence of political interest.

 

The recent resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the Turkish massacres of 1915-1916 as a full-fledged “genocide” resurfaces the historical plight of an ethnic group designated for extinction as a “reviled” race—one that was nearly eliminated over a century ago. Since that time, its survivors and their descendants have lived with the memories of murder and mutilation scarcely acknowledged by world opinion. The events exist only as a living presence that continues to guarantee social solidarity in the shadowed diaspora communities scattered throughout the globe. Because the event faded into the background noise of 20th century political history, sovereign states failed to grant it the status of genocide. Successive U.S. presidents have routinely rejected the resolution whenever it has appeared for a vote, apparently in fear of alienating America’s Turkish ally. Even Barack Obama caved in to Turkish sensitivities after promising in his presidential campaign that he would approve of the resolution if elected. Obama was already on record for criticizing the firing of a former ambassador to Armenia for having used what he—Obama—believed was the “proper” word of genocide for describing the massacres of 1915-16. But in his presidency he failed to promote the resolution and see it through its acceptance. Turkey’s membership in NATO is cited a primary  reason for this continued campaign of disavowal in the postwar decades, and the initiative was constantly sidestepped because, as former president George W. Bush recently warned, supporting such a resolution would further complicate relations with the West Asia region (Middle East). Explanations for inaction towards resolution always comprised a paradoxical combination of appeals to American national interest and Turkish sensitivity. In the case of the latter, the insistence on coddling Turkish sensibilities when Turkey has continuously and confidently denied the existence of the event, while the former was apparently justified by the presence of American air bases in the region. With the current American president’s mysteriously slavish devotion to Turkey’s thuggish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan, business ties masquerading as a concern for national interest will undoubtedly lead to another veto.

The sudden resurfacing of the resolution and its recent genocidal recognition in the U.S. House raises the question of what circumstances prompted action after decades of indifferent rejection. Where did the political energy come from to exhume the long-ignored Armenian genocide and murder of 1,500,000 inhabitants of the empire? It occurred to me that The Unspoken As Heritage: The Armenian Genocide and Its Unaccounted Lives, my new memoir chronicling my parents’ escape from impending mass extinction and their subsequent migration to the U.S., might now seem relevant in understanding of the recent race to ratify the resolution. My account concentrates on the immense imperative of adapting from the pre-capitalist communities of a dysfunctional land empire to a modern capitalist social order and the impact 500 years of oppressive colonial rule as a “reviled” race had on this transition. Using the figure of the Armenian genocide to explain recent changes in U.S. Middle East policy, however, excluded the histories of those who suffered most from it. The Armenians perceived distance suggested that it was still unclear whether the stigmatic judgment of revilement remains an unerasable tattoo for those who survived its excesses or who came after.

The reason for the resurgence in interest in the Armenian genocide is the fear that the withdrawal of a small American force in Syria would lead Turkey to once more resort to genocide to rid the region of Kurds. What is interesting about this rapid shift is the willingness to forgo previous concerns for Turkish sensitivity by branding Turkey with an aptitude for unleashing mass murder. Americans had no trouble immediately remembering what modern Turkey had been socialized to forget. Neither policy makers nor self-styled defenders of human rights seemed aware that Kurds had been one of the principal, energetic forces (along with the Turkish military) in the execution of murders, massacres and massive theft of the very Armenians whose historical experience of near extinction was now being invoked to spare the Kurds from a similar fate. In The Unspoken as Heritage, I note the intensely eager role of the Kurds in carrying out the labor of massacre and mutilation under the Ottoman state’s sponsored encouragement. Ample scholarship shows evidence of attempts to make the Kurdish involvement in the Armenian genocide appear as common sense. This narrative, rooted in the struggle over acquisition of cultivable agricultural land, went back to the early 19th century when Kurdish brigades carried out systematic but unscheduled pogroms against Armenians. But again, ironically, once the state had successfully eliminated much of the Armenian population in the killing fields and mass deportations, it was replaced by the new Turkish nation-state, which, in the early 1930s, turned to the older strategy of ethnic cleansing by removing and annihilating the Kurds that has persisted to the present day. In view of this congestion of ironies, it now seems pertinent to explain how I’ve tried to construct my parents’ singular experience, which is the kind of ‘history’ tropic condensations invariably exclude.

The memoir attempts to re-compose what my two sisters and I could recall of our parents’ escape and migration from the perspective of our lives growing up in late depression Detroit through the years of World War II. Our parents, Ohaness Der Harootunian and Vehanush Kupalian, remained silent about what experiences compelled them to make such a long unplanned and perilous trek from their homeland, and my goal has been to construct an account that might reveal something about their early lives in Anatolia. Throughout our lives, they maintained a disciplined silence on their experience of the genocide, their collective loss, and the struggles of building a life in an alien country. As I look back to the years of our childhoods, their resolute silence, which first appeared as a mystery of origins, was transmuted into a permanent void that became our lasting heritage. My parents, like the names of the dead, were linked to experiences deposited in an unapproachable locked realm, what author Patrick Modiani, in another context, once described as “dormant memories,” forever unspoken and unawakened.

When I was younger, questions concerning our parents’ lives before the U.S. never occurred to me. When finding answers to these and other questions became a compelling imperative, I concluded that approaching them through the historical optic of the genocide would only perpetuate the Armenian genocide as a sideshow of Turkey’s involvement in World War I. Moreover, I had no qualifications to write such a history, even if I wanted to. My interests were guided by the recognition that I never really knew who my parents were. I was convinced that whatever prompted the desire to clear up the mystery might put an end to the void of this silent repression that had engulfed and dominated our lives and animated theirs.

This project stems from an intense concern with the long and multi-generational afterlife of the genocide that has remained at the heart of the Armenian diaspora. For Armenians of successive generations like mine, this concern has itself become a form of heritage that obliges each to prevent memories of the event from falling into permanent indifference and forgetfulness. As a result, I became preoccupied with understanding why the experience subjected our parents to a collective silence of the unspoken that became our inheritance. I began to sense how difficult this project had become, frustrated by the sudden realization of how little I knew of my parents and that my sisters and I never questioned what brought them to the U.S.

In the absence of sufficient resources, I’ve resorted to a re-composition of what they separately went through, hesitantly trying to envision their accompanying thoughts and feelings based off what the three of us were able recall or thought they endured as they escaped imminent death. The re-composition I cobbled together resembles most an archaeological excavation that pries and sifts through loose, unrelated fragments to serve as an incomplete representation of a life lived. To wrest them from their silent confinement and imagine the details of their fractured lives, I assumed the fictive figure of an uninvited intruder in their thoughts. Though our parents rarely spoke of their individual encounters, the experience of genocidal witness, loss and escape stalked their efforts to rebuild their lives abroad. The shadow of their earlier experience followed them as they struggled to navigate through the barriers of chronic economic and social failure.

We inherited the political toll of destruction produced by the void and its aftermath. Our starting point is our father’s loss of his entire family, a large unit comprised of several brothers and sisters (the count and names remain unknown), mother, father, grandparents and even great-grandparents; our mother came from a smaller family and was left with no relatives: her father died when she was an infant, her brother perished in the genocide and her mother never returned after putting Vehanush into a German missionary school for safe-keeping even though she made it to Beirut and remarried. As children we confronted the namelessness of departed relatives since it was effectively disallowed to  speak of their past, as if it never existed. Yet we came to realize much later that naming something gives it life, which enabled us to recognize that the genocide powerfully altered and reshaped these people. Naming it allows us to enter its forgotten precincts and retrieve their repressed memories. The memoir details the lasting effects that are passed into our unasked-for legacy.

The lived irony of a genocide reproduced by its victims’ prolonged silences recalls how the Armenian genocide unintentionally (or intentionally) alludes to the Kurds’ possible fate upon the removal American troops in Syria. If the latter is ultimately an uninformed political tactic, involuntarily slipping from metaphor into momentary irony, its unwelcome contrast with the former further reinforces the truth of Marx’s observation that history, in the second time around, always appears as farce.

You can purchase a paperback copy of The Unspoken as Heritage for 30% off using the coupon code E19HRTNN.

 

New Books in December

‘Tis the season for brand new books! This month, we’re releasing a variety of compelling titles from a wide range of disciplines—art, history, music, theory and philosophy, cultural studies, and many more. Check out these great reads available in December.

Andrea Smith examines the racial reconciliation movement in Evangelical Christianity through a critical ethnic studies lens in Unreconciled, evaluating the varying degrees to which Evangelical communities that were founded on white supremacy have attempted to address racism and become more inclusive.

In Picasso’s Demoiselles, eminent art historian Suzanne Preston Blier uncovers a previously unknown history of the influences and creative process of Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, one of the twentieth century’s most important, celebrated, and studied paintings.

In The Sonic Episteme Robin James examines how twenty-first-century conceptions of sound as acoustic resonance shape notions of the social world, personhood, and materiality in ways that support white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

In Listen But Don’t Ask Question Kevin Fellezs traces the ways in which slack key guitar—a traditional Hawaiian musical style played on an acoustic steel-string guitar—is a site for the articulation of the complex histories, affiliations, and connotations of Hawaiian belonging.

Militarization: A Reader, edited by Roberto J. González, Hugh Gusterson, and Gustaaf Houtman, offers an anthropological perspective on militarization’s origin and sustained presence as a cultural process in its full social, economic, political, cultural, environmental, and symbolic contexts throughout the world.

Originally published in French in 1997 and appearing here in English for the first time, David Lapoujade’s William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism is both an accessible and rigorous introduction to and a pioneering rereading of James’s thought.

With topics that span the sixteenth century to the present in Latin America, the United States, Australia, the Middle East, and West Africa, the contributors to Ethnopornography show how ethnopornography—the eroticized observation of the Other for supposedly scientific or academic purposes—is fundamental to the creation of race, colonialism, and archival and ethnographic knowledge. This volume is edited by Pete Sigal, Zeb Tortorici, and Neil L. Whitehead.

In Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan Patrick Galbraith examines Japanese “otaku,” their relationships with fictional girl characters, the Japanese public’s interpretations of them as excessive and perverse, and the Japanese government’s attempts to co-opt them into depictions of “Cool Japan” to an international audience.

In Mafalda: A Social and Political History of Latin America’s Global Comic—first published in Argentina in 2014 and appearing here in English for the first time—Isabella Cosse examines the history, political commentary, and influence of the world-famous comic character Mafalda from her Argentine origins in 1964 to her global reach in the 1990s.

In The Licit Life of Capitalism Hannah Appel uses a case study of U.S. oil industry in Equatorial Guinea to illustrate how inequality makes markets, not just in West Africa but globally.

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Archives, Archival Practices, and the Writing of History in Premodern Korea

In premodern Korea, archives were gathered and housed not only in official or state storerooms but also in unofficial sites such as libraries of lineage associations and local academies. Contributors to the newest Journal of Korean Studies, “Archives, Archival Practices, and the Writing of History in Premodern Korea,” edited by Jungwon Kim, take these archives beyond their usual definition as collections of historical documents of the past by revealing how these archives cast light on what and who were left out of the conventional historiography of premodern Korea.

Topics addressed include how premodern Korean record-keeping was used to shape contemporary historiographical knowledge of Chosŏn Buddhism, the role of the Catholic Archives in documenting life in Chosŏn Korea, and whether the term “archive,” as used in European traditions, is relevant to premodern Korean traditions.

Browse the issue’s contents; and read the editorial note and the introduction, both freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of the Journal of Korean Studies!