Kevin Landdeck

Adda Bozeman Chair in International Relations

BA, Valparaiso University. MA, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. PhD, University of California-Berkeley. Recipient of a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation dissertation grant for archival research in Chongqing, China. Research concerns 20th-century China, specifically Kuomintang war mobilization and interior society during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). Dissertation, “Under the Gun: Nationalist Military Service and Society in Wartime Sichuan, 1938-1945,” presently being revised for future publication, examines the state-making projects embedded within conscription and voluntary enlistment in Chiang Kai-shek’s army. Translating the confessions and jottings of a captured KMT spy, who spent 16 years undergoing self-reform in a communist prison, is a side project currently in progress. Key areas of interest include China’s transition from a dynastic empire to a nation-state; the role of war in state-making; modes of political mobilization and their intersection with social organization; and private life and selfhood, including national, regional, or local and personal identities. Broadly teaches on modern (17th century to present) East Asian history, with a focus on politics, society, and urban culture. In addition to a course on war in 20th-century Asia, a personal involvement in photography has inspired a course on photographic images and practice in China and Japan from the 19th century through the present. Member of the American Historical Association, Association of Asian Studies, and Historical Society for Twentieth-Century China. SLC, 2011–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

Asian Studies

Asian Imperialisms, 1600–1953

Open, Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival and presence of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism, covering the colonialism of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask: What features (if any) did these very different empires share, and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multiethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western racism and its familiar Civilizing Discourse? And what are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of the Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier views on the classic confrontation between those two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And, finally, we will turn to the Japanese empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both positions? To understand the Japanese empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West—not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but, in order to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims, to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Reform and Revolution: China’s 20th Century

Open, FYS—Year

In 1900, China was a faltering empire ruled by an autocratic, foreign, dynastic house and an entrenched bureaucracy of Confucian officials. Its sovereignty heavily battered and its territory compromised by foreign powers, China was commonly called “The Sick Man of Asia.” In 2000, China was a modern nation state ruled by an authoritarian party and an entrenched bureaucracy of technocrats and administrators. With a surging economy, swollen foreign reserves, dazzling modern cities, and a large and technologically advanced military, China is regularly predicted to be the next global superpower. Yet, the path between these two startlingly different points was anything but smooth. China’s 20th century was a tortuous one. Policymakers, elites, and the common people oscillated between the poles of reform and revolution—bouts of wild radicalism alternated with more sober policies—as they pursued changes that they hoped would bring a better society and polity. This class examines some of the major events and personalities of this arduous century and its momentous political, social, and cultural changes. We will learn and apply skills of historical analysis to primary documents (in translation), some fiction, and film. Along the way, we will encounter a rich cast of characters, including Sun Yatsen, China’s “national father”; colorful warlords; corrupt bureaucrats; fervent intellectuals; protesting youths; heroic communist martyrs; the towering and enigmatic chairman Mao; long-suffering peasants; and fanatical Red Guards. These men and women made and remade modern China. This class is history and, thus, is not primarily concerned with contemporary China; but by the end of the year, students will be well-equipped with an understanding of China’s recent past, knowledge that will help immeasurably in making sense of today’s China as it becomes increasingly important in our globalized economy and society. In addition to regular seminar (discussion) sessions, this FYS includes an individual research (conference) project each semester; these will be guided through biweekly, research-specific, group meetings and individual conferences in the fall and biweekly one-on-one meetings in the spring.

Faculty

Mainland Chinese Cinema, Culture, and Identity From 1949 to the Present

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

This seminar course will examine both the historical and cultural context of mainland Chinese cinema from 1949 to the present. The course will be focused on full-length feature films from the People’s Republic of China, providing an eclectic mix of movies covering socialist propaganda of the high Maoist period (1949-76), the critical stances of the “Fifth Generation” (of graduates from the Beijing Film Academy) in the 1980s and early 1990s, the more entertainment-focused films of post-Deng (2000s) China, as well as contemporary art films that are largely seen outside of the commercial exhibition circuit. This wide variety of films will open up questions of cinematic representations of Chinese identity and culture in at least four major modes: socialist revolutionary (1949-76), critical reflections on China’s past and the revolution (1982-1989), what one might call neoliberal entertainment (1990-present), and the more underground art cinema that has emerged as mainstream Chinese cinema has become increasingly commercial. Along with the close analysis of films (their narrative structure, audiovisual language, relationship to other films from both China and beyond), the course will deal with Confucian legacies in Chinese society, communist revolutionary spasms and the censorship system, and the more open market and ideology of the post-Mao reform era. Assigned readings will be varied, as well. Several key movies will be paired with their textual antecedents (e.g., LU Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice will be read alongside HU Sang’s by the same title, while LI Zhun’s The Biography of LI Shuangshuang will accompany the 1962 movie that followed). Appropriate readings will cover important historical background in some detail; for example, the Great Leap Forward (1959-62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) are both crucial events for understanding the revolutionary experience, while the latter is particularly relevant for its impact on reform-era filmmakers. Other readings will focus specifically on cinema, ranging from broad historical overviews on the material/financial conditions of production, distribution, and exhibition; close analyses of individual films; the transition from socialist to postsocialist cinema and the construction of “Chineseness” as a object for the Western gaze to the avant-garde/independent responses to the current global/commercial Chinese cinema. This course is an open superseminar (capped at 30 students), meeting once a week for two and half hours in order to facilitate in-depth discussions of paired material; for example, two movies or a movie and significant historical texts (either primary or secondary). In addition to this weekly class time, there will be required screenings of film (one or two per week).

Faculty

History

Asian Imperialisms, 1600–1953

Open, Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival and presence of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism, covering the colonialism of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask: What features (if any) did these very different empires share, and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multiethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western racism and its familiar civilizing discourse? And what are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of the Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier views on the classic confrontation between these two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And, finally, we will turn to the Japanese Empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both positions? To understand the Japanese Empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West—not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but in order to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims, to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Reform and Revolution: China’s 20th Century

Open, FYS—Year

In 1900, China was a faltering empire ruled by an autocratic, foreign, dynastic house and an entrenched bureaucracy of Confucian officials. Its sovereignty heavily battered and its territory compromised by foreign powers, China was commonly called “The Sick Man of Asia.” In 2000, China was a modern nation state ruled by an authoritarian party and an entrenched bureaucracy of technocrats and administrators. With a surging economy, swollen foreign reserves, dazzling modern cities, and a large and technologically advanced military, China is regularly predicted to be the next global superpower. Yet, the path between these two startlingly different points was anything but smooth. China’s 20th century was a tortuous one. Policymakers, elites, and the common people oscillated between the poles of reform and revolution—bouts of wild radicalism alternated with more sober policies—as they pursued changes that they hoped would bring a better society and polity. This class examines some of the major events and personalities of this arduous century and its momentous political, social, and cultural changes. We will learn and apply skills of historical analysis to primary documents (in translation), some fiction, and film. Along the way, we will encounter a rich cast of characters, including Sun Yatsen, China’s “national father”; colorful warlords; corrupt bureaucrats; fervent intellectuals; protesting youths; heroic communist martyrs; the towering and enigmatic chairman Mao; long-suffering peasants; and fanatical Red Guards. These men and women made and remade modern China. This class is history and, thus, is not primarily concerned with contemporary China; but by the end of the year, students will be well-equipped with an understanding of China’s recent past, knowledge that will help immeasurably in making sense of today’s China as it becomes increasingly important in our globalized economy and society. In addition to regular seminar (discussion) sessions, this FYS includes an individual research (conference) project each semester; these will be guided through biweekly, research-specific, group meetings and individual conferences in the fall and biweekly one-on-one meetings in the spring.

Faculty

Mainland Chinese Cinema, Culture, and Identity From 1949 to the Present

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

This seminar course will examine both the historical and cultural context of mainland Chinese cinema from 1949 to the present. The course will be focused on full-length feature films from the People’s Republic of China, providing an eclectic mix of movies covering socialist propaganda of the high Maoist period (1949-76), the critical stances of the “Fifth Generation” (of graduates from the Beijing Film Academy) in the 1980s and early 1990s, the more entertainment-focused films of post-Deng (2000s) China, as well as contemporary art films that are largely seen outside of the commercial exhibition circuit. This wide variety of films will open up questions of cinematic representations of Chinese identity and culture in at least four major modes: socialist revolutionary (1949-76), critical reflections on China’s past and the revolution (1982-1989), what one might call neoliberal entertainment (1990-present), and the more underground art cinema that has emerged as mainstream Chinese cinema has become increasingly commercial. Along with the close analysis of films (their narrative structure, audiovisual language, relationship to other films from both China and beyond), the course will deal with Confucian legacies in Chinese society, communist revolutionary spasms and the censorship system, and the more open market and ideology of the post-Mao reform era. Assigned readings will be varied, as well. Several key movies will be paired with their textual antecedents (e.g., LU Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice will be read alongside HU Sang’s by the same title, while LI Zhun’s The Biography of LI Shuangshuang will accompany the 1962 movie that followed). Appropriate readings will cover important historical background in some detail; for example, the Great Leap Forward (1959-62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) are both crucial events for understanding the revolutionary experience, while the latter is particularly relevant for its impact on reform-era filmmakers. Other readings will focus specifically on cinema, ranging from broad historical overviews on the material/financial conditions of production, distribution, and exhibition; close analyses of individual films; the transition from socialist to postsocialist cinema and the construction of “Chineseness” as a object for the Western gaze to the avant-garde/independent responses to the current global/commercial Chinese cinema. This course is an open superseminar (capped at 30 students), meeting once a week for two and half hours in order to facilitate in-depth discussions of paired material; for example, two movies or a movie and significant historical texts (either primary or secondary). In addition to this weekly class time, there will be required screenings of film (one or two per week).

Faculty

Film History

Mainland Chinese Cinema, Culture, and Identity From 1949 to the Present

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

This seminar course will examine both the historical and cultural context of mainland Chinese cinema from 1949 to the present. The course will be focused on full-length feature films from the People’s Republic of China, providing an eclectic mix of movies covering socialist propaganda of the high Maoist period (1949-76), the critical stances of the “Fifth Generation” (of graduates from the Beijing Film Academy) in the 1980s and early 1990s, the more entertainment-focused films of post-Deng (2000s) China, as well as contemporary art films that are largely seen outside of the commercial exhibition circuit. This wide variety of films will open up questions of cinematic representations of Chinese identity and culture in at least four major modes: socialist revolutionary (1949-76), critical reflections on China’s past and the revolution (1982-1989), what one might call neoliberal entertainment (1990-present), and the more underground art cinema that has emerged as mainstream Chinese cinema has become increasingly commercial. Along with the close analysis of films (their narrative structure, audiovisual language, relationship to other films from both China and beyond), the course will deal with Confucian legacies in Chinese society, communist revolutionary spasms and the censorship system, and the more open market and ideology of the post-Mao reform era. Assigned readings will be varied, as well. Several key movies will be paired with their textual antecedents (e.g., LU Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice will be read alongside HU Sang’s by the same title, while LI Zhun’s The Biography of LI Shuangshuang will accompany the 1962 movie that followed). Appropriate readings will cover important historical background in some detail; for example, the Great Leap Forward (1959-62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) are both crucial events for understanding the revolutionary experience, while the latter is particularly relevant for its impact on reform-era filmmakers. Other readings will focus specifically on cinema, ranging from broad historical overviews on the material/financial conditions of production, distribution, and exhibition; close analyses of individual films; the transition from socialist to postsocialist cinema and the construction of “Chineseness” as a object for the Western gaze to the avant-garde/independent responses to the current global/commercial Chinese cinema. This course is an open superseminar (capped at 30 students), meeting once a week for two and half hours in order to facilitate in-depth discussions of paired material; for example, two movies or a movie and significant historical texts (either primary or secondary). In addition to this weekly class time, there will be required screenings of film (one or two per week).

Faculty

Previous Courses

Asian Studies

China’s 20th-Century Through Fiction

Open, Seminar—Year

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in, and commented on, those traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in postrevolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in these ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS course, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular, biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

Faculty

Making Modern East Asia: Empires and Nations, 1700-2000

Open, Seminar—Year

This yearlong seminar is a sustained look at the recent history of China and Japan, the major countries within East Asia. Placed alongside each other, the often wrenching history of Japan and China over the past three centuries raises important historical themes of Asian modernity, questioning both its sources and how we define it. Often portrayed as a direct import from the West in the 19th century, we will ask whether modernity might instead be traced to legacies of Japan’s isolationist feudalism under the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) and China’s multiethnic Manchu dynasty (1644-1911) even as we acknowledge the far-reaching impact of Euro-American imperialism. For example, did the evolving samurai culture of the Tokugawa era lay a socioeconomic foundation for Japan’s political and economic modernity in the late 19th century? And did deep changes in Qing China society destabilize the dynastic balance of power as early as the 18th century? Both China and Japan have entrenched master narratives that portray themselves as victims of the West, but we will also investigate the contours of Asian imperialism. How and why were their empires built, and how did they end? How were the nation-states we now call China and Japan formed. and how was nationalism constructed (and reconstructed) in them? What role did socioeconomic, cultural, and international crises play in fueling nationalist sentiments? How and where was radicalism (of various forms, including Maoism) incubated? The impact of war, preparing for it, waging it, and rebuilding in its wake will be a repeated theme, too. And finally, we will look at Asia’s economic dynamism, covering both Japan’s post-World War II capitalism (and its roots in the wartime imperialist project) and China’s transition to a market economy. Course readings consist of historical scholarship regularly punctuated by primary sources, documents, fiction, and some film.

Faculty

Personal Narratives: Identity and History in Modern China

Open, Seminar—Spring

This seminar explores the realm of private life and individual identity and its relationship to the historical events and changes taking place in modern China from the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) into the Reform era (2000s). Our investigations will cover an eclectic mix of “personal” writings: diaries, letters, memoirs, oral testimony, autobiographies, third-party anthropological reconstructions of individuals, and (auto)biographical fiction. Among others, we will encounter late imperial Confucian radicals and mystics, petty literati, young urban women and their mothers with bound feet, peasants, radical revolutionaries, intellectuals, Maoist Red Guards, and factory workers. These personal narratives not only open up windows on the lives and times of their writers but also allow us to investigate the intersection between the practice of writing and identity construction in modern China. The primary readings will be contextualized with historical scholarship and supplemented by selections from some important theorists (Benedict Anderson, Anthony Giddens, and René Girard) that provide interdisciplinary analytical tools to explore the construction of personal identity and the self. We will ask ourselves how the writers of the personal writings present themselves: What are their self-conceptions and self-deceptions? Where does their sense of “self” come from, and how do they construct private selves through writing? We should even dare to ask whether these categories of “private” and “self” are relevant. The rapid, often traumatic, changes of modern China will cause us to consider how these people understood and situated themselves in wider society and the events of their time and, thus, will raise questions about the imaginative constructions of national (or social) communities that are smuggled inside these “personal” stories.

Faculty

The Atomic Bombs as History, Experience, and Culture: Washington, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

Open, Lecture—Fall

In January 2018, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock (yes, it’s a thing) at two minutes to midnight, the nearest it has been to catastrophe since 1953. In early 2018, Donald Trump goaded Kim Jong-un with tweets about the size of his nuclear “button,” and the North Korean pushed ahead with missile tests. In late 2019, Putin announced that Russia developed “invincible” hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of hitting virtually anywhere on the globe. With world leaders flirting with the prospect of nuclear holocaust, an understanding of the only instance of nuclear warfare is again relevant, even crucial. Through a rich variety of sources (textual, visual, and cinematic), this lecture-seminar hybrid course will examine, from three major perspectives, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. First, by reading scholarship and primary documents, we will look at the decision to drop the bombs, as well as the postwar claims justifying them. We will challenge the American narrative that the bombings were militarily necessary while also putting them into the historical context of World War II, specifically the strategic bombing of non-military targets, the prospects of Japanese surrender in the final months of the conflict, and the looming Cold War with Russia. Second, we will confront the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their populations. Technical descriptions and firsthand accounts will help us grasp the unique destructiveness of the atomic bombs on both bodies and buildings, as well as how people coped with that destructiveness. The diary of HACHIYA Michihiko, for example, will reveal a medical doctor’s observations on the breakdown of society and how ordinary Japanese dealt with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Next, the course examines the impact of the bombs on Japan’s postwar culture, including the profound sense of victimization they imparted, which has complicated Japanese narratives about World War II and inspired an abiding pacifism in Japanese society. In a different vein, serious literature written by survivors will open up the relevance of atomic narratives by exploring the social alienation endured by the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) in postwar Japan. TOMATSU Shomei’s photography of Nagasaki and its hibakusha will provide a visual window on the bombs’ legacy, as well. And finally, we will examine some popular culture—the original (1954) Godzilla (Gojiro) movie and some anime and manga—for the ways in which the bombs were appropriated and invoked in apocalyptic imagery, imagery that expressed a distinctive understanding of the dark side of science and technology and that made a lasting contribution to wider global culture. This course will consist of weekly lectures paired with a weekly seminar meeting for close discussion of our syllabus readings. Thus, each student must not only attend the lecture but also choose one of the three seminar section times.

Faculty

History

Asian Imperialisms, 1600-1953

Open, Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival, presence, and activity of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism covering the colonialism of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask what features (if any) these very different empires shared and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multi-ethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western powers’ Civilizing Discourse? What are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation-state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier academic views on the classic confrontation between these two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And finally, we will turn to the Japanese Empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or, as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both those positions? To understand the Japanese empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West, not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but, rather, to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims and to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

Faculty

China, 1768–1963: From Empire to Nation

Open, Seminar—Spring

What did it mean to be a subject of the Qing dynasty in 1800 or a citizen of one of the modern Chinese Republics founded in the 20th century? What changed in the course of that century and a half? This course is a reading seminar in China’s fitful transition from the empire of the Manchu (Qing) dynasty (1644-1911) to the nation-state of the PRC (1949-present). The Qing dynasty was massive. From its height in the 18th century to the middle of the 20th, this continental power was remade into a member of the modern international community of nation-states. As we chart this process, recurring themes will be the changing nature of (state) sovereignty, relations with outsiders/foreigners, and the relationship of individuals to state power. We will examine the sinews of the Manchu dynasty’s domestic authority, including the balancing act between the emperor’s personal will and the bureaucracy’s routinized power. Qing colonialism in Xinjiang will illuminate the multiethnic nature of its empire and its interactions with foreign “others.” Despite internal challenges, external relations with expansive Western powers brought fundamental challenges to the imperial state—particularly the corrosive interactions with another imperial power, the seafaring British. The role of translation (of Western philosophy and international law) will be our entry point for China’s slide into the modern international system of nation-states. The concept of race highlights how Chinese struggled with the definition of “nation” itself. From there, we will turn to the growth of a modern nation-state. Keeping in mind the distinction between rural and urban environments, the changing nature of power and the relationship between state and individuals, along with revolutionary political mobilization, will be topics of particular interest.

Faculty

China’s 20th Century Through Fiction

Open, Seminar—Year

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in and commented on those traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in post-revolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in those ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will also cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers, and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

Faculty

Crucible of History: China and Japan in World War II, 1937-45

Open, Seminar—Spring

Accounts of World War II in Asia (1937-45) have long been dominated by US perspectives that narrate the inevitable defeat of Japanese “treachery” (Pearl Harbor) and “depravity” (the Bataan death march, the rape of Nanking) by American heroism (Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal) and technological might (the atom bombs). This seminar seeks to complicate this familiar narrative by examining what usually gets left out of such perspectives: the war in China and Japan. Beginning in 1937, four years before Pearl Harbor, hostilities in Asia purportedly ended in mid-1945; but the fighting actually continued in some areas of China. And even today, the war’s wounds linger, raw and sensitive, all over the region in the bodies of individuals, in collective memories, and in international relations. While this course will not delve into individual battles, it will examine the causes of the war, the experience of warfare in both China and Japan, and the tangled legacies of the conflict. Those legacies include a Communist revolution in China and a contradiction-filled American occupation of Japan, both of which deeply shaped subsequent history and how the war has been remembered and commemorated in both societies. Our course material ranges through the terrain of contemporary journalism, historical scholarship, memoirs, propaganda, fiction, and film. We will cover Chinese collaboration with Japan in order to highlight the distorting influence of national orthodoxies and conventional patriotic understandings of the war. The Nanjing Atrocity (December 1937) will be examined in some depth as a lens not only on how the war was fought but also on postwar political debates over responsibility and on the epistemological challenges that modern war presents. (Can we even know “what happened”?) And we will also tackle the singular instance of nuclear warfare, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their place in American mythologies about the war and the social and cultural impacts on the survivors. Beneath the surface of this course are implicit questions about the limits of historical representation. Can we construct an authentic story for a conflict of this magnitude and complexity? Or does the contingency, chaos, and suffering defy coherent understanding? Can we, in fact, understand modern war? Or do all of our lenses inevitably distort it and mislead us?

Faculty

Film History

Mainland Chinese Cinema, Culture, and Identity From 1949 to the Present

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

This seminar course will examine both the historical and cultural context of mainland Chinese cinema from 1949 to the present. The course will be focused on full-length feature films from the People’s Republic of China, providing an eclectic mix of movies covering socialist propaganda of the high Maoist period (1949-76), the critical stances of the “Fifth Generation” (of graduates from the Beijing Film Academy) in the 1980s and early 1990s, the more entertainment-focused films of post-Deng (2000s) China, as well as contemporary art films that are largely seen outside of the commercial exhibition circuit. This wide variety of films will open up questions of cinematic representations of Chinese identity and culture in at least four major modes: socialist revolutionary (1949-76), critical reflections on China’s past and the revolution (1982-1989), what one might call neoliberal entertainment (1990-present), and the more underground art cinema that has emerged as mainstream Chinese cinema has become increasingly commercial. Along with the close analysis of films (their narrative structure, audiovisual language, relationship to other films from both China and beyond), the course will deal with Confucian legacies in Chinese society, communist revolutionary spasms and the censorship system, and the more open market and ideology of the post-Mao reform era. Assigned readings will be varied, as well. Several key movies will be paired with their textual antecedents (e.g., LU Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice will be read alongside HU Sang’s by the same title, while LI Zhun’s The Biography of LI Shuangshuang will accompany the 1962 movie that followed). Appropriate readings will cover important historical background in some detail; for example, the Great Leap Forward (1959-62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) are both crucial events for understanding the revolutionary experience, while the latter is particularly relevant for its impact on reform-era filmmakers. Other readings will focus specifically on cinema, ranging from broad historical overviews on the material/financial conditions of production, distribution, and exhibition; close analyses of individual films; the transition from socialist to postsocialist cinema and the construction of “Chineseness” as a object for the Western gaze to the avant-garde/independent responses to the current global/commercial Chinese cinema. This course is an open superseminar (capped at 30 students), meeting once a week for two and half hours in order to facilitate in-depth discussions of paired material; for example, two movies or a movie and significant historical texts (either primary or secondary). In addition to this weekly class time, there will be required screenings of film (one or two per week).

Faculty

MA Women’s History

Gender and History in China: Beyond Eunuchs and Concubines

Graduate Seminar—Year

This seminar is a sustained historical exploration of gender in the Chinese context, which is not only significant in its own right but also serves to complicate some of the common Euro-American assumptions about family dynamics, emotional life, and gender hierarchies. We will treat female and male as historically constructed categories, examining how both have been tied to modes of power (familial, social, economic, and political). In other words, how men and women have been imagined and portrayed, made and mobilized, at different times. We will confront head on stereotypes about the passive Chinese woman and the Confucian family, asking where do we find and how do we understand women’s agency within the permutations of the traditional Chinese family? We will interrogate Imperial Era family conflicts and the practice of foot binding to highlight female agency within, and complicity with, the gender hierarchy. The appearance of feminism in the early 20th century and its subsequent fate will provide a window on how gender shaped revolution and how gender was, in turn, shaped by it. And rather than leave masculinity as an assumed constant, we will examine historical and cultural constructions of what it meant to be a man in China: Located between the poles of the scholar and the warrior, Chinese manliness exhibits unfamiliar contours and traits. The course also covers same-sex desire in both traditional and modern China. For example, in the late Imperial Era, we will look at homoeroticism among fashionable elite men and at female “marriage resisters” who dared to form all-women communities in a society where marriage was virtually universal. Class readings consist primarily of historical scholarship; however, (translated) primary sources pepper the course and include ritual prescriptions, (auto)biographies, essays, drama, and fiction that ground our inquiries into the authenticity of Chinese voices. This seminar requires no prior knowledge of Chinese history.

Faculty