[sticky entry] Sticky: Further reading

Aug. 30th, 2010 18:17
ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History
Nancy Armstrong, Fiction in the Age of Photography
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations
Dana Buntrock, Materials and Meaning in Contemporary Japanese Architecture
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (reread)
Paul Cohen, Discovering History in China
Confucius, Analects
Judith Farquhar, Appetites
Han Fei Tzu
Ian Christopher Fletcher et al., eds., Women's Suffrage in the British Empire
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time
James Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar
Hsun Tzu
Rebecca Karl, Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World
Thomas Keirstead, The Geography of Power in Medieval Japan
Kenko, Essays in Idleness
Lao Zi
Der Ling, Two Years in the Forbidden City
Lydia Liu, Translingual Practice
André Malraux, Man's Fate
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (reread)
Anchee Min, Pearl of China
Tessa Morris-Suzuki, A History of Japanese Economic Thought
Herman Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology
Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract
Procopius, The Secret History
The Rig Veda
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt
Edward Said, The Culture of Imperialism
Victor Segalen, Rene Liys
Sima Qian
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China
Frederick Teggart, Rome and China
E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class
Joanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing
Wang Yang-ming
J.Y. Wong, Deadly Dreams
Karl Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism
Xiao Jing
Zhu Xi

Further viewing
Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor
ahorbinski: a bridge in the fog (bridge to anywhere)
I haven't had time to mention this until now, but HackFSM ended on April 12, and it was a smashing success! I think it's fair to say that all the organizers, including myself, were blown away by the variety and quality of the entries we received, and that we're very hopeful that this can be a model for many more successful hackathons at Berkeley.

Some links
ahorbinski: kanji (kanji)
I passed my qualifying exam this morning. I couldn't be happier. It went great, and I had a great time. With many thanks to my examiners, and to everyone who's provided support this semester--moral, caloric, emotional, etc, etc.
ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
Bibliographic Data: Faison, Elyssa. Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Bibliographic Data - Review: Review by: Bill Mihalopoulos, The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 69, No. 1 (Feb. 2010), pp. 253-55 .

Main Argument: Family + industrialization = patriarchal authority of the father grated onto the state ==> "corporate paternalism" mode of production centered around integrating women into hierarchical relations by disciplining female workers bodily, fixing of cultural standards of womanhood (i.e. women workers treated more as women than as workers). Capital shapes social knowledge as well as the individual; "capital shapes the capacity to communicate and to feel the content of what we think" (254). Method: Marx + Foucault = feminist revolution?

Bibliographic Data: Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. The Technological Transformation of Japan: From the Seventeenth to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Technology and development )

Bibliographic Data: Harootunian, Harry D. Overcome By Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Overcoming modernity )

Bibliographic Data: Fogel, Joshua A. Politics and Sinology: The Case of Naito Konan (1866-1934). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Epistemological imperialism )

Bibliographic Data: Ruoff, Kenneth J. Imperial Japan at its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2600th Anniversary. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Imperial pagaentry )

Bibliographic Data: Ruoff, Kenneth J. The People’s Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003.

Popular monarchy )

Bibliographic Data: Kingsberg, Miriam. Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

Narco-politics and civilization )
ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
I'm one of five recipients of the Berkeley Center for New Media's Summer Research Awards this year. Many thanks!
ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
Bibliographic Data: Crossley, Pamela. A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.

Main Argument: "…the monolithic identities of 'Manchu, "Mongol,' and 'Chinese' (Han) are not regarded as fundamentals, sources, or building blocks of the emergent order. In my view these identities are ideological productions of the process of imperial centralization before 1800" (3). The emperorship was constructed as simultaneous and universal, and the various images of the emperor were constructed to speak to various constituencies.

Through a glass darkly )
Bibliographic Data: Perdue, Peter C. China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Main Argument: The Qing conquests of central Eurasia were a world historical event because:
1) "for the empire's rulers and subjects, these victories fundamentally transformed the scale of their world";
2) "the expansion of the Qing state formed part of a global process in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nearly everywhere, newly centralized, integrated, militarized states pushed their borders outward by military conquest, and settlers, missionaries, and traders followed behind" i.e. 17thC crisis ==≥ 18thC stabilization;
China's expansion marked a turning point in the history of Eurasia. Across the continent, the great empires founded by Central Eurasian conquerors in the wake of the disintegration of the Mongol empire had captured the heartlands of densely settled regions, used the resources of these regions to supply military forces, and pushed back from the heartlands into the core of the continent. When their borders met, they negotiated treaties that drew fixed lines through the steppes, deserts, and oases, leaving no refuge for the mobile peoples of the frontier.

The closing of this great frontier was more significant in world history than the renowned closing of the North American frontier lamented by Frederic Jackson Turner in 1893. It eliminated permanently as a major actor on the historical stage the nomadic pastoralists, who had been the strongest alternative to settled agrarian society since the second millennium BCE. (10-11)

China marches West )
ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
Bibliographic Data: Waswo, Ann. “The Transformation of Rural Society, 1900-1950.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 6, ed. Peter Duus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 541-605.

Main Argument: Land reform during the occupation, "though certainly important, was the culmination of slow, evolutionary processes that date from the late nineteenth century" (542). The origins of that process lie in four early Meiji policies: the land tax reform, the reform of local administration, compulsory elementary education and universal military conscription.

Transformation of rural society )

Bibliographic Data: Peattie, Mark R. “The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 6, ed. Peter Duus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 217-70.

Main Argument: "Japanese imperialism was more situational than deliberate in origin. The aggressive movement of Japanese forces into Korea, China, and Micronesia was as much due to the absence of effective power to resist it as it was to specific Japanese policies and planning" (223). Also, "the inner logic of Japan's strategic doctrine thus committed the empire to ever-expanding and ever-receding security goals, each colonial acquisition being seen as a 'base' or 'outpost' from which the empire could, in some way, control a sphere of influence over more distant areas" (220).

The colonial empire )
Bibliographic Data: Najita, Tetsuo and Harry Harootunian. "Japanese Revolt Against the West: Political and Cultural Criticism in the Twentieth Century." In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 6, ed. Peter Duus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 711-74.

Main Argument:
Many believed that by realizing the best of East and West, Japan had achieved a new cosmopolitan culture. The recognition of having achieved this unprecedented synthesis validated the subsequent belief that Japan was uniquely qualified to assume leadership in Asia, although much of the rhetoric that the writers used referred to the world at large. Whereas an earlier cosmopolitanism promoted the ideal of cultural diversity and equivalence based on the principle of a common humanity, which served also to restrain excessive claims to exceptionalism, the new culturalism of the 1930s proposed that Japan was appointed to lead the world to a higher level of cultural synthesis that surpassed Western modernism itself. (712)
Fascism in Japan )
ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
I heard last week that I've received a Dr. C.F. Koo and Cecilia Koo Chair Fellowship for Outstanding Graduate Students in East Asian Studies for 2014. I'm very grateful to the committee and to the award donors, for making the fellowships possible in the first place.

The Berkeley Center for New Media, in the name of tooting the horn for its graduate students, very kindly wrote up a little blurb about me.

One of the great things about the Koo Fellowships is that recipients have discretion as to how to use them, whether as stipend money or as a research fund. I haven't yet made that decision, but it's really nice to have the choice. Either way, the money will go directly or indirectly to support my dissertation research in Japan, Taiwan, LA, and Ohio.

ahorbinski: a bridge in the fog (bridge to anywhere)
Bibliographic Data: Zarrow, Peter. After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012.

Main Argument:
The Revolution of 1911 replaced a monarchical system with a republic. The republic was heavily flavored with the taste of military dictatorship and soon fell into warlordism, but the ideal of republicanism continued to motivate intellectuals and activists. At the same time, the range of beliefs that had surrounded the emperorship survived the revolution: the need for enlightened rulers, the power of sageness, the paternalistic responsibilities of the educated classes, and a moralized cosmology. The 1911 Revolution could not have happened unless large numbers of people were prepared to accept an emperor-less world, but it did not only overthrow entrenched views: it built on them as well. […] The fall of the last dynasty, the Qing, represented the collapse not just of a single dynasty but of the entire imperial system, though this was not clear to all in the immediate wake of the revolution. The whole cultural edifice of the imperial system declined together, including: first, the coercive powers of the imperial court vis-a-vis local society; second, the civil service examination system that recruited the bureaucracy and reaffirmed the cultural capital of the gentry; and third, the immense system of classical (sacred) learning upon which the exams were based. (viii-ix)

Historiographical Engagement: Schwartz, etc

Nationalism, republicanism, empire )
Critical assessment: Sentence fragments: many. I think Zarrow is pretty much correct in what he says; my brain is too full to venture much more than that, tbh.

Further reading: Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power; Karl, Staging the World; Hevia, English Lessons; Liu, Clash of Empires; Jones, Developmental Fairy Tales
ahorbinski: a bridge in the fog (bridge to anywhere)
I'm participating in the Day of DH 2014, and you can find my first blog post of the day on my blog on the site: This Is What a Digital Humanist Looks Like.
ahorbinski: A picture of Charles Darwin captioned "very gradual change" in the style of the Obama 'Hope' poster.  (Darwin is still the man.)
Bibliographic Data: Horden, Peregrine and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

Main Argument: "The distinctiveness of a Mediterranean history results (we propose) from the paradoxical coexistence of a milieu of relatively easy seaborne communications with a quite unusually fragmented topography of micro regions in the sea's coastlands and islands" (5). The Mediterranean constituted a globally and historically distinct unity that held up until the C20, when other, transcendent forces attenuated the continuities of the history of the Meidterranean; in this sense, this particular history has reached its end.

The corrupting sea )

Critical assessment: This is all actually shockingly close to actor network theory, in ways that I would say are quite fruitful. But ANT is also not great at explicating change over time. Shaw remarks that Horden and Purcell draw on the language of cybernetics to speak about Mediterranean transport, and it does not thus seem coincidental that their system, as he also points out, tends naturally to homeostasis. That said, Shaw prefers H&P to Braudel, which I suspect too is a product of our cybernetic age. As for myself, I find myself in the position of wanting to "trust, but verify."

Further reading: Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; Mary Gentle, The Secret History

Bibliographic Data: Harris, William V. War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, 327-70 B.C. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

Main Argument: The Romans were total meanies who were extraordinarily warlike: "Roman imperialism was in large part the result of quite rational behavior on the part of the Romans, but it also had dark and irrational roots. One of the most striking features of Roman warfare is its regularity–almost every year the legions went out and did massive violence to someone–and this regularity gives the phenomenon a pathological character" (53). Roman imperialism was not defensive, but pathologically aggressive.

Critical assessment: We disagree with this book's premise that Roman bellicosity needs explanation, or that it was unusual for its time; like Eckstein, we do not look solely at unit level factors and disregard the parameters of the system. He's also weirdly obsessed with the question of the "annexation of territory" which is somewhat anachronistic--the Romans thought of their imperium in terms of the peoples over whom they held control, not in terms of lands to be conquered.

Bibliographic Data: Syme, Ronald. The Roman Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. [1939]

Main Argument:
In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the facade; and Roman history, Republican or Imperial, is the history of the governing class. The marshals, diplomats, and financiers of the Revolution may be discerned again in the Republic of Augustus as the ministers and agents of power, the same men but in different garb. They are the government of the New State. […]

In the beginning kings ruled at Rome, and in the end, as was fated, it came round to monarchy again. Monarchy brought concord. During the Civil Wars we very part and every leader professed to be defending the the cause of liberty and of peace. Those ideals were incompatible. When peace came, it was the peace of despotism. 'Cum domino pax ista venit.' (7, 9)
Syme does admit, however, that this was a trade that people were willing to make, and he winds up arguing that the principate regenerated the Roman People.

Critical assessment: The 1930s called, Ronald; they want their cardboard cutout of Il Duce back. Equally to the point, saying that all history is the story of oligarchy does not actually have much, if any, analytical value. (See Noreña 2011 for more on Syme in particular.)

Bibliographic Data: Mattern, Susan. Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Main Argument:
This study suggests that international relations, for the Romans, were not so much a complex geopolitical chess game as a competition for status, with much violent demonstration of superior prowess, aggressive posturing, and terrorization of the opponent. The Romans behaved on an international level like Homeric heroes, Mafia gangsters, or participants in any society where status and security depend on one's perceived ability to inflict violence. Image or national "honor" emerges as the most important policy goal. In this sense Roman strategy was coherent and consistent over a remarkable period of time; and in a world where the technology and information necessary for more modern and familiar types of military strategy were lacking, it was quite effective. The value attached to honor, which was maintained by conquest, terror, and retaliation, explains the repeated, often unsuccessful attempts at expanding the empire, and the seemingly disproportionate investment of force in retaining territories of questionable strategic or economic value such as Britain and Mesopotamia. On the other hand, Roman concerns about the strength and geographic distribution of the army, and the financial cost of war, conquest, and occupation, emerge as the main factors limiting the empire's growth. The tension between these different concerns ultimately helped to determine the shape of the Roman empire. (xii-xiii)
In the end, she argues, "Rome won the war by asserting its awesome and terrifying image–an image that could not have been maintained in the face of a surrender to the Carthaginians. These were the rules of the game, and victory did not necessarily depend on superior resources of whatever kind–technology, money, or manpower–though all of these things would of course help. Victory depended more on the willingness to expend these resources based on a commitment to a certain set of values we have described as a sense of national honor" (222).

Critical assessment: I think Mattern is right about a lot of things, particularly in her equation that in the principate safety = honor = victory; "ultimate victory in every conflict thus becomes a practical necessity, and security depended, in a fundamental sense, on 'face'" (215). In Eckstein terms, the Romans did not adjust their habits of thought to their unipolar world very readily; and indeed, given that the empire literally created its own enemies through secondary state formation at the borders, this was not necessarily a bad thing in terms of imperial security under the "Augustan system." I think Polybius is right to say that the Roman Empire was the result neither of Fortune nor of Chance; I think it may also be that the answer to the question of "Did the Romans have an overarching plan for the conquest of the oikumene, or not?" is "Yes." Thinking about it in Eckstein terms, we can see that Rome's conquests until the principate were primarily opportunistic, as befitted a player in an anarchic interstate system; but at the same time, it cannot but have occurred to the Romans--particularly since Antiochus and Philip were said to have aspired to universal empire--that the safest position in such a system was, in fact, unrivaled supremacy. That said, I don't think "mentality" is a satisfactory explanation for anything; it's perilously close to "culture," which is notably plastic. I prefer Eckstein's institutional explanation for why the Romans prevailed in the first C3 Crisis, as it were, though I take the point that the Roman mindset contributed to their decision to wage war, or not--but in the sense that the Roman mindset well understood that the choice was, more often than not, between war or annihilation.

Meta notes:
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. – Psalms, 107: 23-30

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

– John Masefield, "Sea Fever"

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

– C.P. Cavafy, "Ithaka" (trans. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Much corruption. Very pelagic. So sea.
ahorbinski: an imperial stormtrooper with the word "justic3" (imperial justice)
Bibliographic Data: Rostovtzeff, M. The Social and Economic History of The Roman Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. [last three chapters]

Main Argument: Cause of the C3 Crisis was not conflict between the emperors and the senate, but rather the army fighting the privileged classes until the privileged classes were liquidated and the army had overtaken the state. According to Rostovtzeff, this is a consequence of changing theories of monarchy--under the Antonines, there was a compromise between the imperial power and the educated upper classes/the senate over the issue of "naked" monarchism; recall that the government of the principate was comprised of senatorial aristocrats and some equestrians. But as the army became barbarized, it was no longer able to understand this compromise, and thus after the establishment of the Severan dynasty it axiomatically resisted all attempts to return to the prior system of government based in civilian elites, propounded by the weakening of those same elites. The C3 Crisis emperors made the best of a bad situation; the army carried out its negative program because it was drawn from the classes of those shut out of "the brilliant civilized life of the Empire" at the end of the C2, i.e. the peasantry. This is thus a tale of class envy and of the city/country divide, of a social crisis with political effects and not the other way round.

The Third-Century Crisis )

Bibliographic Data: Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century A.D. to the Third. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Main Argument: Roman armies were distributed along rational principles based on clear security goals.


Bibliographic Data: Erdkampf, Paul. "The Corn Supply of the Roman Armies During the Principate (27 BC - 235 AD). In The Roman Army and the Economy, ed. Paul Erdkampf (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2002): 47-69.

Main Argument: "…the Roman authorities in the provinces throughout the empire controlled huge amounts of corn, which were used in three ways: to contribute to the supply of the populace of the capital city, to sustain the Roman armies and fleets, and occasionally to alleviate temporary shortages in various provincial cities" (59). "The evidence indicates that the individuals paid their taxes to the community, which in turn paid to the Roman authorities. However, the communities were responsible for paying the total amount that was due, not each individual taxpayer" (64). Taxes during the high empire were due in cash and in kind.

Critical assessment: NB: Not actually corn, which was introduced to the Old World in the C16 after the Columbian Reunification. [WTF, dudes.]

Bibliographic Data: Isaac, The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Main Argument: The Roman army in the East was primarily organized for offense, not defense, until the Byzantine period. (Subtext: Luttwak is wrong, wrong, wrong.) Basing ancient historiography on modern military strategy is also wrong. Equally importantly, the Romans conquered peoples, not land [thinking of the territory rather than its inhabitants is an early modern conceit]. Ergo, "the very concept of such a [territorial] boundary had no relevance in antiquity" (396) and the limes cannot be presumed to be anything like the modern concept of such; in fact, they were most likely roads and rivers. Not coincidentally, what the Roman army seems to have done, as part and parcel of securing the authority of Rome, was build, improve, and organize roads and road systems, in order to secure its own communications. Moreover, in the East, the roads were the raisons d'être for forts rather than the other way around, as the bulk of the armies were stationed in cities until the C4. Unsurprisingly, Roman rule in the region entailed occupation of important sites along trade routes rather than territorial control. For ancient states, territory was secondary to control over peoples and towns; the boundary the Romans cared about was the pomerium, the boundary of the city of Rome. Thus, Roman expansion "was an aim in itself and therefore opportunistic," not systematic" (416). Furthermore, "the population in the frontier zone was not so much an object of care to the authorities as an instrument of empire" (418).

Critical assessment: Isaac is right about general principles, but when he generalizes from the East to the Rest of the Empire, he runs into problems (opposite of Luttwak, ironically).

Bibliographic Data: Wickham, Chris. "The Other Transition: From the Ancient World to Feudalism." Past and Present 103 (1984): 1-36.

Main Argument: Wickham sets out here to describe the economic history of the end of (late) antiquity. The classic picture of the transition from the slave to the serf mode of production is not correct, not least because more than one mode of production can and did coexist in the same state.

Framing the Middle Ages )

Bibliographic Data: Wickham, Chris. "The Uniqueness of the East." The Journal of Peasant Studies 12, no. 1 (1984): 166-96.

Main Argument:
The difference between feudal and tributary is not, then, one between presence and absence of structural relationships, economic logic vs. lack of economic logic; there is a positive contrast in the methods and aims of economic interventions inside the two modes. And it is for this reason, too, that state tax-raising and coercive rent-taking by landlords cannot be conflated. They represent two different economic systems, even if they can come together in some exceptional circumstances. Their differences, their antagonisms, lie in their divergent interventions in the peasant economy, just as their convergencies lie in the fact that both are rooted in it. The same productive forces, however, can be seen as giving rise to two separate modes of production. (187)
Thus survival of the state should be seen as the norm, and failure as the deviation; the challenge is to explain Rome, rather than to explain China and other Asian empires: "the basis for their survival was their continuing force as motors of surplus extraction, even in the presence of structurally antagonistic feudal aristocracies, more or less ready to replace them in a hierarchy of dominance, if it ever became possible (and it seldom did)" (189).

Argument, Sources, Examples
- "the key qualitative aspect for state survival is the state's continuing control over the terms of the relationship between aristocrat and peasant" (179)

- "A tributary state is thus both economically and sociopolitically more complex than a feudal estate. … The feudal mode can exist without the tributary mode, but the tributary mode cannot exist without the feudal mode, except in extreme circumstances, when it continually has to fight off the feudalization of some of its local institutions; its history is the history of the resultant antagonisms" (184)

- "The state does not need to control the economic and social lives of its subjects; it just needs the funding that enables it to pursue its chosen objectives. It is in this area that we find class struggle between the state and its peasantry (and indeed its landowners): in the amount of tax payable, especially when it is felt that there are no adequate returns" (185)

Further reading: Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity

Meta notes: "Roads lead to Jerusalem because people want to go there, not because it is a natural halting place or caravan city." --Isaac, The Limits of Empire (105)

"The Asiatic mode as it has always been formulated cannot be regarded as having any analytical validity." --Wickham, "The Uniqueness of the East" (170)
ahorbinski: A picture of Charles Darwin captioned "very gradual change" in the style of the Obama 'Hope' poster.  (Darwin is still the man.)
Bibliographic Data: Vlastos, Stephen. “Opposition Movements in Early Meiji, 1868-1885.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 367-431.

Main Argument: Why did the oligarchs prevail? "Put simply, they made tactical concessions that reduced the friction between the emerging middle class and the state but crushed movements by socially marginal classes" (426). Also contextual factors: no new impositions from Western imperial powers in the 1870s; opposition movements arose sequentially rather than simultaneously. Even more importantly, "the Meiji reforms destroyed traditional structures of collective action that, if they had remained in place, would have permitted far broader mobilization against the programs of the Meiji government" (431).

Popular dissent )

Bibliographic Data: Iriye, Akira. “Japan’s Drive to Great-Power Status.” In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 721-82.

Main Argument: Iriye argues that two things distinguished Japan from its fellow rising modern nation-states: "the emperor system and the military's 'right of supreme command'" (731). He argues that the prestige of the imperial institution gave the Meiji government instant legitimacy, and the fact that the military reported only to the emperor gave it free rein. In other respects, however, "Japanese behavior fitted into the general pattern of the modern Western states" (764). Iriye insists throughout that Japanese imperialism cannot be understood irrespective of its domestic context, partly because "the majority of Japan's leaders and public opinion assumed that all viable modern states were also imperialist" (782).

Why empire? )
Bibliographic Data: Pyle, Kenneth. "Meiji Conservatism." In The Cambridge History of Japan vol. 5, ed. Marius B. Jansen et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 674-720.

Argument, Sources, Examples Meiji conservatism was formulated in response to the Japanese Enlightenment, and in particular several of its themes: 1) "negative view of Japan's traditional institutions and the learning that underlay them" (676); 2) stress on "the cultural example of the West" (677); 3) "wholehearted commitment to science, technology, and utilitarian knowledge"; 4) "a new view of humanity with revolutionary implications for society and the state" (678). For the conservatives, the immediate problem was how to anchor traditionalist values: was it confidence in their universal validity, in terms of the new rationalist thought, or was it in a nationalist justification? By the 1890s, Japanese conservatism had become suffused with cultural nationalism, culminating in the jubilation surrounding the Sino-Japanese War. The oligarchs turned to the conservative reform tradition of German thought, since they "needed to find ways to avoid the severe antagonism in society that would undermine the effort to achieve their national goals" (698) and also not coincidentally to legitimate the new order in terms other than natural rights philosophy: thus, the imperial constitution and the emperor-centered state. Economic and industrial policy were also fomented with a clear eye to forestalling social problems (read: Marxism), drawing on the experiences of the West and heavily influenced by Bismarckian ideas. The counterpart of this was a program of conservative reform in the countryside, which Pyle describes as a "pragmatic effort of Japanese conservatives to make limited reforms within a nationalist framework as a means of cushioning society from the traumatic effects of the industrial revolution" and to promote both economic development and social harmony (712). By the end of Meiji, the liberals were in disarray and the conservative reaction had triumphed, because, according to Pyle, "the main themes of the bunmei kaika had lacked a strong social constituency to defend them" (717). Its new social values went against Japanese mores and "above all, were incompatible with the institutions of the countryside where the great majority of the populace had its roots" (717-18), and finally, by the turn of the C20, the West had lost its status as unthinking exemplar. Although the bureaucracy's two fold strategy of pressing for social reforms and relying on local groups to propagate the desired collectivist ethic, overall, "Meiji conservatism methods set a pattern for handling the problems of industrial society that tended under these circumstances to lead to more and more extreme measures" (720).

Further Reading: Bowen, Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan; Gluck, Japan's Modern Myths; Kim, The Age of Visions and Arguments; Fujitani, Race for Empire; Beasley, Japanese Imperialism
ahorbinski: Tomoe Gozen is so badass she glued her OTW mug to her wrist.  (tomoe gozen would haved loved the OTW)
Stepping Stones: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive, April 3-9
April brings another fund drive for the Organization for Transformative Works! Fundraising is an essential stepping stone to running the OTW, which involves a tremendous amount of work, as well as a rather impressive set of costs associated with doing that work. The OTW is run by fans, for fans, and we need the support of our fellow fans to keep doing what we’ve done.

And the support of our fellow fans thus far has been a stepping stone to doing quite a lot: Transformative Works and Cultures, Fanlore, Open Doors, and of course the Archive of Our Own, to say nothing of the OTW’s legal advocacy, which has secured fair use exemptions for vidding under the DMCA before the U.S. Copyright Office for two cycles running, are all supported exclusively by donations from our supporters. For more information about what the OTW does, you may watch this video, recently created by OTW staff and partners:

A donation of US$10 or more will allow you to become an OTW member for the next calendar year, giving you voting (and bragging) rights, and giving us the financial support we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and to become better at it. Thank you.
ahorbinski: The five elements theory in the style of the periodic table of the elements.  (teach the controversy)
Bibliographic Data: Hostetler, Laura. Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Main Argument:
Simultaneous developments in cartographic and ethnographic modes of representation notable for their emphasis on empirical knowledge derived from direct observation and precise measurement suggest that the Qing was not isolated from global changes during the early modern period, nor was it simply a recipient of European knowledge; it was an active participant in a shared world order. … In short, during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries Qing China was more fully a part of what can be called the early modern world than has been generally recognized.(1-2)
Ethnography and mapping were central to these discursive imperial strategies, and early modern states employed both to extend their claims to universal empire. Specifically, "in mapping the territory of the expanding empire, the Qing four purposely chose to use the same idiom, or map language, in which its competitors functioned" and "as with much early modern European ethnography, Qing ethnography was also directed toward use in governance of an expanding empire" (23).

Historiographical Engagement: Joseph Needham, C. D. K. Yee

China's West and Southwest )

Critical assessment: Really this book should have been three articles. Hostetler makes a lot of assertions that she cannot actually prove in the name of making her subject relevant; really she should have spent more time on the early modern.

Further reading: Subrahmanyan, "Connected Histories"; Perdue, China Marches West; Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar; Mullaney, Coming to Terms with the Nation
ahorbinski: The five elements theory in the style of the periodic table of the elements.  (teach the controversy)
Bibliographic Data: Frühstück, Sabine. Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Main Argument: Frühstück is looking at the history of sexuality and sexual knowledge in modern Japan, the revolutions in which she sees as part of a process of colonization. She looks partly at "the obsession with the 'truth about sex' and the use of the phrase as a discursive tool" in contrast to other studies on similar topics, and argues that "as much as negotiations over a modern understanding of sexuality in Japan intersected with concepts of nation and empire building and overlapped with debates about the nature of Japanese culture and the project of modernity, they also functioned to increase the premium placed on scientific-mindedness" (5). Ultimately, this process of colonization produced modern subjects whose sexualities were regulated and disciplined via state power and who thus were proper constituents of the body politic.

Historiographical Engagement: Garon, Molding Japanese Minds

Colonizing sex, somehow )

Critical assessment: This book is fine, but I actually disagree with Tom Laqueur that it is a better book than Pflugfelder's. Frühstück is bad at organizing her chapters and she never actually says what she means by the "colonization of sex." Moreover, unlike Pflugfelder, Frühstück lacks a theory of discourse through which to interpret her conclusions; she has Bourdieu and Foucault, but they are apparently not enough for her to talk about how sex was being constructed explicitly (which is not quite the same complaint as the preceding sentence? or possibly it is). I feel like a European blundering through premodern Cairo--there's no system, no place from which to secure a vantage point and observe.

Further reading: Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire; Mitchell, Colonizing Egypt; Masters of Sex
ahorbinski: The five elements theory in the style of the periodic table of the elements.  (teach the controversy)
Bibliographic Data: Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Main Argument:
…the colonial process would try and re-order Egypt to appear as a world enflamed. Egypt was to be ordered up as something object-like. In other words it was to be made picture-like and legible, rendered available to political and economic calculation. Colonial power required the country to become readable, like a book, in our own sense of the term.

A framework appears to order things, but also to circumscribe and exclude. As we will see later on, like the perimeter walls that seemed to exclude 'the real world' from the world exhibition, a framework sets up the impression of something beyond the picture-world it enflames. It promises a truth that lies outside its world of material representation. To 'determine the plan' is to build-in an effect of order and an effect of truth. (33)
And thus, Orientalism in the classic sense that Said describes is an artifact of modernity, which developed this bifurcated way of seeing the world and turned it onto the rest of the world, thus creating its own imperception.

Historiographical Engagement: Bourdieu, Foucault

Colonizing Egypt (and the world) )

Critical assessment: This is an excellent book, deservedly a classic.

Further reading: Said, Orientalism; Mitchell, Rule of Experts; Hevia, The Imperial Security State; Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddima; Mario Savio, the machine speech

Meta notes: Remember, listeners, Descartes was wrong, wrong, wrong. Cognition is a side-effect of consciousness, not its main goal--and the liberal subject cannot hold.
ahorbinski: Tomoe Gozen is so badass she glued her OTW mug to her wrist.  (tomoe gozen would haved loved the OTW)
Bibliographic Data: Tonomura, Hitomi. “Black Hair and Red Trousers: Gendering the Flesh in Medieval Japan.” The American Historical Review 99:1 (February 1, 1994): 129–154.

Main Argument: Tonomura is looking at the Konjaku monogatari to provide "analysis of the kinds of social scripts that probably influenced the perceptions of gendered relations, especially in areas of sexual practices and sexuality" (132). In other words, she is reading these tales to detect traces of the process by which patriarchy was instantiated in Japan over the course of several centuries, in effect trying to diagnose where that process was at in the early (12thC) medieval period.

Argument, Sources, Examples Although the KM stories are more even-handed in their treatment of gender relations, gendered bodies, and sexual mores than might be thought, Tonomura notes that "the compiler's comments attached to the narratives frequently reduce women to an essentialized category and set up boundaries within which female sexuality must remain" (133). Marriage is still an amorphous institution, and was not necessarily male-centered; at this time there was also apparently no concept of rape as a crime, not even against a woman's male family members, let alone against the woman herself; when assaults occur, the crime is in how the victim's clothes (symbolic of her social position) are treated. Similarly, there is no concept of adultery, and the impropriety of men "taking" women is directly related to their class; "high-ranking aristocratic men seem incapable of violating women" (152). At the same time, patriarchy is visible in the fact that male characters' faults are theirs alone while the faults of female characters engender pontificating on the flawed nature of women. Even this is not a complete process, however, as Tonomura notes; "in these tales, 'the feminine' is problematized and sometimes negatively coded, but it is not yet established as a consistent, uniform, and stable category" (138). Although there is no discourse of virginity or purity, it is noteworthy that men are desirable in toto while the desirable female body is discussed in parts. Relatedly, Tonomura observes that "a sense of collective male identity is reinforced through the sharing of a common male culture centered on the penis," surely the ancestor of the phallocentric culture of the Edo period (144). Indeed, phallocentrism is already visible in the fact that "the text privileges the male sex organ and makes it the cornerstone of a sexual system for both sexes," meaning that "female desire and pleasure disconnected from men fall outside the range of epistemological possibilities" (148). And while men's bodies share in the collapse of power and vulnerability in the genitalia that female characters also experience, "female bodies are inscribed with clearly chaining values and significance according to their age," and they serve, when decomposing "as a pedagogical symbol, a medium through which to convey the Buddhist messages of impermanence" (144, 145). Similarly, female desires are internally generated while men are lured into desire by women; conveniently enough, desire for women "can be a gateway to greater achievement in the Way of the Buddha" (147). Tonomura concludes that
Women in the Konjaku, however, are burdened with the task of managing both their own sexuality and men's basic instincts, not because women are associated with reason but because they have the power to entice men. Consequently, cultural construction rests heavily on the female's shoulders, complicating the anthropological metanarrative that equates men with culture and women with nature. (154)

Bibliographic Data: Colcutt, Martin. “The Zen Monastery in Kamakura Society.” In Court and Bakufu in Japan: Essays in Kamakura History, ed. Jeffrey P. Mass. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995 [1982]: 191-220.

Main Argument: This paper attempts to elucidate the cause of Zen's meteoric rise in Japan in the Kamakura period "by focusing on the sponsorship of Rinzai Zen, especially the monasteries of Kenchôji and Engakuji" (192). That patronage was mainly from the warrior elite for several reasons relating to their new position vis-a-vis old power holders such as the temple complexes and the imperial court, but it is important to note that their interest was not purely in enlightenment: Zen was attractive partly because it was controllable, and warrior elites did not patronize it exclusively.

Argument, Sources, Examples In terms of the question of who patronized Zen in the Kamakura period, "it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that its growth in Japan was due largely to sponsorship by the elite: the Hôjô and the powerful warriors heading the Kamakura Bakufu, the upper echelons of provincial warrior society, and emperors and members of the Imperial Court," partly because Zen studies demanded a high degree of education (199), especially initially. Why? Zen was socially stable (i.e. its adherents had no complaints against the current political order), and for the Hôjô and the warrior elite, its very newness (i.e. not entwined with older aristocratic power structures) was also favorable. It also offered greater chances for advancement to the scions of those warrior elite than did the established temple complexes. Finally, it was a conduit for the transmission of the culture of the Song literati, the mastery of which could also give warriors cultural cachet equal to the members of the aristocracy. And because the Zen monasteries adopted wholesale the highly developed administrative systems of Chan monasteries in China, they were able to make effective use of the rights within the shôen system that their official patrons procured for them.

Bibliographic Data: Mass, Jeffrey P. “Jitō Land Possession in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of Shitaji Chūbun.” In Medieval Japan: Essays in Institutional History, edited by John W. Hall and Jeffrey P. Mass. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988 [1974]: 157-83.

Main Argument: "…beginning in the 1180s the country's non-military absentee proprietors ere forced to absorb into their estates management-level warrior-officers over whom they had no direct control. It was this immunity of the jitô as a vassal of Kamakura that set the stage for the thirteenth century's endemic central-local struggles over land" (157).

Argument, Sources, Examples There were two types of jitô: "those who were longtime residents in their appointment areas, and those who were newly intruded from the outside" (157). Many "confirmatory" jitô were local myôshu who had been invested as "shôen officers" (shôshi); at the same time, most of the great warrior families of the East held their lands outside the shôen system of immunities and so were willing to participate in the bakufu's new system of stewardship, which did confer immunity. In the West, however, things were different; "the basic clash of interests that highlights the 13thC thus became one between Kantô-born jitô and central proprietors of western province estates" (160), often in the form of their personally appointed azukari dokoro, a kind of local deputy. This led to a situation in which "the traditional hierarchy of more or less vertical tenures had now flattened out and divided into two roughly parallel tracks of authority" (163). By the middle of the 13thC, the Kyoto proprietors were on the defensive, evolving such practices as wayo (compromise) and ukesho (receipt guarantees) to try to stanch the bleeding, with the ultimate effect that central powers of proprietorship began to devolve back to the land. Shitaji chûbun, estate division, was a last-ditch strategy to fend off jitô predations. When divisions did occur, moreover, they often did so synthetically rather than naturally, as the shôen as a unit was resistant to such easy territorial breakup. By the end of the 14thC, shugo had totally displaced proprietors and jitô as the final authority at the provincial level, rendering shitaji chûbun obsolete. Sources: Documents. All the documents.

Bibliographic Data: Shapinsky, Peter D. “With the Sea as Their Domain: Pirates and Maritime Lordship in Medieval Japan.” In Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges, ed.y Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, and Kären Wigen. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003: 221-38.

Main Argument: Shapinsky argues that the "sea lords" of the 15th and 16thC "became integral elements of the 16thC Japanese political and economic order and came to play a vital role in the functioning of the maritime networks of violence and exchange that connected Japan to the wider East Asian maritime world" (224). These sea lords did so by exercising "sea tenure," namely "control over access to the sea and the tools of maritime production such as ships, salterns, and fishing gear" (223). However, they did so in competition with traditional land-based authorities, with the result that "modes of sea tenure thus included both the regulations of state-level entities and the customary practices of local littoral inhabitants" (ibid).

Argument, Sources, Examples Shapinsky argues that the "terracentric" biases of historians and sources have heretofore masked the activity of sea lord-bands in lord-vassal binaries, but that a better rubric is patron-client relationships, which "allows the historian to represent both the autonomy and agency of the sea-lord bands and the land-based patrons' expectations for loyal service" (226). Sea lords thus appropriated and manipulated land-based discourse to gain recognition of their status as equal to that of warrior elites. It is important to recognize that the activities of sea lords were enabled by the disintegration of traditional political authority in the archipelago at the same time as a medieval commercial revolution occurred, rendering the sea a vastly faster and more reliable means of transporting goods and conducting commerce. Sea lords took advantage of this fact to profitably exercise sea tenure: among other activities, they set up fortified toll barriers at various maritime chokepoints and charged tolls to pass; they charged for escort by members of bands or by ships; they charged for safe passage; and in the final half of the 16thC, they sold safe passage flags outright, as their authority at sea eclipsed even that of the unifiers. These practices were productive for commerce as well as predatory. After 1600, however, the new national government brought them to heel, and their day passed.

Bibliographic Data: Nagahara Keiji. “Landownership under the Shōen-Kokugaryō System.” Journal of Japanese Studies 1:2 (April 1, 1975): 269–96.

Main Argument: The shôen-kokugaryô system began to emerge from the ritsuryô system in the 11thC as a multi-layered system of ownership over land. By the C13, difficulties in maintaining cadastral surveys meant that more and more "public" paddies fell into private hands, becoming the basis for peasant landownership. "The multi-layered shiki formed the basis of positions and of rights for both the higher level proprietary lords and the lower level proprietary lords in shôen and in kokugaryô" (287). Under this system, higher level proprietary lords received the lion's share of the profits. Shiki, however, were distributed geographically and did not confer the power to command persons, indicating their limited development. Under this system, however, peasants held cultivation rather than landowning rights, reflecting their underdevelopment, mirroring that of local lords; thus, the shiki were supported by the authority of the central government during this period. The system foundered because local proprietary lords grew in power, because peasant landholding rights strengthened, and the shiki system disintegrated.
ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
Bibliographic Data: Allison, Anne. “The Cool Brand, Affective Activism, and Japanese Youth." Theory, Culture & Society 26 (2009): 89-111.

Main Argument: The rhetoric of "J-Cool" signifies a transformation in the Japanese economy and in Japanese and society, masking a double phenomenon in discourse: "when a construct of youth sells commodities, it is claimed as 'gross national cool.' But when real youth fail to get steady jobs or reproduce, as did their parents, they are castigated for not assuring Japan's future–what gets rendered as a crisis in reproduction" (91). Allison argues that immaterial labor, which comprises two forms ("labor that is primarily intellectual or computational, involving symbols, ideas and codes" and "affective labor that engages affects such as well-being excitement and ease") in its affective form is epitomized by J-Cool. But the new form of capitalism--informational capitalism--that immaterial labor exemplifies and that is hegemonic in the 21st century is deconstructive and destructive of previously solid constructs such as the family and the social safety net, leaving youth in Japan (and all over the world) in an increasingly precaritized position. Allison looks at youth activism in Japan and argues that affective labor can also be thought as "biopower from below;" precisely because affective labor involves the stuff of being human (vita breva aka ὀ βἰος, not just vita nuda aka ἠ ζωἠ), affective labor can allow citizens to forge connections among atomized individuals that can replace and supplement the caring deficit which characterizes society in the C21.

Critical assessment: This is, frankly, a much better work than Millennial Monsters, which was far too anthropological and far too seduced by culturalist explanations. Here, Allison correctly follows the breadcrumbs to capitalism and its discontents, and does a much better job of illuminating the promises and potentials of things like Pokémon and the youth who consume them and who constitute Japan's (and the world's) precariat.

Bibliographic Data: Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century." The cybercultures reader (2000): 291-324.

Main Argument: Haraway argues for a "cyborg feminism" that will be provisional, ironic, political, postmodern, non-totalizing, and makes two arguments:
…first, the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skillful tasks of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess. (316)

Bibliographic Data: Svensson, Patrik. “The Landscape of Digital Humanities.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol 4, no. 1 (2010).

Main Argument: Svensson lays out the current landscape of the digital humanities--its tensions, and some of its divides (i.e. between humanities computing versus digital humanities, between assimilation and distinction)--and considers the digital humanities via various paradigmatic modes of engagement between the humanities and information technology, namely as a tool, a study object, an expressive medium, an exploratory laboratory, and an activist venue: "the mapping activity itself is as important as the resultant patchy map, however, and it is argued that the challenges and possibilities ahead call for a shared awareness and rich collaborations across the landscape of the digital humanities" (11). A new distinction that Svensson identifies is the growth of the term "digital humanist(s)," which are apparently "more commonly used in relation to the digital as tool (and the humanities computing tradition) than the digital as study object;" furthermore, "people in the digital humanities may seem to have a stronger sense of the humanities as a conostucrt and as a whole since they often operate across several disciplines and since their position and identity are more strongly linked to the humanities at large" (53). In sum, "the current landscape is multifaceted and characterized by a range of epistemic traditions and modes of engagement, and while there is a great deal of overlap and common interests, there is also a need of increased shared awareness" (176).
ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
Bibliographic Data: Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy." Public Culture 2, no. 2 (spring 1990): 1-24.

Main Argument: "The crucial point, however, is that the United States is no longer the puppeteer of a world system of images, but is only one node of a complex transnational construction of imaginary landscapes" (4). Moreover, global cultural processes are now organized around what Appadurai terms "the imagination as a social practice," by which he means "a form of work (both in the sense of labor and of culturally organized practice) and a form of negotiation between sties of agency ('individuals') and globally defined fields of possibility. … The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order" (5).

Disjuncture & Difference )

Bibliographic Data: Latour, Bruno. “On Technical Mediation–Philosophy, Sociology, Genealogy.” Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29-64.

Main Argument: Latour talks about the relationship of people and τεχνη in its broadest sense, beginning with the myth of Daedalus and his δαιδαλια, his crafty inventions. As Latour summarizes, "that we are not Machiavellian baboons we owe to technical action," i.e. technical mediation, which is "a form of delegation that allows us to mobilize, during interactions, moves made elsewhere, earlier, by other actants. It is the presence of the past and distant, the presence of nonhuman characters, that frees us, precisely, from interactions" (52). Technique is thus "the socialization of nonhumans" (53). For Latour, then, "responsibility for action must be shared, symmetry restored, and humanity redescribed: not as the sole transcendent cause, but as the mediating mediator" (54).
The mistake of the dualist paradigm was its definition of humanity. Even the shape of humans, our very body, is composed in large part of sociotechnical negotiations and artifacts. To conceive humanity and technology as plat is to wish away humanity: we are sociotechnical animals, and each human interaction is sociotechnical. We are never limited to social ties. We are never faced with objects. This final diagram relocates humanity where we belong–in the crossover, the central column, the possibility of mediating between mediators. (64)
τεχνη και ανθρωπος )

Bibliographic Data: Law, John. “Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics.” The new Blackwell companion to social theory (2009): 141-58.

Main Argument: Law offers a basic sketch of actor network theory, with the proviso that in some sense abstracting the theory from concrete examples is a betrayal of its first principles, one of which is the fact that there is no knowledge without exemplars. Actor network theory can also be understood as an empirical version of poststructuralism, because its approach "asks us to explore the strategic, relational, and productive character of particular, smaller-scale, heterogeneous actor networks," and thus "it can also be understood as an empirical version of Geilles Delueze's nomadic philosophy," because "both fever to the provisional assembly of productive, heterogeneous, and (this is the crucial point) quite limited forms of ordering located in no larger overall order" (145, 146). Since the early 1990s, actor network theory has moved in certain directions: one, to the idea of enaction or performance, because "we are no longer dealing with construction, social or otherwise: there is no stable prime mover, social or individual, to construct anything, no builder, no puppeteer. …In this heterogeneous world everything plays its part relationally. …all of these assemble and together enact a set of practices that make a more or less precarious reality" (151). Another direction is multiplicity, which argues that "most of the time and for most purposes practices produce chronic multiplicity. They may dovetail together, but equally they may be held apart, contradict, or include other another in complex ways" (152). A related notion is that of fluidity, which holds that objects may reconfigure themselves, that different realties may be loosely rather than rigidly associated, and that we do not have to imagine a single actor network. The point of all of this is that
This new material semiotics insists that the stories of social theory are performative, not innocent. It also assumes that reality is not destiny. With great difficulty what is real may be remade. And it is with this thought, the possibility and the difficulty of living and doing the real, that I end. … But, and this is the crucial point, the two are only partially connected: goods and reals cannot be reduced to each other. An act of political will can never, by itself, overturn the endless and partially connected webs that enact the real. Deconstruction is not enough. Indeed, it is trivial. The conclusion is inescapable: as we write we have a simultaneous responsibility both to the real and to the good. Such is the challenge faced by this diasporic material semiotics. To create and recreate ways of working in and on the real while simultaneously working well in and on the good. (155)
Actor Network Theory 1990 and Beyond )

Bibliographic Data: González, Jennifer. “The Appended Subject: Race and Identity as Digital Assemblage.” Race in Cyberspace (2000): 27-50.

Main Argument: González looks at the construction of avatars online [remember that this was well before Web 2.0] through the lens of two art projects and discusses the ways in which all of these examples present the body as an assemblage of parts--parts that can be swapped at will, along with somatic markers of racial and ethnic identity--as examples of "appended subjects," which she defines multiply as "comprised of appendages…or that of a subject or person who is defined by a relation of supplementarity," or "an object constituted by electronic elements serving as a psychic or bodily appendage, an artificial subjectivity that is attached to a supposed original or unitary being…In each case a body is constructed or assembled in order to stand in for, or become an extension of, a subject in an artificial but nevertheless inhabited world" (27-28). Drawing on Althusser as interpreted by Joseba Gabilando, González in fact argues that subjects in these arrays are interpolated not just by mimesis but also by position; with the result that "embedded in fantasies of collecting body specimens and creating hybrid subjects is a matrix of desire that seeks to absorb or orchestrate cultural differences" (46). Moreover, "by representing a shifting locus for a distributed subject–radical in the sense that it is perhaps shifting and changing, living, dying and nonessentiallized–the appended subject in the form of an online body also defines a relation to a so-called global interface as primarily one of consumption, not opposition" (47-48).

The appended subject )

Bibliographic Data: Morley, David and Kevin Robins. “Techno-Orientalism: Japan panic." Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes,and Cultural Boundaries (1995): 147-73.

Main Argument: Exoticism of Japan + technologically-inspired anxiety = techno-Orientalism.

Argument, Sources, Examples Japan has always been one of the West's Others, and in the 1980s, Japan seemed to be calling the terms of Western (and particularly American) modernity into question, partly through technological and economic advancement, but also partly through the perception of Japanese culture as fundamentally non-Western, i.e. non-individual ("domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!"). The trick, however, is that "the West both needs and wants its Japan problem," which of course is the point of Orientalism: the West constructed a mirror in which it could see itself in reverse and thereby construct itself as the obverse, with little if any reference to the actual "Orient." Another wrinkle comes from the fact that the West constructed itself as "modern," whereas Japan was the first society to achieve visible postmodernity, thus figuring postmodernity as other when in fact it is/was/shall be us. In other words, "what Japan has done is to call into question the supposed centrality of the West as a cultural and geographical locus for the project of modernity. It has also condoned the assumption that modernity can only be circulated through the forms the West has constructed" (160). The twist of techno-Orientalism, however, is that the association of high technology with Japan/eseness now serves "to reinforce the image of a culture that is cold, impersonal and machine-like, an authoritarian culture lacking emotional connection to the rest of the world" (169).

Further reading: Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age; Said, Orientalism; [personal profile] synecdochic, "Why Monetizing Social Media Through Advertising Is Doomed To Failure, Parts 1-3"; Nakamura, Digitizing Race; Hayles, How We Became Posthuman

Meta notes: "What you don't know is what the knife does on its own. Your intentions may be good. The knife has intentions, too." – Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

April 2014

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