Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies

Reimagining the Asia-Pacific Speaker Series

This speaker series offers speakers whose cutting-edge research exceeds the boundaries of single nation-states and who engage with broader regional or global issues.


Check back soon for updates.



Joseph Hankins

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego

Wounded Futures: Pain, Sympathy, Solidarity / Japanese Sanitation Workers among the Dalit of India

Monday, February 10, 2014

In 2006, a small group of Japanese sanitation workers traveled from Tokyo to Chennai, India to meet with a group they saw as potential comrades – the Dalit. Over the course of several days, these groups shared stories of pain and discrimination – the rigors of marginalization told alongside triumphs of resistance.

My talk focuses on the politics and aesthetics of this solidarity project between the Japanese Buraku people and the Dalit of South Asia. In it, I develop solidarity as a project of rendering groups – here, the Buraku and the Dalit – commensurate through the operation of extending sympathy. I argue that the viability of political solidarity hangs on the cultivation of a “fellow feeling,” a formative process of learning to feel oneself through the imagined mediating gaze of another. I examine the rules that permit and constrain that sympathetic traffic, as well as the moments that lead to its blockage. This talk complicates notions of circulation and commensuration from linguistic and economic anthropology, and it critically engages work on recognition and vulnerability. My conclusion advances an argument for socio-historical connectedness as opposed to liberal sympathy.

Joseph Hankins is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the politics of stigmatized labor in Japan. He earned his PhD in anthropology in 2009 from the University of Chicago and is, for the current academic year, a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Andrew E. Barshay

Professor and Dr. C. F. Koo and Cecilia Koo Chair in East Asian Studies, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley

Siberian Shadows: Japanese Prisoners Recall the Soviet Gulag, 1945-1956

Friday, November 15, 2013

As the Japanese empire collapsed in August 1945, over 600,000 Japanese soldiers in Manchuria surrendered to the Red Army and were transported to Soviet labor camps, mainly in Siberia. There they were held in most cases for between two and four years, and some far longer. Known as the Siberian Internment (Shiberia yokuryū), this period of prolonged captivity brought forced labor and exposure to an intense campaign of ideological reeducation in which Japanese activists played an important role. Long before Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) appeared in the USSR, Japanese gulag veterans began to produce not just memoirs but essays, poetry, sculpture, and painting based on their experiences. Using the work of Kazuki Yasuo, Takasugi Ichirō, and Ishihara Yoshirō, I suggest that the length of captivity offers us the best clue to interpreting the mass and variety of memory-work undertaken by former internees.

Andrew Barshay teaches modern Japanese history at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also received his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He is the author most recently of The Gods Left First: The Captivity and Repatriation of Japanese POWs in Northeast Asia, 1945-1956. His earlier books include State and Intellectual in Imperial Japan (1988) and The Social Sciences in Modern Japan (2004), both of which have appeared in Japanese translation.

Mark Driscoll

Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Osaka Incident and the Revolutionary Overthrow of the Meiji State

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In Makihara Norio’s words, the “Osaka Incident was a revolutionary program of the left-wing of the LPR movement to overthrow by force the despotic Meiji government” (1982, 84). As one part of the Incident included a plan to assist Korean independence activists in a coup d’état against the conservatives in the Korean monarchy, scholars on the left such as Inoue Kiyoshi and right like Marius Jansen have located the origins of Japanese imperialist expansion in the Osaka Incident. As I will explain in this presentation, the political motivations of the actors in the Osaka Incident come directly from the left-wing of the LPR movement: liberation, egalitarianism, and mutual aid—in other words, the antithesis of (at least) white imperialist deportment. The leaders of the Osaka Incident, Kobayashi Kuzuo and Oi Kentarô, were consistently critical of all existing forms of state power, which included criticism of Japan’s imperialist posture towards Korea and China.

I will explain why the Incident had been overlooked in both Japanese and Anglophone scholarship, fill in the absences of previous scholarship with archival work I’ve done on the classified police interrogation reports and suggest ways a fuller understanding of the Incident it speaks to our political present.

Mark Driscoll is Associate Professor of Japanese and International Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After studying for five years at UC, Santa Cruz he received his PhD in East Asian Literature from Cornell in 2000. He has published a monograph on the Japanese imperial propagandist Yuasa Katsuei (Duke University Press, 2005) and a second book, also from Duke, called Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque. He has also published widely in cultural studies and postcolonial studies more broadly, including essays in Social Text, Postcolonial Studies, Cultural Critique, Cultural Studies, and Public Culture.

Nayan Shah

Professor and Chair of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Seminar on his recent book, A Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (University of California Press, 2011)

October 24, 2013

A Stranger Intimacy centers the experiences of South Asian migrants in collaboration with domestic and international migrants and their struggles over social and intimate relations in the first decades of the twentieth century in the United States and Canada. The book uniquely pairs the history of several hundred interracial marriages involving South Asian men in this period with original discovery research that documents more than a hundred cases of illicit sexual contact between South Asian men, white men, Chinese men, and Native American men.  The resulting combination illuminates how the state and elites distribute protection and resources in ways that exacerbate the vulnerability of transience for most migrants and enhance promises of settlement for only a select few.

The multi-faceted significance of law, legal reasoning and rule of law governance provides both the evidence and scaffolding for the book’s arguments.  Shah’s analysis of legal records of vagrancy, public indecency, seduction, sodomy, divorce and marriage illustrates how insistently international and domestic migrants crafted alternative publics, communicated codes of honor and privilege, and defended erotic and social practices as they strategically remapped spaces and sensibilities labeled as deviant. The book’s trajectory from the local encounter to national citizenship vividly reevaluates the social, legal and political process that drove the state’s presumption that social stability could be achieved through an invented normative family in the face of mass migration and its non-normative sexual relations and domestic life. 

Nayan B. Shah is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California. A historian with expertise in U.S. and Canadian history, gender and sexuality studies, legal and medical history, and Asian American Studies, he is the author of two award-winning books - Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (University of California Press, 2011) and Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (University of California Press, 2001).   Stranger Intimacy was awarded the Norris and Carol Hundley Prize by the American Historical Association Pacific Branch for the most distinguished book on any historical subject. Shah is also co-editor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies  (Duke University Press) and the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, van Humboldt Foundation and Freeman Foundation.

C. J. W.-L. Wee

Associate Professor of English, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Nation and Region: Okakura Kakuzo, Rabindranath Tagore and Contemporary East Asia

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

On 16 September 2011, the still-popular Japanese band, SMAP (‘Sports, Music Assemble People’) appeared at the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing, their first concert outside Japan, and before a crowd of some 40,000s. The band had been invited to perform by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in May, after previous attempts by SMAP to appear in China had failed: they were scheduled to appear in Shanghai in September 2010, but this was cancelled by the mainland Chinese organisers because of the political problem of a Chinese trawler that had been detained by the Japanese coast guard, among the most prominent of ongoing internecine clashes between the two major East Asian states over territorial disputes and Japanese history textbooks. The concert’s theme – designed to register Japan’s thanks to China for assistance rendered after the disastrous 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami – was ‘Do Your Best Japan, Thank You China, Asia is One.’

The last phrase, while obviously meant to invoke solidarity between Japan and the now re-emergent power China, was surprising in that it was a direct quotation of a(n in)famous proclamation by the art historian and curator, Okakura Kakuzo (1862-1913), from his book The Ideals of the East, with Special Reference to the Art of Japan (1903):

Asia is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment the broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and the Universal, which is the common thought inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.

Apart from the fact that Okakura’s thinking on ‘Asia’, controversially, had been co-opted by the mid-1920s by the Japanese military to justify an expansive nationalistic imperialism, his spiritual-cultural ideal of Asian oneness that was opposed to forms of Western thinking predicated on commercial and industrial ‘machinery’ was transformed into a diplomatic placebo that could contain commercial mass-cultural forms to calm intra-East Asian tensions. This presentation is an essay on the ideals or imaginaries of ‘Asia’ (and perhaps even different forms of subjectivity) that now exist in contemporary East Asia, as manifested primarily in the form of mass culture from Japan and South Korea that, despite the complexities of language boundaries that need to be crossed, seems to have reached translocal status in East and Southeast Asia, and think through the differences from the earlier imaginaries of a modern Asia that, in many respects, Okakura shared with Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Once, the ideal of Asia included East and South Asia; now this seems less the case, as ‘Asia’ tends to mean ‘East Asia’ in regional discourse. What is notable, though, is that the exact commercial and industrial machinery that both Okakura and Tagore were critical of – in formats and form that could not have imagined in their lifetime – comes to be that which, in some respects, is in complex counterpoint to the East Asian region’s tensions. What then, the presentation will ask, is the ‘contemporary’ (or is that ‘postcolonial’?) region, as opposed to the modernities that both Okakura and Tagore either partially accepted or rejected as normative in the colonial era?

C. J. W.-L. Wee is an Associate Professor of English at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He was previously a fellow in the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He has held visiting fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi; the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University; the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University; and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities, University of Cambridge. Wee is the author of Culture, Empire, and the Question of Being Modern (2003) and The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007), and the editor of Local Cultures and the ‘New Asia’: The State, Culture, and Capitalism in Southeast Asia (2002). Most recently, he co-edited Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (2010).

Geoffrey White

Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii

Touring America’s Good War: From Pearl Harbor to D-Day

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Something interesting has been happening in the iconic zones of American World War II memory. They are filling up with more densely interpreted histories of the war in the form of films, media productions, museum exhibits, historic markers, memorials, tour packages, and so on. This expansion of institutionalized representations of World War II is happening at the very moment in which the generation that experienced the war is passing on. This talk will offer some preliminary reflections on the historical and political forces that converge in this transitional moment. Drawing on ethnographic work in memorial museums, commemorative events, and tourism practices in both Pearl Harbor and Normandy, the talk will ask about the role of memorialization of the ‘good war’ in the ecologies of affect that undergird American national imagination in the era of post-9/11 and post-witness memory making.

Geoffrey White is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii. His research in Solomon Islands and Hawai‘I on the politics of Pacific War memory [The Pacific Theater: Island Representations of World War II (co-edited, University of Hawai‘I Press 1989) and Island Encounters: Black and White Memories of the Pacific War (co-authored, Smithsonian 1990); Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s) (co-edited, Duke 2001)] now extends to American war tourism in France.

Kornel Chang

Assistant Professor of History and American Studies, Rutgers University-Newark

Managing Race and Empire: Asian Exclusion as Foundation for Anti-Radicalism in the Pacific Northwest Borderlands

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the early twentieth century, the U.S. and Canadian Immigration Services worked deliberately and collaboratively to suppress South Asian revolutionary nationalism and white labor radicalism in the Pacific Northwest borderlands. This talk examines how these counterinsurgency measures were built upon the foundations of Asian exclusion and a product of intercolonial cooperation and exchange. In doing so, this presentation seeks to reinterpret Asian exclusion from being strictly about national protection (and keeping out undesirable foreigners) to consider how its legal precedents, statutory provisions, and enforcement mechanisms were reworked as a strategy of U.S. and British imperial rule.

Kornel Chang is an Assistant Professor of history at Rutgers-Newark, State University of New Jersey. He is the author of Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands, which is a study of the western U.S.-Canadian borderlands in the Pacific world, examining how the region arose simultaneously from frontier expansion, the globalizing forces of capital and empire, and the territorializing processes of state formation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His articles on race and empire and migration and border controls in the Pacific world have been published in the Journal of American History and the American Quarterly. He has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, and the MacMillian Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University.

Moon-Ho Jung

Associate Professor and Walker Family Endowed Professor of History, University of Washington

Subversive Histories: Race, National Security, and Empire Across the Pacific

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This lecture will critique standard narratives of Asian American and U.S. history that tend to treat Asian Americans as “immigrants” deserving or striving for inclusion (citizenship) in the U.S. nation-state. By exploring how Asians came to be radicalized and racialized subjects of the U.S. empire before World War II, I will seek to reframe our notions of movements across the Pacific. In particular, my talk will trace the historical origins of the national security state, the heart and soul of the U.S. empire, to a series of U.S. “foreign” and “domestic” policies targeting Asians on both sides of the Pacific.

Moon-Ho Jung is Associate Professor and the Walker Endowed Family Professor of History at the University of Washington. He is the author of Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), which received the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the History Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies.

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