[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: Emma Goldman, anarchist (play the red queen's game)
Along with the other members of the OTW's Board of Directors and representatives from several other committees, I spent the first weekend of October in Maryland for the 2014 Board retreat. All in all, we had a really good, productive, and encouraging time. Everyone who attended left convinced that the changes we discussed will make the OTW a stronger and much more functional organization, while at the same time extending our capacities both internally and externally. I think in three years we're going to be in a very different, and much better, position.

I'm aware that there are a lot of conspiracy theories going around about the meeting; obviously, given my position, I don't think they're particularly well-founded, but I can certainly understand how people would be worried. Nor do I really expect that anyone with these worries will be particularly inclined to take my word for it on any of these matters. But I did want to register that in my view what the OTW has accomplished this far is even more remarkable in light of all the problems it has had, and that the credit for that entirely goes to the people who've been involved with it. Hats off to all of us, and to all of you.
ahorbinski: A DJ geisha (historical time is a construct)
I'm in Minneapolis for the Mechademia Conference (formerly SGMS) and I'll be speaking tomorrow afternoon about my summer research in the Fred Patten Collection of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction at UC Riverside. Takemoto Novala is also going to debut his first solo collection at the fashion show tomorrow night; tickets are still available for the fashion show and the conference. Join us!
ahorbinski: hulk smash male privilege! (hulk smash male privilege)
Along with writers, fans, and readers like you and me, The Ada Initiative has been changing SFF for the better. I've been a fan of SFF for about 25 years and an active convention panelist/attendee for the past five, and I am quite confident in saying that the last five years, painful and tense as they often have been, have shown a lot of changes for the better in SFF.

Part of that is due to the high-profile work of SFF authors like N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal, and part of it is due to the work of the Ada Initiative, and part of it's due to people like you and me. I'm thrilled and proud to be an Ada Initiative advisor, and with the support of SFF readers and fans like you, TAI and all of us can continue to make SFF a more welcoming, more diverse and safer space for everyone.

Yours truly and Kate Elliott in London, reading and writing better SFF!

I've had a front-row seat to some of the highest-profile events in SFF in 2014 around these issues. I was at Wiscon when N.K. Jemisin gave her latest fantastic Guest of Honor speech; I was ushering for the Hugos in London when Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice became the first novel to sweep all the major awards in the same year, female creators in general triumphed, and the "sad puppy" slate got kicked to the curb. When Nora finished her speech in Madison, everyone in the room including me was ready to stand up and follow her into battle; what we didn't realize was that, in the aftermath of the Wiscon concom's first Jim Frenkel decision, we'd be fighting ourselves.

Make no mistake about it; it's not easy to work against harassment, whether as a high-profile author or critic receiving rape and death threats, a non-profit organization working to support women in open culture, technology, and stuff, or as an individual fan at a convention trying to overcome the weight of social conditioning to ask if someone else is okay or needs help. This is where an organization like TAI can and does provide much-needed backup, by publishing posts on best practices such as the "managerial model" of handling harassment incidents swiftly and safely, by providing models for conference Codes of Conduct, and also by making mistakes, acknowledging them, and moving on.

The Ada Initiative has a fantastic track record over the last four years, but it's also made some decisions that have turned out to be the wrong ones; what makes me happy to be associated with TAI is that the organization has done its best to learn from those mistakes, and has gone on to have record-breaking successes in its efforts. TAI gives me hope that an organization like Wiscon, my first and favorite SFF convention, can learn from its own missteps and live up to its own feminist ideals. Authors like Nora Jemisin have also sometimes made missteps in their efforts to represent a wider range of people in their work, but their willingness both to make the attempt in the first place and to fail better next time, and to discuss all these things publicly, gives me not just faith, but confidence in the fact that they will--and that their next books will be anything but boring rehashes of predictable tropes.

Human perfectibility is an article of faith in a lot of science fiction, but as the TAI history of anti-harassment in SFF mentions, the spring and summer of 2014 was enough to shake any comfortable sense of progress on these issues having been made. In particular, the announcement of this year's Hugo nominees made a lot of people, including me, really wonder to what extent our fellow SFF readers and con-goers recognized not just the right to participate, but the basic humanity of those of us calling for safer spaces and more representative fiction. But I was beyond heartened in London when, at the biggest and most international Worldcon to date, the "sad puppy" slate was overwhelmingly rejected and female creators got some of the credit they so richly deserved in fields from best new writer to best editor to best professional artist to best novel.

And the thing about the Hugos? They were decided by the biggest electorate on record, and that electorate overwhelmingly voted in favor of more representative SFF. If that isn't an affirmation of the fact that we're headed in the right direction, as difficult as the road to get there has been and will be, I don't know what is. Though there's certainly a small group of people in SFF who really would like to go back to 1959, there are many more people who would like to read better, more interesting books, and many more people who would like to see a safer, more respectful, and more representative SFF fandom. In this case, our reach really does not exceed our grasp.

One of the many ways to bring that about is to give to the Ada Initiative right now! TAI's annual fundraiser runs from now through 8 October 2014, and though it's too late to receive a free copy of N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon for a $128 donation (you should totally read it anyway, it's great), you can still get a selection of lovely Ada Initiative stickers, including the awesome "Not Afraid to Say the F-Word" ones, signed books by Mary Robinette Kowal, and the satisfaction of taking the opportunity to support the work of TAI and authors like Kowal, Jemisin, and many others who have written SFF outside mainstream white male experiences and who have stood up to demand a safer SFF community.

Ada Initiative stickers!
Read their books, and donate to support the Ada Initiative and the SFF you want to see tomorrow today!

ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
I'm in London for Wikimania 2014 and for Worldcon 2014, aka LonCon 3.

I'm around at Wikimania, which is excellent so far, and I'll be at the OTW tent in the Exhibits Hall most days. (I've tried to find mention of this in the programme, with no luck so far.) I'm also moderating the following panel on Sunday 17 August:  

Representation, Whitewashing, and Internationalism in Fandom
Capital Suite 13 (Level 3), 12pm - 1:30pm
Tags: Transformative Fandom, Social Issues, Race, Ethnicity, Internationalism
Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Eylul Dogruel, Russell Smith, Andrea Horbinski

Fandoms can provide positive spaces for engagement with and education about representing people of color, for example the negative impact of “whitewashing” (see racebending.com). In recent years, there's been a more visible push by fandom for representation that more accurately reflects the community as a whole. But the issue itself is a complex one: How can the SF/F community challenge their perceptions of representation while also taking into account how concepts including “race” and “people of colour” vary in an international context? How can fandom avoid stereotyping and exclusion? What sort of models work in a general sense, but should not be applied to non-Western nations? Join our panelists in a challenging and lively conversation about these issues.

I hope to see you here, or there!

ahorbinski: A DJ geisha (historical time is a construct)
I'm happy to report that the Kadokawa Summer Program is pretty cool so far. I've also finally had time to read this article by Greg Hardesty in the Los Angeles Register, "Anime Expo 2014: Fun event gets all scholarly," which is a nice profile of the academic track at AX that also happens to quote me. It's good to see thoughtful coverage of anime, manga, and fandom in the media; it's a welcome change from earlier decades, as my research in the Fred Patten collection made clear.
ahorbinski: A DJ geisha (historical time is a construct)
This is entirely a postscript, since I have been ridiculously busy the past few months--I was in Tokyo for 10 days last month, and I'll be heading back for another two weeks this Saturday for the Kadokawa Media Mix Summer Program at the University of Tokyo, which is quite exciting.

In the meantime, however, last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking the academic/educational track of AnimeExpo, which was even more enjoyable than 2012. I was on the "Japanese Society and Japan's History" panel, and I spoke about "Record of Dying Days: The Alternate History of Ooku."

Thanks to MIkhail Koulikov for organizing the programming, to AX for hosting, and to everyone who attended! 
ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
I'll be at WisCon 38 in Madison, Wisconsin, this weekend. I'm on two panels:

Anime in Literature, Literature in Anime
| Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm | Caucus
Moderator: Andrea Horbinski; Emily Horner, Kelly Peterson, Vernieda

The works of writers such as N.K. Jemisin and Alaya Dawn Johnson show a strong influence from anime, and anime such as Haibane Renmei have showed the influence of writers such as Haruki Murakami, while Studio Ghibli made a very famous, and very controversial, adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle. Let's talk about SFF and anime, and how each is changing the other. What aspects of anime could SFF learn from?

Mecha Tropes and Subversions Thereof | participant | Mon, 10:00–11:15 am | Caucus
Moderator: Susan Ramirez; ANONYMOUS, Andrea Horbinski, Shira Lipkin, Oyceter

In a year where the Hugo-nominated Pacific Rim arguably brought mechas into the mainstream, what are our favorite and least favorite mecha tropes? And what are series that take on these tropes, either with full enthusiasm or with interesting twists? Are intensely emotional plots in the very DNA of mecha stories, or are they secondary? Will audiences ever tire of giant robots punching monsters in the face?

See you there!
ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
I had the privilege of giving a guest lecture on anime, manga, and folktales in Japanese popular culture at the Asian Art Museum as part of the UC Berkeley History-Social Studies Project last summer, and the video is online at the AAM Education site. I'll actually be doing some more work with the AAM this summer, so watch this space for more updates!
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: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

October 2014

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