front cover of Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque
Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque
The Living, Dead, and Undead in Japan's Imperialism, 1895-1945
Mark Driscoll
Duke University Press, 2010
In this major reassessment of Japanese imperialism in Asia, Mark Driscoll foregrounds the role of human life and labor. Drawing on subaltern postcolonial studies and Marxism, he directs critical attention to the peripheries, where figures including Chinese coolies, Japanese pimps, trafficked Japanese women, and Korean tenant farmers supplied the vital energy that drove Japan's empire. He identifies three phases of Japan's capitalist expansion, each powered by distinct modes of capturing and expropriating life and labor: biopolitics (1895–1914), neuropolitics (1920–32), and necropolitics (1935-45). During the first phase, Japanese elites harnessed the labor of marginalized subjects as Japan colonized Taiwan, Korea, and south Manchuria, and sent hustlers and sex workers into China to expand its market hegemony. Linking the deformed bodies laboring in the peripheries with the "erotic-grotesque" media in the metropole, Driscoll centers the second phase on commercial sexology, pornography, and detective stories in Tokyo to argue that by 1930, capitalism had colonized all aspects of human life: not just labor practices but also consumers’ attention and leisure time. Focusing on Japan's Manchukuo colony in the third phase, he shows what happens to the central figures of biopolitics as they are subsumed under necropolitical capitalism: coolies become forced laborers, pimps turn into state officials and authorized narcotraffickers, and sex workers become "comfort women". Driscoll concludes by discussing Chinese fiction written inside Manchukuo, describing the everyday violence unleashed by necropolitics.
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An American Rabbi in Korea
A Chaplain's Journey in the Forgotten War
Milton J. Rosen, translated and edited by Stanley R. Rosen
University of Alabama Press, 2004
A firsthand account of the American Jewish experience on the front lines of the Korean War

During the height of the Korean conflict, 1950–51, Orthodox Jewish chaplain Milton J. Rosen wrote 19 feature-length articles for Der Morgen Zhornal, a Yiddish daily in New York, documenting his wartime experiences as well as those of the servicemen under his care. An American Rabbi in Korea is an English translation of Rosen's important articles prepared by his son and annotated with background about Rosen's military service, a general introduction to the war and conflict on the Korean peninsula, and numerous maps and photographs.

Rosen was among those nearly caught in the Chinese entrapment of American and Allied forces in North Korea in late 1950, and some of his most poignant writing details the trying circumstances that faced both soldiers and civilians during that time. As chaplain, Rosen was able to offer a unique account of the American Jewish experience on the frontlines and in the United States military while also describing the impact of the American presence on Korean citizens and their culture. His interest in Korean attitudes toward Jews is also a significant theme within these articles. The sum is a readable account of war and its turmoil from an astute and compassionate observer.
 
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The Ancient State of Puyŏ in Northeast Asia
Archaeology and Historical Memory
Mark E. Byington
Harvard University Press, 2016
Mark E. Byington explores the formation, history, and legacy of the ancient state of Puyŏ, which existed in central Manchuria from the third century BCE until the late fifth century CE. As the earliest archaeologically attested state to arise in northeastern Asia, Puyŏ occupies an important place in the history of that region. Nevertheless, until now its history and culture have been rarely touched upon in scholarly works in any language. The present volume, utilizing recently discovered archaeological materials from Northeast China as well as a wide variety of historical records, explores the social and political processes associated with the formation and development of the Puyŏ state, and discusses how the historical legacy of Puyŏ—its historical memory—contributed to modes of statecraft of later northeast Asian states and provided a basis for a developing historiographical tradition on the Korean peninsula. Byington focuses on two major aspects of state formation: as a social process leading to the formation of a state-level polity called Puyŏ, and as a political process associated with a variety of devices intended to assure the stability and perpetuation of the inegalitarian social structures of several early states in the Korea-Manchuria region.
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front cover of The Annals of King T’aejo
The Annals of King T’aejo
Choi Byonghyon
Harvard University Press, 2014

Never before translated into English, this official history of the reign of King T’aejo—founder of Korea’s long, illustrious Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910 CE)—is a unique resource for reconstructing life in late-fourteenth-century Korea. Its narrative of a ruler’s rise to power includes a wealth of detail not just about politics and war but also about religion, astronomy, and the arts.

The military general Yi Sŏnggye, posthumously named T’aejo, assumed the throne in 1392. During his seven-year reign, T’aejo instituted reforms and established traditions that would carry down through the centuries. These included service to Korea’s overlord, China, and other practices reflecting China’s influence over the peninsula: creation of a bureaucracy based on civil service examinations, a shift from Buddhism to Confucianism, and official records of the deeds of kings, which in the Confucian tradition were an important means of educating succeeding generations. A remarkable compilation process for the sillok, or “veritable records,” was instituted to ensure the authority of the annals. Historiographers were present for every royal audience and wrote down each word that was uttered. They were strictly forbidden to divulge the contents of their daily drafts, however—even the king himself could not view the records with impunity.

Choi Byonghyon’s translation of the first of Korea’s dynastic histories, The Annals of King T’aejo, includes an introduction and annotations.

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