ASIA 103(F) LEC Introduction to East Asian Art

This course offers an introduction to the artistic traditions of China, Korea, and Japan, from the prehistoric era to the present day. Following a chronological order, the course surveys important artworks that represent major developments in medium, style, and subject matter in the three cultures, while paying attention to the movement of objects and art techniques across the region. Key themes of the course include bronzes, lacquerware, ceramics, tomb building, Buddhist reliquaries, ink painting, wood-block printmaking, and timber frame architecture. Students will learn about the development of art and artisanal practices in East Asia, while gaining a broader understanding of the continuity and discontinuity of the local artistic traditions in relation to the region's history, politics, religion, and culture. East Asia boasts a history of art that stretches five thousand years. In addition to gaining an overview of important artistic traditions in the region through the lectures, students will develop visual analysis skills and engage with critical methodologies in East Asian art through closelooking exercises and discussion-driven case studies during sections. The course pays special attention to how the constant cross-cultural exchanges between China, Japan, and Korea contributed to the development of art in unique ways across time. What is the shape of "East Asian art"? How does art help define East Asia culturally? And what does it tell us about East Asia's past, present, and future? Exploring these questions through art, students gain an objectbased understanding of the civilizations in East Asia. The curriculum also integrates objects from the Williams College Museum of Art. [ more ]

ASIA 105 LEC Arts of South Asia

Last offered Spring 2024

South Asia, which includes the modern-day nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, is often compared to the European continent. Regional societies in the Indian "subcontinent" are as distinct from each other as those of Italy, Germany and France. Similarly, they also differ in their language, dress, diet, rituals and politics. However, parallel to the wealth of diversity, South Asia also demonstrates a rich history of interconnectedness. This complex web of culture, language, religion and politics is best manifested in the arts of the region. How does visual culture reflect regional variations? How does a survey of artistic style and iconography help uncover networks of exchange across South Asia? What role did the arts play in the expression of religious traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Islam? With these questions in mind, this course is designed as a survey of the arts of South Asia starting with the height of the Indus Valley Civilization in 2600 BCE and ending in 1857 CE, a date that marks the cessation of independent rule in South Asia. Using the study of architecture, painting, sculpture and textiles, students will learn how to make stylistic and iconographic analyses, while also improving their art historical writing and analytic skills. [ more ]

ASIA 109(S) TUT The Art of Yoga: Practice, Philosophy, Politics, Possibilities

This course offers an immersive, interdisciplinary approach to hatha yoga, the branch of yoga that emphasizes bodily techniques for channeling energy, and achieving balance and quietude. It has been practiced and theorized variously in South Asia since ancient times. More recently, beginning in the late 19th century, it has been popularized throughout the globe, and has served as a source of inspiration for artists in various disciplines, including the theatre. Our work will follow four interrelated paths that will provide a broad context for our own experience and offer us tools for developing creativity: 1) We will dedicate ourselves to the careful study of the physical practice of yoga asanas, giving emphasis to biomechanical principles of alignment. Our study will include some basics of yoga anatomy; 2) We will study some allied philosophical principles, as they emerge from the Sanskrit text, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, and some current commentaries on that text, by means of expanding the significance of our practice to all areas of our lives; 3) We will attend to the cultural politics of yoga by discussing new scholarship on its ancient origins as well as critical inquiry about how issues of appropriation, Orientalism, and racism shape its current manifestations; 4) We will examine how artists have incorporated elements of yoga into their practice. To explore how yoga might support our own artistic and innovative thinking, we will pair our practice with creative exercises. In this way, the course aims to explore the relationship of theory and practice. It will be of interest to students in the arts and anyone interested in fostering artistry and the imagination. Students must be prepared to engage in a physical practice of asana, as well as commit to reading, writing, and discussion. No previous experience with yoga is required. [ more ]

ASIA 111(S) TUT The Asia-Pacific War

The "Asia-Pacific War," as it is known in Japan, raged from the full-scale Japanese invasion of China in 1937 until Japan's total defeat in 1945. This war, though certainly tied to the Allied war against Germany and Italy, was viewed by many participants at the time as truly a war apart due to the immense distances involved, the gleeful, racism-fueled brutality on both sides of the conflict, and the resultant abuses of POWs, use of atomic weapons, and other atrocities. Students will explore the intersection of colonialism, racism and opportunism that fed the conflagration, and the remarkable rapprochement between American and Japanese former enemies immediately after the war. It will examine in depth the roles of China and the USSR in this conflict, which are often mentioned but functionally ignored in the West. It will cover the various warzones and home fronts, focusing as much as possible on conveying the experiences of participants through primary sources. It will likewise seek to bridge the analysis of the military and socio-political sides of this conflict, which are often treated as distinct, by drawing on key academic works in the field. [ more ]

ASIA 112(S) LEC Musics of Asia

This course offers an introduction to the great diversity of Asian music. Our survey will span from East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) to Southeast Asia (Thailand and Indonesia) to the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia (Tibet and Afghanistan), to the Middle East (Iran and the Arabian peninsula), and will end with the extension of Asian music across North Africa and into Eastern Europe. Within this broad survey, we will focus on selected and representative musical cultures and genres. In each section of the course, aspects of cultural context (including music's function in religious life and its relationship to the other arts), will be emphasized. While our focus will be on the traditional and classical musics of these cultures, we will also consider the current musical scene. Encounters with this music will include attendance at live performances when possible. [ more ]

ASIA 115 SEM The World of the Mongol Empire

Last offered Fall 2019

By the middle of the thirteenth century, Mongol armies led by Genghis Khan had conquered an enormous swath of territory, extending from China westward to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Further expanded by Genghis's descendants, the Mongol Empire incorporated a vast range of different peoples and cultures, enhancing communications, trade, and exchange among them. In this course we will examine the "world order" of the Mongol Empire from its origins on the Asian steppe through its expansion, consolidation,and disintegration, as well as its legacies. From a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including literature, chronicles, and traveler's accounts, we will investigate the diverse experiences of the Mongol world in places such as China, Russia, Persia, and Central Asia. [ more ]

ASIA 117 SEM Bombay/Mumbai: Making of a Modern Metropolis

Last offered Fall 2023

Bombay or Mumbai is India's foremost urban center and is well known today as a truly global city. It is the heart of India's commercial life comparable in vibrancy and multiculturalism with the world's emerging cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. What are the historical elements that contributed to the making of India's most modern and global metropolis? What are the antecedents of the modernity, the vibrant culture, dark underbelly and economic diversity that characterize Bombay today? What does the history of Bombay tell us about modernity in India and the emerging countries of the third world in general? This seminar will help students to answer these questions through historical materials on Bombay as well a wide range of multimedia sources including cinema, photography and literature. With a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries, we will explore themes like the commercial culture of a colonial port city, the modern public sphere, theatre and film, labor migration, public health and prostitution to understand what went into the making of this modern metropolis. The primary objective of this course is to introduce students to a wide range of historical sources and ways of interpreting them. The other objective is facilitating their understanding of the history of colonial and modern India through the history of its most important city. [ more ]

ASIA 121 TUT The Two Koreas

Last offered Fall 2018

The two Koreas--North and South--were born in the aftermath of World War II, when the United States and the Soviet Union arbitrarily divided the peninsula into two zones of occupation at the 38th parallel. Today, over six decades later, the split endures as what has been called "the Cold War's last divide." This tutorial examines the history of the two Koreas from their creation in 1945 to the present. We will explore the historical and ideological origins of the division; how tensions between North and South led to the outbreak of the Korean War; why the paths of the two Koreas have differed so markedly; how each country has been shaped by its political leaders and their ideologies; and what recent developments in North Korea, including its nuclear program, have meant for relations on the peninsula and beyond. Course material will include primary and secondary sources of various kinds, including political documents, intellectual treatises, films, and short stories. [ more ]

ASIA 122 TUT Old Shanghai, New Shanghai

Last offered Spring 2018

Once nicknamed as "Paris of the East," Shanghai, now a megacity with a population of 25 million, is the industrial, commercial and financial center of contemporary China. Shanghai is often depicted as a metropolis that marked the beginning of China's modernity and urban culture. People from other regions in China see Shanghai as a city full of opportunities, but characterize its people as astute and shrewd, cocky and unwelcoming. Foreigners, however, find the city appealing and its people open-minded. Jews fleeing Nazi persecutions during WWII, found Shanghai to be a "paradise of ghetto" that provided the only haven of survival. For local people, there have always been two Shanghai: an old one and a new one. They are proud of the new Shanghai but constantly nostalgic about the old one. This tutorial examines the multifaceted city of Shanghai and its people from historical and cultural perspectives. We will look at the city's history (from the late nineteenth century to present day), its local language and culture, and everyday life of the people (including migrants and foreigners) living in it. The central ideas we will explore are "modernity" and "regional identity." We will investigate how these theoretical constructs play out in the making of the city of Shanghai and the formation of its unique local identity. Course readings include historical and cultural studies as well as documentaries in English about Shanghai, and primary sources in Chinese in a wide range of genres including fiction, essays, and films (English translation of the primary sources are available for students taking the course in English). The course is conducted in either Chinese or English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST 122T and students wishing to take the course in Chinese should register under CHIN 422T. Students will come away with a critical understanding about China's regional cultures and one of its most important metropolitan cities. Chinese language learners will be able to improve their reading and writing skills in Chinese through this course. The course has a required field trip to a Chinese restaurant on a Saturday or Sunday, depending on all students' schedules. [ more ]

ASIA 127 TUT Spring Grass: A Peek into Inequality in China

Last offered Fall 2023

Spring Grass (Chuncao) is a Chinese novel written by award-winning author Qiu Shanshan (1958-). Using the literary techniques of social realism, the novel chronicles the life of a young rural woman from 1961 to 2001. Spring Grass, the protagonist of the novel, was born in a rural village to a mother who preferred sons over daughters. At a young age, Spring Grass was deprived of the opportunity to attend school. Against all odds, she managed to marry for love, venture into the city, and become an enterprising migrant worker. This novel not only reflects the struggles of women in contemporary China but also captures the economic transformation of modern China since 1978 when the Reform and Open-Door Policy (gaige kaifang) was initiated. The novel was adapted into a television drama series and became an instant hit in 2008. This course takes an interdisciplinary, cultural studies and humanistic approach to studying a literary text, using literature as a means to help students better understand social and cultural issues. Through close readings of the novel, the eponymous TV drama series, documentaries, and films depicting rural life and women's roles in China, as well as in-depth discussions of both primary and secondary sources that deal with the cultural, historical, and socioeconomic background of the unfolding story of Spring Grass, this course aims to provide a window for students to examine the issues of inequality in the Chinese village and society at large. Why would mothers be harsh to their own daughters and bar girls' right to education? Why would young people leave their village and migrate to the city? Why would migrant workers leave their children behind in the village? Why would economic developments in China exacerbate the problem of gender inequality in society? Why would the ideology and cultural logic behind Mao Zedong's proclamation "women can hold up half of the sky" add more burden to women rather than truly liberate them? Why would city people discriminate against country folks? After taking this course, students will gain a deeper understanding of the issues related to gender inequality (nannü bu pingdeng) and the urban/rural-gap (chengxiang chabie) in China. Throughout the course, they are also encouraged to critically think about how to achieve equity in different societies. This tutorial is conducted in either Chinese or English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST or WGSS and language learners wishing to take the course in Chinese should register under CHIN. [ more ]

ASIA 130 SEM Basic Cantonese

Last offered Spring 2024

An introduction to Standard Cantonese, a major regional language of southern China which is spoken by over 70 million people in Hong Kong, Macao, Guangdong, and Guangxi as well as by many overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and North America. Due to the pervasive influence of Hong Kong as well as the economic transformation of Guangdong Province, the prestige of Cantonese within greater China rose steadily in the period 1980-2010 and it continues to be an important language today. Our focus in this course will be on developing basic listening and speaking skills, though some attention will also be paid to written Cantonese, including the special characters which have been used for centuries to write colloquial Cantonese, which have become even more widely used in Hong Kong since 1997. Since students will ordinarily possess prior proficiency in Mandarin, a rather closely related language, they should be able to attain in one semester approximately the same proficiency level that is attained in the first two semesters of Mandarin. [ more ]

ASIA 131(F) SEM Introduction to Japanese Formal Linguistics

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the theoretical study of the Japanese language. We will delve into various aspects of linguistic theory, exploring speech sounds (phonetics and phonology), word formation (morphology), sentence structures (syntax), and meaning (semantics). Throughout, we will primarily juxtapose Japanese with English to deepen our understanding. By the end, we will not only grasp the fundamentals but also gain practical skills to delve into applied linguistics with confidence. This includes areas such as language acquisition, pragmatics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, language change, and cross-linguistic variation. While there is no prerequisite, having some proficiency in Japanese would enhance your experience. [ more ]

ASIA 152 SEM Basic Taiwanese/Southern Min

Last offered Spring 2023

This course constitutes an introduction to Taiwanese, the majority language of Taiwan, which is essentially the same as the native language of Xiamen, China and environs. Different varieties of this language, which is also known as Amoy, Hokkien, Fukienese, and Southern Min are spoken by about 50 million people in Taiwan, southern Fujian, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Suppressed in Taiwan by the Japanese from 1895-1945 and by the KMT Chinese government from 1945 through the 1970s, Taiwanese--in both its spoken and written forms--has been experiencing a fascinating revival in recent decades. The most divergent of all the Sinitic languages, this language is of special linguistic interest because it has preserved a number of features of Old Chinese. Our focus will be on developing basic listening and speaking skills, though we will also study some of the special characters used to write Taiwanese. The relationship between language and culture and the sociolinguistically appropriate use of language will be stressed throughout. Since students in the course will ordinarily possess prior proficiency in Mandarin, a related language, we should be able to cover in one semester about as much as is covered in the first two semesters of Mandarin. Classes will include dialog performance, drills, communicative exercises, and oral reading and discussion of written Taiwanese. [ more ]

ASIA 153 LEC Japanese Film

Last offered Fall 2023

From the swashbuckling samurai films of Kurosawa and delicate family dramas of Ozu to edgy cinematic experiments and a breathtaking range of animation, Japan has one of the most varied and exciting film traditions in the world. This course will introduce you to major periods, genres, and directors in that tradition. We will read film criticism that represents a range of approaches, but we'll focus particularly on learning and practicing the kind of close visual analysis that will allow you to build your own original descriptions of how a given scene "works." Throughout the course we will consider the relationship between classic cinema and popular genres like sword flicks, melodramas, psychological thrillers, and anime, focusing particularly on directors whose work seems to borrow equally from genre film and the artistic avant-garde. All texts are translated or subtitled. All levels welcome. [ more ]

ASIA 162 SEM Languages of East Asia

Last offered Spring 2024

A survey of the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages in their linguistic and cultural context. Working with various types of multimedia including audio, video, animation, and texts, we'll take up the phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of these three major East Asian languages, including also their history and writing systems as well as how they function in the societies where they are spoken. Though the emphasis of the course is on linguistic description and analysis, there will also be an applied component, as part of which we'll learn several dozen common expressions in each language. Some of the questions to be discussed are: What are the similarities and differences among these three languages? How are and how aren't they related? How did the modern standard form of each develop and what is its relationship to any non-standard languages or dialects? How do these three languages reflect sociolinguistic phenomena such as gender, class, and politeness? How do the writing systems of these languages function and what is the role of Chinese characters in them? What has been the influence of Classical Chinese on Modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean? How have these languages changed due to influence from English and other languages? How are they used in Asian American speech communities? And what are the prospects for their future development, including the influence of computers and digital communications? While this course is not intended as a comprehensive introduction to linguistics, it does introduce many basic terms and concepts from that discipline. [ more ]

ASIA 186 LEC Japanese Popular Visual Culture

Last offered Fall 2021

The phrase "Japanese popular culture" often calls to mind comics and animation, but Japan's earliest visual pop culture dates back to the 17th century and the development of arts like kabuki theater and woodblock prints that could be produced for a mass audience. This course traces Japanese popular culture through a range of visual media: kabuki and puppet theater, premodern and postmodern visual art (ukiyoe, Superflat), classic film (Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa), manga/comics (Tezuka, Otomo, Hagio), and animation (by Oshii, Miyazaki, and others). We will develop visual reading skills to come up with original interpretations of these works, and compare different media to make them shed light on one another. [ more ]

ASIA 195(F) LEC Elementary Korean

Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. Introduction to the alphabet and language structure with emphasis on communicative skills. Students will receive a foundation in the language, be able to hold simple conversations, use a range of vocabulary related to daily activities and transactions, and gain familiarity with basic, frequently used grammatical structures and the writing system of the language. Students must be highly motivated in self-instructional learning, and will work with an outside tutor/examiner. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. [ more ]

ASIA 196(S) LEC Elementary Korean

Continuation in developing communicative skills, vocabulary building, and furthering familiarity with frequently used grammatical structures and writing. Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. Introduction to the alphabet and language structure with emphasis on communicative skills. Students will receive a foundation in the language, be able to hold simple conversations, use a range of vocabulary related to daily activities and transactions, and gain familiarity with basic, frequently used grammatical structures and the writing system of the language. Students must be highly motivated in self-instructional learning, and will work with an outside tutor/examiner. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. [ more ]

ASIA 197(F) LEC Elementary Hindi-Urdu

Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. Introduction to the alphabet and language structure with emphasis on communicative skills. Students will receive a foundation in the language, be able to hold simple conversations, use a range of vocabulary related to daily activities and transactions, and gain familiarity with basic, frequently used grammatical structures and the writing system of the language. Students must be highly motivated in self-instructional learning, and will work with an outside tutor/examiner. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. Both the Devanagari script of Hindi and the Nastaliq script of Urdu will be introduced throughout the year-long course. [ more ]

ASIA 198(S) LEC Elementary Hindi-Urdu

Urdu script will be introduced as the course continues to develop communicative skills, vocabulary building, and familiarity with frequently used grammatical structures and writing in both scripts. Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. Students must be highly motivated in self-instructional learning, and will work with an outside tutor/examiner. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. [ more ]

ASIA 200 SEM History of the Book

Last offered Fall 2014

From ancient clay tablets, bamboo strips, and papyrus rolls to modern hardbacks, paperbacks, and e-readers, no object has so broadly and deeply represented the capacity for humans to create, preserve, and transmit knowledge, information, and ideas as the book. Books have been worshiped and condemned, circulated and censored, collected and destroyed. From works of art to ephemeral trash, they have been public and private, sacred and profane, magical and commonplace. Likewise, notions of the book have influenced every subsequent form of communication and transmission, whether we are browsing film and song "libraries" or "scrolling" down "pages" on the web. This course will explore aspects of the material, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the book, from the invention of the earliest writing systems through the modern development of digital media. Our inquiry will span the globe and the millennia, but we will pay special attention to the ancient and medieval Chinese, Greek, and Latin traditions and their enduring influence in the modern world. Topics will include orality and literacy, manuscript production, the invention and spread of printing, typography, reading culture, notions of authorship, libraries and collections, censorship, and the digital book. Through a variety of readings, hands-on exercises, and interactions with our abundant library resources, we will investigate how the changing form and function of the book interact across its long and diverse history. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

ASIA 201(F) LEC Accelerated Chinese on Special Topics for Heritage Speakers

This course is tailor designed for students who already possess intermediate-level proficiency in speaking Chinese but lack the basic reading and writing skills, commonly referred to as heritage speakers of Chinese. They will make accelerated progress in their literacy skills through this course and be able to take either CHIN 202 or CHIN 302 in the spring semester. Adopting a semi-tutorial format (a mix of group classes and two/three-people classes) , this course aims to provide differentiated instruction to heritage learners of varying proficiency levels whose Chinese speaking and listening abilities exceed their reading and writing skills. This tailored course will help students effectively expand their literacy skills while helping to solidify the linguistic foundation for continuous proficiency advancement. The main theme of the course is focused on the experiences of Chinese Americans in a global context. Students will gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture by way of individual projects that are meaningful and relevant to their intellectual interests. Students who are placed into CHIN 102 or 202 at the beginning of the fall semester should consider taking this course in the fall. [ more ]

ASIA 202(F) LEC De-Centering Imperial China, 960-1800

The history of China from 960-1800 can be told as the story of a continuous, enduring culture and polity. This long period was nevertheless one in which the definition and contours of "China" were constantly contested. In this survey course, we will examine the political forms, institutions, and developments in culture, society, and economy that are characteristic of the Song (960-1279), Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and early Qing (1644-1800) Dynasties alongside the Inner, Central, East, and Southeast Asian polities and cultures which interacted with, accommodated and repeatedly conquered centers of Chinese power over this time (Tanguts, Khitans, Mongols, and Jurchens/Manchus, among others). Gaining a historical perspective on power relationships within this diverse region will help us to understand the different ways in which Asia participated in changing world systems throughout this period. This course combines brief lectures with discussion of predominantly primary source readings. [ more ]

ASIA 203 LEC Modern Japan

Last offered Spring 2024

This course is intended to familiarize you with the history of modern Japan, the world's third-largest economy and a dynamic influence on global culture. We will begin during the Edo Period (1600-1868), during which feudal (e.g., the status system) and more modern (e.g., a consumer society) features of Japanese life developed alongside each other. We will then examine the Meiji Restoration and explore how the Imperial Japanese state led Japan through modernization into total defeat by 1945. The course then looks at economic recovery and societal change during the postwar period, taking us up to the present day. Students will become familiar with several significant shifts in interpretation of key aspects of Japanese history. We will cover the rise and demise of the erroneous "national seclusion" narrative, the legislation of Japanese Emperor's divinity, and the debate over Japan's supposed ethnic and cultural distinctiveness. We will focus especially closely on the roles of class, gender, imperialism and foreign contacts in modern Japanese history. You are expected to critically analyze assigned primary and secondary sources and to communicate your ideas to your classmates effectively both orally and in writing. You are also expected to collaborate with your classmates to complete group activities. You will also conduct limited original archival research. [ more ]

ASIA 205 LEC Patrons, Rituals, and Living Images in Japanese Buddhism

Last offered Fall 2021

This course introduces students to Buddhist art and architecture in Japan from its introduction in the sixth century through the present. We focus on the ways different communities--the imperial court, immigrant artists, monks, women, and commoners--employed and venerated Buddhist images for political legitimacy, personal salvation, and worldly benefit. This course also examines how Japanese Buddhist imagery became aestheticized in the early twentieth century and appropriated later in modern and contemporary visual cultures. Some of the topics to be discussed include the reception of continental styles of Buddhist sculpture, the relationship between mandalas and rituals, the role of women in developing Buddhist embroideries, and the Western reappraisal of Zen arts. Students will develop familiarity with the concepts and ideas underlying the production of Buddhist images and will gain foundational skills in analyzing the visual, material, and iconographic qualities of Japanese Buddhist art. For the final project, students will design a digital exhibition focused around one of the topics of the course. [ more ]

ASIA 206(S) LEC Chinese Painting

This course surveys the Chinese painting tradition, from the second half of the first millennium BCE to the present. Following a dynastic timeline, the course covers important painting genres including funerary, religious, figures and portraiture, landscape, ink, bird-and-flower, and oil painting and considers them in relation to the shifting historical and cultural context of China. Key themes of the course include the relationship between the art of painting and religious beliefs, political ideology, self-expression, premodern painting theories and criticism, and encounters between the East and the West. As is the case with other cultures, the art of painting in China is shaped by both the painter and its time. In addition to an overview of the history of Chinese painting, students will develop skills in visually analyzing the style, the composition, and the brushstrokes of various painting genres, while gaining an understanding of how painting responded to different historical and cultural conditions in China. The course also pays special attention to primary sources on painting, through which students will learn to think about Chinese painting in its original artistic and intellectual context. [ more ]

ASIA 207 TUT An Exploration of Japanese Language and Culture

Last offered Fall 2018

Language is the primary means for human beings to lead social lives and it expresses, embodies and symbolizes cultural and social reality. This tutorial will examine the intertwining ways in which the Japanese language reflects the patterns of life and intrinsic beliefs of Japanese, while exploring how this linguistic code may influence and shape the ways Japanese think. We will look into the following topics: polite language and the variety of personal pronouns in order to examine how the hierarchical structure of Japanese society is reflected in them. Also, we will explore women's speech, youth and queer Japanese to discuss social and gender identities and the role of linguistic stereotypes in manga, anime and TV dramas as well as the "easy Japanese movement," which depicts the shift from a monolingual to multilingual Japanese society. And finally, our examination will investigate the semantic and cultural losses that occur in translations from Japanese prose to English prose. The course is conducted in either Japanese or English with materials drawn from linguistics and sociocultural studies both in Japanese and English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST 207T and students wishing to take the course in Japanese should register under JAPN 407T. Japanese language learners will not only develop analytical and critical thinking, but will gain more advanced Japanese skills such as reading to understand the logic of arguments, exponent narrative, and academic presentations and writing. [ more ]

ASIA 208 SEM The U.S. and Afghanistan: A Post-Mortem

Last offered Fall 2023

The United States attacked and defeated the Afghan Taliban regime over in the course of a few short weeks in 2001. Within a few years, the finality of that victory was brought into question as the Taliban regrouped and eventually reasserted itself as a formidable guerilla army that the U.S. military could not easily defeat. At the same time that it was facing a more difficult military challenge than anticipated, the United States got bogged down in the process of nation-building, as well as efforts at social reform. This course examines the history of American involvement in Afghanistan, beginning with the Cold War when the U.S. used Afghanistan as a test case for new models of political modernization and economic development. We will go on to discuss the U.S. support for Islamist political parties during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the consequent rise of the Taliban, and the role of Afghanistan in the September 11th attacks and the "War on Terror" that followed. The course will conclude with a consideration of the impact and legacy of the two decades of nation-building and social reform carried out by the United States since 9/11. [ more ]

ASIA 209(S) SEM The Literature of Early China

From poems on forbidden trysts and tales of bloody battles to aphorisms about filial piety and essays on moral governance, the literature of early China spans a wide range of topics and genres. In this course we will read, discuss, and write about literary works from the period stretching from approximately 600 BCE to the end of the Han empire in the third century CE, including poems, narratives, and philosophical works. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

ASIA 210(S) SEM Approaches to Asian Studies

Home to over half of the world's population and to more than twenty of the world's largest cities, Asia has gained global prominence in recent years; the twenty-first century in fact has widely been deemed the 'Asian Century'. But what is Asia? And what does it mean to study this richly diverse region? This seminar will address these questions with the aim of introducing students to important theoretical topics and key concepts that are relevant to the comparative and critical study of Asia. We will consider the different ways of understanding "Asia", both in terms of how the term and the region have been historically constituted as well as facilitate understanding of some of the salient factors (geography, belief systems, economy and polity)--past and present--that make for Asia's coherence and divergences. We will also unpack the troubled notions of "East" and "West" and re-center Asia within the newly emerging narratives of global interconnectedness. Beginning with the evolution of the field, this course will equip students with the methodological tools to critically navigate their own specific regional, inter-regional, or interdisciplinary tracks in the Asian Studies concentration. Students should note that this is a methods course that will allow them to reflect on their engagement with Asian Studies, it is not an introductory or gateway course in Asian Studies. At least one Asian Studies course strongly recommended as a prerequisite. [ more ]

ASIA 211 LEC Foundations of China

Last offered Fall 2021

This course examines the foundational period of Chinese civilization, from the earliest evidence of human activity in the geographical region we now call China, through the end of the Han dynasty in the early third-century CE. This is the period that saw the creation and spread of the Chinese script (a writing system that would be the dominant one in East Asia for thousands of years), the teachings of Confucius (whose ideas continue to play a role in the lives of billions of people today), the construction of the Great Wall (which is not, as it turns out, visible from space), and the creation of the imperial bureaucratic system (that was, in essence, the progenitor of the modern bureaucratic state). We will proceed chronologically but focus on a set of thematic topics, including language and writing, religion and philosophy, art and architecture, politics and economics, and science and technology. While this course is entitled "Foundations of China," we will take a critical perspective on narratives, both Chinese and Western, that see Chinese history as an unbroken history of a single "civilization." [ more ]

ASIA 212(F) SEM Envisioning the Sacred: Representation and Religion in Christian and Muslim Cultures

How did medieval Christians and pre-modern Muslims imagine the sacred and how did they give what they imagined pictorial form? How were these pictures used, both in public and in private life, and why? How did the art of these unique religious traditions forge connections between the visible and invisible worlds? Paying particular attention to the function and experience of works of art within Christian and Islamic cultures, this seminar examines the evolution of devotional visual expression, while also exploring the problems sacred images generated in these distinct yet often overlapping traditions. Through readings and class discussion, the course will investigate, among other topics: the varied attitudes toward the representability of God in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; the impact of earlier image traditions on the religious art of medieval Christians and pre-modern Muslims; the cult of the devotional image, concerns over idolatry, and the destruction of images; ideas about spiritual versus physical vision and their influence on the making and viewing of pictures; the relationship of sacred images to relics and to various aspects of organized ritual; and the possible roles played by pictures of the sacred in silencing or giving voice to dissent. [ more ]

ASIA 213(S) LEC Modern China, 1600-Present

China's presence continues to grow in our world today, but contemporary China also evinces complex contradictions: a market economy promoted by a nominally Communist government, extremes of urban wealth and rural poverty, increasing participation in the international community and intensifying nationalist rhetoric. This course examines China's historical engagement with the modern world to offer perspective on its current conditions. We will begin with the Qing (1644-1911) conquest of China and consolidation of a multi-ethnic empire, and investigate China's encounters with Western and Japanese imperialism, the rise of Chinese nationalism, Republican and Communist revolutions, and the often turbulent history of the People's Republic. Throughout, we will examine themes of social, economic, intellectual, and cultural change through predominantly primary source reading and analysis. [ more ]

ASIA 215 SEM Foundations of Confucian Thought

Last offered Spring 2024

How should people treat each other? What constitutes human nature and does it tend towards good or evil? How should we organize society, by focusing on laws and regulations, or on ritual and moral guidance? What is the nature of moral rulership? What is the proper relationship between the individual and larger units of society, from the family to the state? These are some of the key questions that the school of thought that has come to be known as "Confucianism" addresses. As the dominant moral and political philosophy for thousands of years in much of East Asia, Confucianism has shaped our world, past and present, in innumerable ways. In this class we will focus on the foundational texts of the Confucian tradition: the Analects (purported to record the words of Confucius himself), Mengzi (often romanized as "Mencius"), and Xunzi. Beyond those questions noted above, we will further examine how these texts construct their arguments; how they were first composed, compiled, and circulated; how they employ such key concepts as "humaneness" (ren), "moral power" (de), and "ritual propriety" (li); and how they functioned as part of the larger philosophical, linguistic, political, and historical context that we now think of as "early China." [ more ]

ASIA 216(F) SEM Asian/American Identities in Motion

The course aims to explore dance and movement-based performances as mediums through which identities in Asian and Asian American (including South Asian) communities are cultivated, expressed, and contested. Students will engage with how social and historical contexts influence the processes through which dance practices are invested with particular sets of meanings, and how artists use performance to reinforce or resist stereotypical representations. Core readings will be drawn from Dance, Performance, Asian, and Asian American Studies to engage with issues such as nation formation, racial and ethnic identity politics, appropriation, tradition and innovation among other topics. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course, and might also include screenings, movement workshops, and discussion with guest artists and scholars. No previous dance experience is required. [ more ]

ASIA 217(F) LEC Premodern Japan

This course is intended to familiarize students with the premodern history of Japan, roughly defined as before the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the modernizing reforms it unleashed. We will examine the archipelago's natural environment and the human impact thereon. We will explore the creation of "Japan" as a coherent political and cultural unit, key figures and works of Japanese culture and the shift in cultural production from elite patronage to the market. We will examine the Imperial institution and gendered aspects of Japanese private and public life, tracing the changing role Japanese women played in both spheres. We will also pay close attention to the rise of the samurai, both as warriors and political elites, and Japan's relationship with foreign lands and peoples. Students will become familiar with several significant shifts in interpretation of key aspects of Japanese history, such as the growing appreciation of the roles of non-elites in history, and the shift away from the "national seclusion" understanding of Japanese foreign relations. [ more ]

ASIA 218 LEC From Crises to Cool: Modern Japan, 1850s-Present

Last offered Fall 2021

Stunning revolutions, the construction and collapse of an empire, the waging of wars, devastating defeat and occupation by a foreign power, and postwar economic ups and downs have marked Japan's modern experience. This course will explore how various Japanese people from factory workers and farmers to politicians and intellectuals have understood, shaped, and lived the upheavals from the 1850s through the present day. And it will examine how the country of Japan as well as individual Japanese people have defined the identities and meanings of "modern Japan." We will ask why a modernizing revolution emerged out of the ashes of the early modern order; what democracy and its failures wrought; how world war was experienced and what legacies it left in its wake; and how postwar Japan has struggled with the successes and costs of affluence. Materials will include anthropological studies, government documents, intellectual treatises, fiction, films, and oral histories. [ more ]

ASIA 219 LEC Japanese Culture and History from Courtiers to Samurai and Beyond

Last offered Spring 2017

This course will introduce students to the history, literature, and artistic culture of premodern Japan, from the time of the first recorded histories in the 800s through the abolition of the samurai class in the late 1800s. We will focus on the politics and aesthetic culture of the ruling elites in each period, from the heyday of the imperial court through the rise and eventual decline of the samurai warrior and the growth of Edo (Tokyo), with its new mode of early modern government and new forms of literature, theater, and art. Team taught by faculty from History and Comparative Literature, the course will examine historical texts alongside works drawn from literature, visual culture, and performing arts, and will ask students to consider how these different kinds of texts can shed light on one another. What is the difference between reading history and reading literature, or is it even meaningful to distinguish the two? [ more ]

ASIA 221 LEC South Asia: Colonialism to Independence, 1750-1947 CE

Last offered Spring 2024

What did colonialism look like in India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession for over two hundred years? How did the British establish their rule over the vast subcontinent? And how did the people who lived there experience and finally overthrow colonial rule? This course focuses on the history of South Asia with the aim of providing an overview of the political and social landscape of the region from c. 1750 to 1947. This period spans the decline of the Mughal Empire through British colonial rule, South Asians' struggle for independence, and the Partition of India. We will explore a range of themes including the rise of colonialism, nationalism, religion, caste, gender relations, and the emergence of modern social and political institutions on the subcontinent. In addition to reading key texts and historical primary sources on the specific themes, we will also work with a variety of multimedia sources including films, short stories and podcasts. One objective of this course is to introduce students to the different political and social processes that led to the creation of India and Pakistan; another is to teach students to think critically about the significance of history and history writing in the making of the subcontinent. [ more ]

ASIA 222 LEC History and Society in India and South Asia: c. 2000 to 1700s CE

Last offered Spring 2022

This course is an introduction to the history of India and South Asia from prehistoric times to the emergence of early modernity. During these centuries, the subcontinent emerged as one of the most diverse and complex regions of the world, as it continues to be even today. The course will cover the period between the rise of the urban Indus Valley civilization to the end of the Mughal Empire and will address topics such the as the origins and development of the caste system and 'Hinduism', society and culture in the great epics like the Ramayana, the beginnings of Jain and Buddhist thought, politics and patronage under Islamic polities, the formation of Mughal imperial authority through art, architecture and literature, among others. Through the study of social processes, the course will focus on the diversity and connectedness that have defined the subcontinent throughout its history. It will also consider the role of history in the region and how a number of events from the past continue to inform its present. [ more ]

ASIA 226(F) SEM Chinese Film and Its Significant Others

From the first "wows'' that the short films invoked at a Shanghai teahouse in 1896, Chinese films have made successive wonders that straddle reality and fantasy, technological modernity and shadow-making craft, aesthetic experiments and monetary yearnings, global investments and local interest. This seminar will explore the evolving relationships between Chinese films and five "significant others" that are central to film and film-making. Roughly following a chronological order, this course will examine 1) the effect of new technological developments (such as photography, sound, color, special FX) on film; 2) the tension between film and traditional modes of public entertainment (such as operas and shadow plays); 3) film's social role to affirm and contest gender, national, and class identities; 4) the need to garner differing sources of financial support (state funding, cultural entrepreneurs, and transnational capital); and 5) the circulation of Chinese films in the global market. Class materials include various genre films (melodrama, horror, martial arts, comedy, etc.), directors' notes, contemporary reviews, and scholarship in China and media studies. All materials and discussions are in English. [ more ]

ASIA 228 TUT Present Pasts: The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Chinese Literatures and Films

Last offered Spring 2023

What happens when memories, already slippery, are further massaged by literary and cinematic narrative strategies? How is the historical "pasts" remembered, forgotten, and subverted in a literary "presence"? This tutorial explores the politics of memory in contemporary literatures and films from the People's Republic of China (post-socialist era, 1978), Taiwan (post-martial law, 1987), and Hong Kong (postcolonial era, 1997). We will look at how literary and cinematic works in each of these "post" societies represent state-sponsored narratives of remembrance, dissidents' collective amnesia, and at the popular level, a playful yet cynical flirtation with politics. With close- and distant- readings of textualized and visualized memories, we will examine themes of nation and locality, public and private, mesology and mythology, amnesia and nostalgia, and diaspora and settlement in the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong from the late 1980s until to today. Course readings include "root-seeking", "new realist", "avant-garde" and "hooligan" novels, examples from the Taiwanese small theater movement, and the transnational cinemas made by the fifth, sixth, and second new wave filmmakers from these three "post" societies. This tutorial is conducted in either Chinese or English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST or COMP and language learners wishing to take the course in Chinese should register under CHIN. [ more ]

ASIA 230 Performance Practices of India

Last offered NA

This course explores ancient and contemporary performance practices in India. Our objects of study will include the text and performance of Sanskrit plays, contemporary and experimental theater productions, as well as forms of dance and ritual. We will discuss dramaturgical structure, staging, acting conventions, gender representation, performer training, the experience and role of the audience, as well as mythological and political themes. Thinking historically and ethnographically, we will seek to understand the aesthetics and social purposes of these practices, in addition to the relationship that performance has with everyday life, contested concepts of the nation, and caste. Throughout the semester we will interrogate the ways in which Western categories such as "classical," "folk," "religious," "traditional," and even the distinction between "dance/theater/music/visual arts" are not indigenous or accurate concepts for organizing thinking about performance in this part of the world. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ASIA 233 SEM Spiritual Crossroads: Religious Life in Southeast Asia

Last offered Spring 2019

No region of the world presents a richer tapestry of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions than Southeast Asia. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are all to be found and all of them interpenetrate and contend with each other and with a deep undergirding of animism, shamanism, and mystical folk belief systems. This course will survey these religious traditions through time and space, looking in particular at the growing tension between religion and the state as fundamentalism and religious militancy have spread into the region in recent times. All of Southeast Asia will be covered, but particular attention will be devoted to Indonesia, where religious blending and the growth of new fundamentalism are both especially marked. [ more ]

ASIA 234 LEC Arts of Tibet -- Sacred Abode of the Himalayas

Last offered Spring 2024

This course surveys the art and culture of Tibet from the time of the introduction of Buddhism in the seventh century to the modern period. Traditionally understood as the divine abode of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all buddha in Buddhist cosmology, Tibet was also fantasized as the immortal realm of "Shangri-la" by western interpreters. In this course, we will begin by examining the imagination and representation of Tibet and its culture in modern western discourses, and then shift the focus to the development of artistic forms of Tibet in the context of Tibet's history and religious movements, from ancient times to the present. [ more ]

ASIA 239(F) STU Taswirkhana: Technique and Practice of Indian Drawing and Painting

Small in scale but vast in its representation, the world of Indian painting is famous for its stylized naturalism and mastery of line. It is an artistic practice whose legacy stretches back to at least the first century CE. This studio course will introduce students to the technique and practice of traditional Indian drawing and painting. The course is designed as a workshop in which students will learn to use materials and techniques of this art form. By engaging with a non-western traditional practice, the aim of the course is to expose students to a pluralistic engagement with art making. Students will learn paper and pigment preparation, as well as the basics of traditional drawing and painting techniques. The class will learn from studying a selection of original masterworks of Indian art from the Williams College Museum of Art that will be displayed in the Object Lab. Working with original artworks will help students situate the hands-on study of Indian painting practice alongside exemplary historical examples. [ more ]

ASIA 241 TUT Colonialism and Underdevelopment in South Asia

Last offered Spring 2023

British colonial rule in South Asia shaped economy and society in fundamental ways. As resistance to colonial rule emerged in the late nineteenth century, "nationalist" writers developed a critique of its economic impact via taxation, fiscal policy, trade, and many other policies. In their turn, supporters of British rule, "apologists," argued that British rule had laid the foundations of economic growth by securing property rights, enforcing contracts, and developing infrastructure. The debate between "nationalists" and "apologists" has never quite ended, but after the recent growth of the Indian economy it has lost some of its emotional charge. We will use this opportunity to revisit the controversy. [ more ]

ASIA 242 LEC The Sacred in South Asia

Last offered Spring 2023

Is religious identity necessarily singular and unambiguous? The jinn - Islamic spirits born of fire - are sought out for their healing and other powers not only by Muslims in India, but by Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, as well. In parts of Bengal statues of the Hindu goddess Durga are traditionally sculpted by Muslim artisans. Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka contain tombs of Muslim Sufi saints and shrines of Hindu deities. South Asia - where a fifth of humanity lives - provides some of the most striking examples of pluralism and religiously composite culture in our contemporary world. Yet at the same time, strident religious majoritarianism has been a defining feature of the politics of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for decades, and haunts Nepal and Bangladesh as well. Are these two modes of religious being - pluralistic and composite on the one hand, singular and majoritarian on the other - reflective of two different conceptions of selfhood? What if we turn from questions of community and identity to questions of unseen power and the sacred? This course is an exploration of lived religion in South Asia. It is simultaneously a study of popular Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and an introduction to the anthropology of religion. Centered on in-depth studies of popular sites of 'syncretic' ritual practice (shared across religious difference) as well as studies of mass mobilizations that seek to align the religious community with the nation, we approach from multiple angles what the sacred might mean in modernity. [ more ]

ASIA 243(F) SEM Islamic Law: Past and Present

From fear of the Shari'a to its implementation in so called "Islamic countries," Islamic law is perhaps best associated with draconian punishments and the oppression of women. Islamic law is ever present in our public discourse today and yet little is known about it. This course is designed to give students a foundation in the substantive teachings of Islamic law. Islamic law stretches back over 1400 years and is grounded in the Quran, the life example of the Prophet Muhammad, and juridical discourse. Teetering between legal and ethical discourse, the Shari'a moves between what we normally consider law as well as ethics and etiquette. The course will explore four key aspects of the law: its historical development, its ethical and legal content, the law in practice, and the transformation of Islamic law through colonialism and into the contemporary. Specific areas we will cover include: ritual piety, family and personal status law, criminal law, and dietary rules. [ more ]

ASIA 244(S) LEC Mind and Persons in Indian Thought

In this course, we follow the Indian philosophical conversation concerning the self and the nature of consciousness, particularly as they are found in its various Yogic traditions. We start with some of the Hindu views about the self and the mind and consider their ethical implications. We then consider a range of Buddhist critiques of these views, focusing more particularly on the Madhyamaka, which radicalizes the critique of the self into a global anti-realist and skeptical stance. We also examine the Yogacara school, which offers a process view of reality focusing on the analysis of experience. We conclude by considering some of the later Hindu holistic views of the self as responses to the Buddhist critique. In this way we come to realize that far from being the irrational foil of "the West," Indian tradition is a rich resource for thinking through some of the central questions that have challenged philosophers in both traditions. [ more ]

ASIA 246 TUT India's Identities: Nation,Community, & Individual

Last offered Spring 2020

This tutorial considers India's multiple and intersecting identities, in relation to climate emergencies, resource scarcities, and ongoing struggles for power and status across very different parts of India. We examine the intersectional identities that produce solidarity and opposition within landscapes always already structured by power and inequity. How do communal and individual identities such as gender, class, caste, sexuality or religion shape social conflict and ongoing struggles for power in India today? We examine key moments in Indian history that that continue to produce social conflict and fluidity such as Partition, the riots in Gujarat, Hyderabad, and Delhi that have shaped the modern landscape of communal identity, as well as the contested border such as Ladakh as well as Jammu & Kashmir. Our readings will include ethnographic, sociological, historical fiction, and oral history. Students choose their own topics to delve into for final weeks of the semester. [ more ]

ASIA 247 LEC Tibetan Civilization

Last offered Spring 2014

Often depicted as Shangrila, a mythical and ideal country, Tibet has had the dubious privilege of being a focus of Western fantasies. One cannot but wonder about the motives and sources of this mythology. Although this course examines these representations, its main focus is an immersion in the cultural and historical aspects of Tibetan civilization, which give students the tools with which to understand Tibetan culture from the inside. As such this course is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative. We first consider the early history of Tibet, the introduction of Buddhism, the relations between Buddhism and the indigenous religion, and some of the stages in the development of Tibetan Buddhism. We also examine the historical developments that led to the development of the institutions (such as the Dalai-Lama) unique to Tibet and some of the aspects of the culture that these institutions helped to create (such as gender roles, family structure and social stratification). Finally, we consider the more recent tragic events and examine the profound transformations that they have brought. Throughout the course, we consider the central role of the complex interaction between Buddhism and politics in Tibetan history, both in the pre-modern period and in more recent times, when the Tibetan people have faced the challenge of how to use their institutions and culture to resist oppression. In this way, we get a footing in the Tibetan world, and the indispensable assessment of Western representations of Tibet becomes not just an exercise in self-reflection but also a gate to a better understanding of a remarkable but tragically threatened civilization. [ more ]

ASIA 248 SEM Body Politics in South Asia: Gender, Sex, Religion, and Nation

Last offered Spring 2015

This course examines the relationship between body, gender, sex, and society in South Asia, using three countries and religions---India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam---as its foil. The course uses the body as a lens by which to unpack South Asian discourses that link body and sexuality with nation, community, and population. In particular, it explores a South Asian sociology that links individual and social bodies in ways that occasion solidarity as well as social suffering, violence as well as communal cohesion. How do bodies come to signify the purity or prosperity of the nation or community and with what social or discursive effects? We begin by unpacking foundational theories of the body as proposed by Mauss, Foucault, Douglas, and Bourdieu in order to better understand how local discourses of the body help produce gender and other social hierarchies in South Asia. By considering how the human body can serve as a map for society and vice versa, we examine both classical discourses and modern institutional practices of the body including the temple, the monastery, the mosque, and the mendicant, as well as bodily practices such as yoga, celibacy, sex work, and new reproductive technologies. We also analyze how the body has served as a symbol of nation, community, and social health. Throughout, we are interested in the cross-cutting effects of gender and sex in perpetuating structural hierarchies and social suffering around the body in South Asia. [ more ]

ASIA 249 LEC Political Power in Contemporary China

Last offered Spring 2024

The People's Republic of China has experienced rapid and extensive economic, social and cultural transformation over the past forty years. Its political system, however, is little changed. The Communist Party still monopolizes power and works hard to suppress organized opposition. Political dissent has taken various forms since 1979 but the regime has found ways to repress and divert it. Yet, in spite of the state's efforts, opposition and dissent continue to bubble to the surface. The course will review the political development of the PRC since 1949 and, then, focus on the dynamics of political contention and regime persistence since the Tiananmen Crisis of 1989. [ more ]

ASIA 250 LEC Scholars, Saints and Immortals: Virtue Ethics in East Asia

Last offered Fall 2021

In East Asian cultures, as in the United States, popular conceptions of morality typically take their shape, not from explicit rules, but from moral paragons--stylized figures that are said to embody a distinctive cluster of virtues. For example, American Christians invoke not only Jesus, but also a pantheon of "secular saints" as diverse as Martin Luther King Jr. and General Patton, George Washington and Cesar Chavez. This course will explore the cultural functions of moral paragons and philosophies of virtue in East Asia by introducing students to examples from Chinese and Japanese history, ranging from Confucian articulations of the ideal scholar-bureaucrat to Buddhist conceptions of the Bodhisattva to Taoist immortals. It will also address the history of ethical thought in East Asia, focusing particular attention on conceptions of "Virtue Ethics." This approach has come to be seen by some contemporary analytic philosophers as a way out of the impasse produced by ethical relativism and the loss of theological rationales for moral action. Readings will include Euro-American philosophers such as Nietzsche and MacIntyre as well as primary texts in translation by Chuang-tzu, Confucius, Shantideva and others. The fall 2021 iteration of the course will have a special focus with a few additional readings on idealized communities and political "utopias." [ more ]

ASIA 251 LEC Zen Buddhism: History and Historiography

Last offered Fall 2012

Because mystifying references to Zen are strewn throughout American popular culture-from episodes of the Simpsons to names of perfumes and snack foods-most Americans have an image of Zen Buddhism that is disconnected from anything actually practiced in East Asia. This course offers a corrective to this image by familiarizing students with both the history of Zen and the historiographical roots of these popular perceptions. This course will examine the origins of Zen (Ch'an) in China, trace its transmission to Japan, and cover its development in both cultural contexts. It will conclude with an examination of Zen's unique role in American popular culture. The course will enrich the conventional image of Zen by addressing its involvement with power and governance, gods and demons, mummies and sacred sites, sex and violence, nationalism and scholarship. Texts will include selections from primary works in translation (The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, The Gateless Barrier, The Lancet of Seated Meditation) as well as selections from secondary literature including Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, Victoria, Zen at War, and Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy. [ more ]

ASIA 252 Comparative Politics of South Asia

Last offered NA

South Asia is home to around 2 billion people (over 24% of the world), making it the most populous and densely populated region in the world. The region is also one of the poorest in the world and lags in human development. Ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity is offset by common cultural traditions and practices that serve to unite the people of the Indian Subcontinent. The course introduces students to the comparative politics of South Asia, highlighting the complexities and potential of the region. Every week we explore a different component of South Asian politics. The course covers the creation of the states of modern South Asia, partition and independence, democratization, electoral politics and political parties, economic and social development, ethnic identity and conflict, and the contemporary regional challenges of democratic backsliding and climate change. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ASIA 253(F) SEM Love and Death in Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture

Modern Japanese literature is filled with compelling love stories that are variously passionate and poignant, tragic or uplifting, heartwarming or twisted, and sometimes all of the above. This course offers a survey of modern Japanese fiction and visual culture through the lens of the love story, beginning with tales of doomed lovers that were popular in the eighteenth-century kabuki and puppet theaters, and moving through a range of other relationships, including parental love and sacrifice, sex and the occult, and romance at an advanced age. We will focus on novels and short stories by canonical modern authors like Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, as well as contemporary popular fiction by writers like Murakami Haruki and Murakami Ryu. We will also give significant attention to popular visual culture, including puppet theater, comics, animation, and film. The class and the readings are in English. [ more ]

ASIA 255(F) LEC Buddhism: Ideas and Practices

This course introduces students to Buddhism by examining its ideas and practices as they have taken place in actual social contexts rather than as disembodied textual objects. After examining the main ideas and narratives of the tradition, we turn our attention to Thailand where we examine how these ideas and narratives have shaped a whole range of practices, from meditation to shamanistic rituals. We then consider the transformations that Buddhism is undergoing in contemporary society, examining the rise of meditation movement, the changing role of monks and laity, the resurgence of the nun order, the rise of Buddhist social activism and the development of new Buddhist social philosophies. We ask questions such as: How can Buddhism adapt to a modern global consumerist society? What are the transformations involved in this process and the role that Buddhism can play in such a global society? Should Buddhists take advantage of the opportunities of this new global culture or should they adopt a critical stance toward its consumerist values? [ more ]

ASIA 256 SEM Buddhism, Sex, & Gender: #MeToo Then and Now

Last offered Fall 2018

This course considers the feminist voices that have been part and parcel of Buddhist practices, texts, and institutions for most of its 2500-year history. We will conduct a historical genealogy of Buddhist voices that illustrate the fluid and disruptive role of sex, gender, caste, and class in relation to individual behavior and social relations. How did the Buddha's inner revolution produce a set of practices that both reject and reinforce existing binaries and social hierarchies of sex and gender, and with what effects? We will trace a feminist voice that decries harassment, assault, and systemic sexism within Buddhist communities from the first female disciples (Theri) of the Buddha to the current #MeToo era of embattled toxic masculinity. Along the way, we explore a literary canon that contains misogyny and 'she devils' alongside a rich tapestry of female divinities, transgender fluidity, and female liberation. We pursue and intersectional analysis of Buddhist traditions and texts by considering the multiple forms of social hierarchy--gender, sexuality, race, and class--that Buddhism has attempted to transcend. We begin by considering three women in the Buddha's life-his mother (Maya), his stepmother/aunt (Gotami), and his wife (Yashodhara)--as well as the tales of the first enlightened Buddhist women whose topics include prostitution, patriarchy, sexism, and pathetic husbands, as well as their own decaying bodies and beauty. Our next theme is the myriad ways that gender is both produced and deconstructed in Buddhist discourses on enlightenment and the human body. Our final theme considers a range of monastic memoirs, including a Buddhist black nun who left Harvard to take ordination in Thailand, and a Dutchman who studied Zen Japan. We close by examining the current debates in the U.S. and Asia that seek to combat systemic racism, sexism, and casteism in Buddhist traditions. [ more ]

ASIA 257 SEM "Illness" in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature and Culture

Last offered Spring 2022

From early modern anxieties about China's status as the "sick man of Asia" to contemporary concerns regarding the prospect of transnational pandemics, "illnesses" and their related stories have played a critical role in making and contesting individual psychologies and Chinese modernity in the 20th and 21st centuries. Actual illnesses, from tuberculosis to AIDS to the Novel Coronavirus, constitute not only social realities that trouble political and popular minds in their own right; but further provide powerful metaphors for exploring issues of human rights, national identity, and transnational circulation. This course examines how Chinese literature in the 20th and 21st centuries writes and visualizes "illness"--a universal human experience that is nevertheless heavily bounded by culture and history. Specifically, we examine the cultural and social meaning of "illness"; the relationship between illness on the one hand, and the politics of body, gender, and class on the other; we ask how infectious disease, and mental illness are defined, represented, and understood in both male and female writers' analytical essays and fictional writings in the 20th century; we examine how metaphorical "illness" such as infectious cannibalism and fin-de-siècle "viruses," are imagined and interpreted by key culture figures ranging from the founding father of modern literature (Lu Xun), to the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature (Mo Yan). Throughout the course, we will focus on the interplay between literature canons (fictions, essays, and dramas) and popular media and genres: blockbuster cinemas and art house films, popular novels, photographs and posters, etc. [ more ]

ASIA 258 TUT Buddhism, Social Change, & Reproductive Justice in the Anthropocene

Last offered Fall 2023

This course considers how three women profoundly shaped the Buddha's life and legacy in terms of social change & reproductive justice. Our central characters are Maya--the Buddha's mother, who died shortly after delivering him; Pajapati--the Buddha's stepmother & aunt who raised him; and Yasodhara--his wife, whom he abandoned when he left home to seek enlightenment. We explore the classical Buddhist discourses and modern biographies to explore how these three women impacted what the Buddha taught and practiced in terms of social and gender justice. These women helped shape the Buddha's radical decision to found the first renunciate order for women in Asian history and helped shape Buddhist attitudes towards female empowerment, bodily autonomy, and reproductive justice for that past 2500 years. Our historical genealogy will explore how Buddhism continues to disrupte modern hierarchies of sex, gender, caste, & class while claiming reproductive and social justice. Along the way we consider: How did these three women reject existing social hierarchies in the Buddha's day and with what impacts for modern Buddhist practices and institutions? How do the social transformations of the Buddha's day still impact modern struggles for gender justice & reproductive justice in the Anthropocene? [ more ]

ASIA 264 LEC The End of the World in Japanese Literature and Visual Culture

Last offered Spring 2019

From the endemic warfare of the medieval era to the atomic bombing and the violent explosion of technology in the last century, the end of the world is an idea which has occupied a central place in almost every generation of Japanese literature. Paradoxically, the spectacle of destruction has given birth to some of the most beautiful, most moving, and most powerfully thrilling literature in the Japanese tradition. Texts may be drawn from medieval war narratives like The Tale of the Heike; World War II fiction and films by Ibuse Masuji, Imamura Shôhei, and Ichikawa Kon; fantasy and science fiction novels by Abe Kôbô, Murakami Haruki and Murakami Ryû; and apocalyptic comics and animation by Oshii Mamoru, Ôtomo Katsuhiro, and others. The class and the readings are in English; no familiarity with Japanese language or culture is required. [ more ]

ASIA 266 SEM Confession and Deception in Japanese Literature

Last offered Spring 2024

Situated at the origins of Japanese literature are the beautiful and revealing diaries of ladies in waiting at the tenth-and eleventh-century court. Yet one of the most famous of these women turned out to be a man. For the next thousand years, Japanese literary tradition would place a premium on confessional writing, but the distortions and concealments of these narrators (and the authors hiding behind them) would always prove at least as interesting as the revelations. This course examines several centuries of Japanese literature to ask whether you can ever put your true self into writing; along the way I will ask you what you reveal, conceal, discover, or reinvent about yourself when you write about literature for a class like this. Texts will range from classical and medieval court literature by Sei Shônagon and Lady Nijô, through autobiographical and confessional novels by Sôseki, Tanizaki, Mishima, and Abe Kôbô, to documentary and subculture films like The New God and Kamikaze Girls. The class and the readings are in English; no familiarity with Japanese language or culture is required. [ more ]

ASIA 269 TUT Mindfulness Examined: Meditation, Emotion, and Affective Neuroscience

Last offered Fall 2023

This course asks students to practice and study mindfulness while observing their own minds, emotions, and behavior for an entire semester. We examine the historic roots and current applications of mindfulness, both as a Buddhist meditation practice as well as a secular tool to improve our awareness of awareness. Throughout, we are interested in the nexus of mind, brain, and emotions and the ways that mindfulness has been studied within contemplative and affective neuroscience, integrative neurobiology, and evolutionary psychology. How and why has the research on mindfulness and other meditative practices exploded since 2000? How has this research helped us understand and explain how our minds as well as brains shape everyday emotions and behaviors? We examine the ways evolutionary psychologists, clinical psychiatrists, neuroscientists, clinicians, and medical anthropologists have studied and applied mindfulness to better understand human emotions. We consider the applications of mindfulness for clinicians, therapists, and educators--all of whom attend to how emotions impact interpersonal relationships. We will train in a variety of meditation practices all semester, while learning to better appreciate our own minds, emotions, and relationships. [ more ]

ASIA 271 SEM Erotic, Grotesque, Sublime: Ghosts and Monsters in East Asian Religion and Popular Culture

Last offered Fall 2016

"Ghosts and monsters" (Chinese yaoguai, Japanese yokai, Korean yogoe) have long figured prominently in East Asian cultural history. In medieval East Asian chronicles, wrathful demons attacked the imperial palace, ghosts haunted abandoned temples, and shape-shifting foxes infiltrated the bedrooms of royal concubines. These creatures persisted into the modern era when nineteenth century tabloids reported the existence of demon-foxes, giant serpents, and vengeful spirits. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, monsters began crossing over into the realm of fiction, and Japanese, Chinese, and Korean popular novels and films continue to crawl with images of traditional dark beasts. The opening contention of this course is that ghosts and monsters signify deviancies from "the normal" as it is constructed in a given culture and time period--they often come to represent transgressions of nature, gender, sexuality, race, morality, or to subvert distinctions such as those between human and animal, man and woman, animate and inanimate, present and past, or living and dead. This course will analyze East Asian ghosts and monsters in their historical cultural context, thinking about how they come to embody particular cultural fears and desires. We will use a range of East Asian materials in translation--including folktales, medieval bestiaries, short stories, and films, alongside a heavy dose of theory including works by feminist scholars Julia Kristeva, Ilka Quindeau, Susan Sontag and various others who attempt to understand the monstrous and the uncanny. Students will undertake an extended research project on a ghost or monster of their choice and locate it in its broader cultural context. Doing so should put us in a position to explore central themes, such as the connection between the grotesque and the erotic, the cultural performance of gender, the social construction of illness, the trauma of memory, the commodification of the supernatural, and the boundaries of the human. [ more ]

ASIA 272 LEC Art of the Noble Path: Buddhist Material Culture Across Asia

Last offered Fall 2020

Buddhism has spread throughout Asia and beyond since its emergence in India in the 5th century BCE, providing a shared philosophical and cosmological framework for diverse cultures. Artistic expression, regional politics and cultural landscapes have been shaped by its remarkable influence. With patrons ranging from powerful monarchs and monks to merchants and tradespeople, Buddhist art has historically reflected the religion's social inclusivity. This course will survey the architecture, painting and material culture of Buddhism in Asia, tracing its influence in diverse media, from rock-cut architecture to Zen painting. A close reading of primary texts, such as architectural inscriptions in India, manuscripts from Tibet, and travelogues of Chinese pilgrims, will provide greater context for the artworks. [ more ]

ASIA 275(S) SEM Acting Out: Performativity, Production, and Politics in East Asian Theatres

"Asian Theaters," for those in the West, can conjure up a variety of exotic impressions: spectacle and cacophony, mysterious masks and acrobatic bodies, exquisite styles and strangely confusing conventions. Although Asian theaters have been studied systematically in the West for at least a century, the West has never truly left its "othering" look at them. Yet, what is "different" for the West is bedrock for Asian cultures. Theatre, one of the most important and dynamic forms of cultural production and communication, has actively involved all strata of Asian societies for a millennium. How to explain theatre's continued presence and relevance for Asian nations? What do the traditions of Kun, Kabuki, and P'ansori reveal about the cultures and communities in which they were created? This course seeks to understand from the Asian perspective, rather than "exoticize" and "other," musical and dance theatres from China, Japan, and Korea. Examining the evolving presentations of signature dramas dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, we will act out Asian theatres in the following ways: (1) by reading the original plays in translation in tandem with their contemporary and intercultural reproductions, we will explore how Asian theatres fare in the era of globalization within and beyond national borders; (2) by revealing the "technologies" of writing, reading, acting, and staging these plays in different cultural milieus, we will consider what kinds of language and rhetoric, forms of music and movement, as well as visual components are deployed to convey evolving messages; (3) by considering key performances held outside of the proscenium stage, we will gain exposure to alternative theatrical spaces in Asian and diasporic communities that reform performing conventions, reconfigure staging environments, and renegotiate cultural values. In this manner, we will together gain an appreciation for the aesthetic devices, thematic concerns, and production politics of East Asian theatres and their global reproductions. Class materials include drama, production videos, and invited zoom sessions with Asian theatre practitioners and directors who live in the U.S. and other diasporic communities. All materials are in English. No language prerequisite. Funded by the Global Initiatives Venture Fund, this course includes an all-expense-paid travel component, a cultural and academic exchange project titled "Redefining Amateurism: Experientail Learning with Student Theatre in Contemporary China," which will bring up to eight Williams students to Nanjing, China during the Spring Break (3/23-4/3/2025). Students will participate in workshops with playwrights and theater-makers in contemporary China and engage in black-box theater productions with students from Nanjing University and Shanghai Theatre Academy. This travel component is OPTIONAL for students taking this course. However, students enrolled in this class will receive priority consideration to be included in the free travel project. Selection criteria include active participation, excellent performance in the course, etc. [ more ]

ASIA 278(S) SEM Tantra

Tantra--a term shrouded in mystique and controversy--often finds itself fetishized in the Euro-American imagination, conjuring images of transgressive sex, illicit substances, antinomian violence, and the spiritualization of the erotic, the terrifying, and the sublime. This course aims to demystify Tantra and--by locating it in various political, economic, religious, aesthetic, and philosophical contexts--explore its rich, complex history and practices beyond the sensationalist stereotypes. First and foremost, we also devote significant attention to understanding Tantra's intricate connection to what is referred to as "Esoteric" Buddhism. Our exploration will also ask, what did Tantra look like in practice? How have tantric traditions related to Hindu, Buddhist, and Occult movements? What philosophical assumptions does Tantra rest on? What ethical issues does it evoke? How has Tantra been connected to transgressive notions of gender and desire? How has Tantra been related to the body? What were its connection to ideals of sovereignty? What has been the relationship between Tantra and magic? By tracing the evolution and adaptation of Tantra and Esoteric Buddhism across different cultures and time periods, this course takes a global historical approach, focusing on three key geographies: South Asia, where Tantra has deep roots and complex entanglements; medieval Japan, where Esoteric Buddhism developed unique forms and practices; and modern international Occult movements, where Tantra has been reimagined and integrated into new spiritual contexts. By critically engaging with primary and secondary sources, and by diving deeply into the philosophical and ethical dimensions of Tantra, this course will challenge students to engage critically with the foundational beliefs and moral dilemmas intrinsic to tantric practices in different cultural and historical contexts. We will scrutinize the philosophical underpinnings that sustain various tantric philosophical systems, including approaches to dualism, the nature of reality and embodiment, the function of language, and the pursuit of enlightenment. Ethical considerations are paramount, as we explore how tantric traditions have navigated the boundaries of societal norms through transgressive practices, raising questions about consent, power dynamics, and the redefinition of purity and impurity. The course will also examine radical tantric notions of gender and desire, challenges to conventional morality, and their potential to subvert established hierarchies and notions of sovereignty. Lastly, we will continuously strive to subvert simplistic ideas of authenticity. [ more ]

ASIA 279 SEM Islam on the Indian Ocean

Last offered Spring 2024

While colonial and Eurocentric geographies speak in terms of continental separation, historically the continents of Africa and Asia have been connected to one another through a dual link: Islam and the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean trade and travel have historically connected East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, and South East Asia, shaping the lives of people and communities who lived not only along the coasts but also inland. This course focuses on these transregional connections, looking at the Indian ocean as a connective space that binds people and regions together rather than separating them. The course will also examine the role of Islam as a religious, economic, social and political force that brought together Muslim communities throughout the regions along the Indian ocean. In exploring these connections, the course will cover a broad historical period, from the 7th century with the rise of Islam to European colonialism and the emergence of a global economy in the nineteenth century. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ASIA 291 TUT Red Chamber Dreams: Reading China's Greatest Novel

Last offered Fall 2023

Since it first began to circulate in manuscript in the mid-eighteenth century, Cao Xueqin's novel Story of the Stone (Shitou ji), also called Dream of the Red Chamber (Honglou meng), has captured the imaginations of readers young and old with its sprawling story of the coming-of-age of members of a wealthy family on the cusp of ruin. As critically acclaimed as it is beloved, Story of the Stone is widely regarded as China's greatest novel due to the intricacy of its narrative, the complexity of its characters, and the sophistication with which it deals with themes as varied as romance, enlightenment, sexuality and gender identity, and the construction of public and private spaces. The focus of this tutorial will be reading the 120-chapter novel. Students will have the option to read either in Chinese or English (though papers and class discussion will be in English). We will also read scholarly literature to learn about some of the major critical approaches to the novel, and about its enduring importance in the Chinese literary tradition. [ more ]

ASIA 297(F) LEC Intermediate Korean

Intermediate level in developing linguistic abilities and fundamental reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Students will be able to carry on more sophisticated conversations; use the language to manage logistics of everyday life; and demonstrate more complicated grammatical structures in speaking and writing. Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. [ more ]

ASIA 298(S) LEC Intermediate Korean

Continuation of intermediate skills in speaking and writing. Interested students must complete an application through the Self-Instructional Languages Program and have it approved before registering for this course. This is a hyphenated course and requires a full-year of study in order to receive credit. More information can be found on the Self-Instructional Languages site. [ more ]

ASIA 310 LEC Everyday Modernity in Japan

Last offered Spring 2023

This course asks one overarching question: What is everyday life like in modern Japan? There, one often hears the words "modern" contrasted with "traditional." When talking about Japan itself, the former is usually coded as "western," and the latter as "Japanese." Many Japanese politicians and cultural authorities, with the help of Orientalist westerners, are happy to highlight this distinction to promote notions of Japanese uniqueness. However, though modernization in Japan did usher in tremendous, often traumatic changes, not every aspect of "modern" Japanese life came from the west, and not all western imports were/are unwelcome. Moreover, many cultural imports, such as concrete buildings and the consumption of red meat, are now interwoven into the fabric of daily life in Japan. This course examines the complex history of modernity in Japan within living memory, highlighting on its presence in the daily lives of ordinary residents of Japan. What do people eat? Where do they live? How do they think about themselves and their neighbors? We will start with the Pacific War (1937-45), but focus especially closely on postwar and contemporary Japan. We will first get a sense of the chronology and major themes in Japanese history from this time period, then explore five units, "sites of modernity" that zoom in on different but interrelated aspects of ordinary Japanese life: 1) Total War, 2) The City, 3) Work, 4) Food, 5) Race and Ethnicity. Sources and data will be drawn from scholarly works, videos, movies, websites, maps, brochures and ephemera, as well as other sources. Students will analyze these sources, discuss them and complete various assignments. [ more ]

ASIA 311 SEM Women and Art in East Asia

Last offered Spring 2022

For over a thousand years, women in East Asia profoundly influenced the development of the visual arts, yet their formidable presence remains largely hidden. This seminar explores the critical roles women played as patrons, artists, and collectors of the arts in China, Korea, and Japan. We cover historical periods from the 10th century to the present day and discuss both traditional and nontraditional media including painting, sculpture, photography, and embroidery. Topics include didactic paintings for women in the Song court, calligraphy and painting as gendered modes of expression in Heian period Japan, the revival of Buddhist arts in Korea under the patronage of aristocratic women, and artworks by modern and contemporary artists that contest dominant representations of gender and sexuality. The course does not simply focus on artistic production, but also contextualizes these topics in light of emergent theorizations and readings on femininity, feminism, and the sexual politics of representation. Along with a final research paper, students will generate a substantial Wikipedia entry on a certain aspect of the course to promote the coverage of women and the arts online. No prior knowledge of Asian art history is required or assumed [ more ]

ASIA 312 SEM The Mughal Empire: Power, Art, and Religion in India

Last offered Spring 2024

Established in the early 1500s, the Mughal Empire was one of the grandest and the longest to rule the Indian subcontinent for over three hundred years. Commanding unprecedented resources and administering a population of 100 to 150 million at its zenith--much larger than any European empire in the early modern world--the Mughals established a centralized administration, with a vast complex of personnel, money, and information networks. Mughal emperors were also political and cultural innovators of global repute. Moreover, while the Mughal dynasty was brought to an end with British colonial rule over India in 1857, the Mughal administrative structures and cultural influences continued to have a lasting impact on the British and later Indian states that followed. Centered around the intersection of the themes of power, patronage of art and architecture and religion, this course will ask: What factors contributed to the durability of the Mughal Empire for three centuries? How did global trade and innovations in taxation contribute to its wealth and stability? How did this dynasty of Muslim monarchs rule over diverse, and largely non-Muslim populations? How did they combine Persian cultural elements with regional ones to establish an empire that was truly Indian in nature? How were the Mughals viewed in their contemporary world of gunpowder empires like the Safavids of Persia and the Ottomans of Turkey? Readings will include the best of the recent scholarship on this vastly influential empire and a rich collection of primary sources, including emperor's memoirs, accounts of European travelers, and racy biographies, which will allow students make their own analysis. They will also have the opportunity to interpret paintings (some of which are held in the WCMA collections) and architecture. They will also discuss how the Mughals are remembered in South Asian film and music. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ASIA 313 SEM The People's Republic: China since 1949

Last offered Fall 2022

This course provides a close examination of the six decades of the history of the People's Republic of China, from the 1949 Revolution to the present day. Through readings and discussion, we will explore the multiple political, economic, social, and cultural factors that contributed to the idealism of the "golden age" of Communist Party leadership (1949-65), the political violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the profound transformation of the Reform Era (1978-present) as well as the motors of change in China today. Course materials will include films, novels, and ethnographies, as well as secondary analyses. Please note that this is a discussion seminar and not a survey course. [ more ]

ASIA 314 SEM Emperors of Heaven and Earth: Mughal Power and Art in India, 1525-1707

Last offered Fall 2019

The Mughal dynasty ruled over most of northern India from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The Mughal Empire was the grandest and longest to rule the Indian subcontinent--much larger than any European empire in the early modern world--and it continued to have a lasting impact on South Asia. Mughals established a centralized administration with a vast complex of personnel, money and information networks. Styling themselves as 'Emperors of Heaven and Earth', the Mughal kings were also globally viewed as political innovators and unprecedented patrons of art. Their visual practices were as much a part of their imperial ideologies as their administrative and military measures. This co-taught course combines the disciplines of Art History and History to explore the intricate workings of Mughal politics and ideologies. The first of its kind to bring an interdisciplinary approach to teaching South Asia at Williams, the course asks: How did the Mughals sustain their empire for three centuries? How did they use art and politics to rule over diverse and largely non-Muslim populations? How did these Muslim imperial patrons merge Persian and Central Asian cultural values with preexisting Indian forms of administrative and artistic expression? How does Mughal culture continue to shape the South Asian imagination today? Readings will include a variety of visual and literary texts. We will delve deep into the world of biographies, travel accounts, poetry, architecture and a plethora of artworks. Students will take a hands-on approach to Mughal painting through several visits to the WCMA and a dedicated Object Lab. The primary aim of this co-taught course is to introduce students to a multifaceted picture of one of the greatest empires in pre-colonial world history. Another goal is to familiarize them with a wide range of visual and written primary sources and develop a vocabulary for 'reading' these. [ more ]

ASIA 315(F) LEC Minorities and the State in Modern East Asia

This course examines the relationships between minority peoples and the institution of the state in East Asia, focusing mostly but not exclusively on the early modern and modern periods (17th-20th centuries). We will explore the histories of the Ainu people of Japan, the "Small Peoples" of Russian Siberia, the Tibetan, Uighur and riverine communities of Mainland China, as well as the Hill Peoples of Southeast Asia. It also examines non-indigenous minority groups, such as conquest elites, mixed-race communities, and others. We will analyze how the transition to modernity, evolving understandings of race, gender, class, nation, the impact of imperialism and globalization all influenced the history of East Asian minority peoples. What, if anything, do all of these groups have in common? What do their histories reveal about the history of East Asia and of the countries in which they live? How are the lives of minority groups in East Asia changing today? What can their experiences reveal to us about the larger world? The class is structured as a reading-intensive seminar. Students will engage in and lead discussions, compose reading reaction papers and a final analytical essay. Students will be expected to use scholarly works in order to construct cogent, relevant arguments, which they will communicate both orally and in writing. Students will evaluate primary sources in order to engage with the people they study as directly as possible. Students will lead discussions on complex topics and develop as leaders and team members in professional settings. This course will present students with an opportunity to hone critical thinking and information literacy skills to a high level. All of you will have to analyze and process complex and often contradictory information, certainly in your personal lives and very likely in your professional lives. [ more ]

ASIA 318(S) LEC A History of the Samurai

It is difficult to find a person unaware of the samurai. However, most people, both in Japan and abroad, engage with their idealized images rather than as an actual historical phenomenon. The aim of this course is to bring the samurai to life as a distinct status group that left an indelible mark on the history of Japan, and thereby to separate fact from fiction. We will also explore the creation of iconic images of the samurai, which continue to influence worldwide popular culture. We will use academic readings, primary sources, and other media to examine the samurai from their origins during the Heian period (8th to 12th centuries) to their official dissolution in the late 19th century. We will focus on their development as a special status group and explore how they managed to maintain their corporate identity for so long. We will trace the evolution of the samurai from rural enforcers to territorial magnates to bureaucrats. This evolution affected and was affected by the development of samurai warfare, ethics, aesthetics, religious practices, ideas relating to gender roles and other aspects of samurai life, which we will explore. We will see how these ideas and practices mediated their relations with household, society, and government. Finally, we will examine why samurai status was abolished at the start of the Meiji period, and how former samurai transformed into modern citizens. Students will engage in discussion, write essays, and complete immersive historical simulation assignments. [ more ]

ASIA 319 SEM Gender and the Family in Chinese History

Last offered Fall 2023

Although sometimes claimed as part of a set of immutable "Asian values," the Chinese family has not remained fixed or stable over time. In this course, we will use the framework of "family" to gain insight into gender, generation, and sexuality in different historical periods. Beginning in the late imperial period (16th-18th Centuries), we will examine the religious, marital, sexual, and child-rearing practices associated with traditional ideals of family. We will also examine the wide variety of "heterodox" practices that existed alongside these ideals, debates over and critiques of gender, family, and sexuality in the twentieth century and in China today. [ more ]

ASIA 320 SEM Emotions in Modern Japanese History

Last offered Spring 2021

Emotions have been integral to the human experience--to relationships between people, political decision making, economic behavior, individual and communal identities, international affairs, and national projects. This course will consider a full range of emotions including fear, insecurity, pride, anxiety, desire, anger, and happiness. And it will examine these emotions as both actors in history and subjects of historical inquiry. We will ask how emotions have reflected and shaped the making of modern Japan. What role have emotions played in steering the course of Japanese history, from the modernizing revolutions of the late 1800s, imperialism, colonialism, and war, to the navigation of both affluence and economic insecurity in the postwar era? How have emotions been talked about and represented in modern Japan? We will also discuss different ways of researching and writing a history of emotions. [ more ]

ASIA 321 SEM A Global History of Manga and Anime

Last offered Spring 2024

Japanese comic books and cartoons are known throughout the world by their Japanese names: "manga" and "anime." This is no accident, but a reflection of their enormous global popularity. Why are they so popular? How can we use them as historical sources for Japanese history and society? What do they reveal about the place of Japan in today's global culture? How did these two phenomena emerge and develop, and how do they influence each other? This class will explore these and other related questions through readings, screenings, discussion, and original research. It will trace the evolution of manga and anime from traditional Japanese (kibyoshi, ukyo-e and kawaraban) and western (comic strips and Disney films) influences, and the explosion of their popularity after World War II. We will use manga and anime, especially "girls'" (shojo) anime and manga as windows onto the intersection of Japanese and global society, economy and politics. [ more ]

ASIA 324 TUT Japanese Art and Visual Culture: Private/Public/Pop

Last offered Fall 2022

This tutorial offers a survey of Japanese art and visual culture across time and media, with particular attention to two areas: the links between different artistic media, and the relationship between art and its audience. We'll begin with early court diaries and related scroll paintings as examples of "private" art. Then we'll move through progressively more public visual media of the 17th through 21st centuries: Kanô screen painting; nô, kabuki, and puppet theater; premodern architecture; popular woodblock prints; turn-of-the-century photography; and finally some examples of contemporary popular culture like comics, animation, and/or film. We will focus on the specificities of each medium while simultaneously developing formal visual reading skills that can work across different media. [ more ]

ASIA 325(S) SEM The Arts of the Book in Asia

From palm leaf manuscripts to scrolls to Islamic codices, books have long served as vehicles of religious, cultural and artistic exchange in Asia. Owing both to their portability and status as finely crafted art objects, books have transmitted ideas across the continent, spreading courtly styles of painting from China to India, esoteric Buddhist teachings from Kashmir to Tibet and Mongolia, as well as the Quranic arts of calligraphy and illumination from Islamic South Asia to Southeast Asia. This co-taught seminar will highlight the interwoven history of book arts as it developed and disseminated across different regions of Asia. The course will also introduce students to the major art forms of the book, such as painting, calligraphy and illumination. The aim of the seminar is to understand the book as object while also investigating its content and its larger cultural significance. A number of class meetings will take place in the Chapin Library, where students will have the opportunity to study original manuscripts from the Special Collections. The course will culminate in an exhibition at Chapin Library which the students will curate using the Special Collections holdings. [ more ]

ASIA 337 SEM Zen and Philosophy: The Kyoto School and its Legacy in Japanese Thought

Last offered Spring 2015

Popularly regarded as the most important philosophical movement in modern Japanese history, the Kyoto School creatively marshaled the resources of Buddhism to address the impasses of Western philosophy to startling effect. Although the members of the Kyoto School were not all of one mind, their shared aims were ambitious: to bridge the dualism between subject and object, to overcome nihilism, to explore the implications of absolute nothingness, and to surmount what they saw as the chasm between Japanese and European thought. After providing some brief background in Japanese Buddhism, we will read the writings of the core thinkers of the Kyoto School: Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime, Nishitani Keiji, and some of their later protégés. Thematically, we will explore issues in ethics, epistemology, phenomenology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion; and demonstrate the continued relevance of their insights in these areas. Finally, we will reflect on the group's engagement with Japanese nationalism. All readings will be in translation. [ more ]

ASIA 341 SEM Caste, Race, Hierarchy

Last offered Spring 2017

Caste in India looms large in global social thought as a kind of benchmark against which hierarchical social systems across the world are measured. This prominence has much to do with British colonial ideologies of rule, but it also has a deeper and different history: the Buddha compared caste to Greek slavery, early modern Jesuits related it to the system of European estates, and since the nineteenth century, anti-caste radicals from Dalit, or "untouchable," backgrounds have drawn a sustained comparison between the forms of oppression they face and those with which African Americans contend in the United States. Reciprocally, thinkers from W.E.B. DuBois to Toni Morrison have deployed the category of caste in their writings on race. What can the study of caste in postcolonial South Asia contribute to global debates over the persistence of "traditional" forms of social hierarchy? What are the stakes of bringing caste and race into the same conversation, and what are the implications of refusing to do so? In this seminar we will acquire a thorough grounding in the anthropological literature on caste and then investigate the politics of the caste-race comparison over the last hundred years. Assignments include weekly postings of 1-page critical response papers and either a research paper or an interview-based, ethnographic final project examining "caste" in one's own community. [ more ]

ASIA 342 TUT Monuments and Miniatures: Architecture and Painting in India

Last offered Spring 2020

This tutorial is designed to provide an in-depth comparative study of two of the most important cultural expressions in the history of the Indian Subcontinent: Architecture and Painting. From sprawling pleasure gardens and palaces to iconic tomb complexes and temples, the built environment has served various cultural, religious and communal functions in India. Intimate in scale, and made primarily for an elite audience, miniature painting has also performed a key role in preserving and transmitting cultural values over time and space. Despite obvious differences in scale and scope, architectural monuments and miniature paintings produced for manuscripts and albums reflect similar creative impulses. They are also often linked through their relationship to text, and can be interpreted through contemporaneous literature. In the tutorial, students will be asked to make careful analyses of the iconography, symbolism and historical frameworks of monumental architecture and miniature painting in India. Original literature in translation and recent scholarly essays will help provide the framework for considering the artworks from the perspective of their patrons, creators and audiences. We will also consider the shifting roles and meanings of these artworks through the ages. For example, what was the original symbolism of the Taj Mahal, and how has it become a highly contested, political space in contemporary India? How did grand picture albums from the seventeenth century, made for some of the most powerful emperors in global history, function as tools for political self-fashioning? And what do their modern reception as part of Western museum collections tell us about the transformation of India during the British colonial period? [ more ]

ASIA 345 SEM The Meaning of Life and Politics in Ancient Chinese Thought

Last offered Fall 2023

How can we live a good life? What standards should we use to judge how political power is constituted and used? This class will involve students in close reading of, and exegetical writing about, core texts of ancient Chinese philosophy in English translation. The purpose is to gain an understanding of a number of different perspectives on life and politics, especially Confucianism, Legalism and Daoism. While the primary focus will be on the meaning of the texts in the context of their own times, contemporary applications of core concepts will also be considered. The class will begin with background readings, since no prior work in Chinese philosophy or history is assumed. Then the class will read significant portions of the following canonical works: Yijing, Analects, Mencius, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, and Han Feizi. [ more ]

ASIA 346 SEM Islam and Anthropology

Last offered Spring 2016

If anthropology has helped to define Islam in global thought, Islam has returned the favor, holding a critical mirror to the anthropological endeavor perhaps more than any other traditional "object" of study. This course examines anthropological studies of Islamic societies for what they teach us both about Islam and about anthropology. We begin with foundational social theorists whose studies of religious phenomena helped give rise to the field of anthropology of religion. We then survey influential efforts to construct "ideal-type" models of Muslim society based on anthropological and historical knowledge, alongside efforts to critique, historicize, and redirect the model-building project (notably by Talal Asad and Edward Said). The second half of the course is devoted to ethnographies that explore, from a variety of perspectives and in several regions (Morocco, India, Egypt, Syria), questions of human agency, hierarchy and resistance, and Islam as discursive resource, ethical project, and embodied community. [ more ]

ASIA 347 SEM Tribe and State on the Afghan-Pakistan Border

Last offered Fall 2011

One of the major challenges President Obama will face in his first term in office involves the perilous situation on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the problems in the region are generally framed in relation to Islamic extremism, the more fundamental issue is the failure of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to exercise control over the tribes that occupy the mountainous frontier. This course will look first at the history of the Afghan and Pakistani states and of the Pushtun and Baluchi tribes that are part of, yet independent from the states that surround them. We will go on to consider the role of Islam as a political force in the region, with particular emphasis on the ways in which outside religious groups, most recently al-Qaeda, have managed to gain a foothold in the borderlands, despite the historic resistance of the tribes to outsiders of any kind. The course will also examine the efforts of, first, the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, more recently, the United States and its allies to control the borderlands, and we will conclude with a consideration of the geopolitical implications if Afghanistan and Pakistan prove in the end to be "failed states." Readings will include theoretical discussions of tribe/state relations, British and Soviet era accounts of the frontier (non-fiction and fiction), ethnographies of tribal societies, and contemporary studies. [ more ]

ASIA 351(S) TUT Disinterest in the Bhagavad Gita

In this course, students will read the Bhagavad Gita alongside selected responses to it. These responses range from philosophical and theological commentaries written in Sanskrit by Shankaracharya, Abhinavagupta, and Ramanuja, to later "Bhakti" poetic responses in other Indian languages, to 18th and 19th century European aesthetic and political commentary (Herder, Schlegel, Hegel), to the work of 20th century commentators like M.K. Gandhi, B.G. Tilak, B.R. Ambedkar and D.D. Kosambi. We will examine the Gita's theory of action and the place of disinterest in this theory. We will inquire into the social, metaphysical, and political conditions of possibility of such disinterestedness, and think about disinterestedness itself as a condition for political action and aesthetic experience. Finally, we will reflect on how such a comparative history of interpretation might help us model a dialectical history of thought. [ more ]

ASIA 352 SEM Global Health in the Transpacific

Last offered Spring 2022

East is East, and West is West, Rudyard Kipling famously wrote in 1889, but never has this been true. Just as war, imperialism, and transnational flows of capital move people, cultures, and ideas across the Pacific, similar patterns of migration and mobility shape the transmission of illness and disease as well. This course explores global health and disease control as sites of domination and resistance in the Pacific Rim. Articulating the linkages between Asia/America, we will look at the racialization of people and pestilence during the third plague pandemic in Hong Kong and San Francisco, malaria control projects in colonial Southeast Asia, and the rise of modern genomics out of the ashes of Hiroshima and concern over radiation risk, and other cases, to understand how disregard for Asian bodies has shaped the development of modern medicine and public health. At the same time, Indonesia's claim of "viral sovereignty" to protect their biological specimens from Western intellectual property regimes and Hmong refugees' resistance to biomedical intervention in their struggles with mental illness offer counterpoints to Western hegemony. This course provides a critical examination of biosecurity as modern geopolitical struggle and puts Asia-Pacific and the Pacific Rim at the center of our exploration of global health. [ more ]

ASIA 353(F) SEM Separation: An Introduction to Postcolonial Literature

Few themes in the history of human societies have produced as much writing as that of separation--from a lover, from one's homeland, from God(s). In the past two centuries, this theme has been essential to representing experiences of exile and migration in the wake of the colonially mediated transition to world capitalism. In this course, we will take up the theme of separation as a privileged point of entry into postcolonial literature and towards understanding the multiple meanings of "postcoloniality." We will encounter examples in which this theme shapes critical thought and helps imagine new modes of existence, as well as those in which the grief of separation shades into such overpowering melancholy that writing becomes impossible. We will also look at what the preoccupation with separation can tell us about the ways human beings relate to human and non-human objects, and how they make and experience history. To think through these issues, we will read nineteenth and twentieth century works dealing with experiences of love, ecstasy, migrancy, and exile, composed in diverse geographical, socio-political, and linguistic contexts. We will read works (novels, poems, memoirs, essays) and watch films from South Asia, Egypt, the Caribbeans, the US, and Europe, composed in multiple languages (English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, French, Arabic, Bengali and Malyalam). [ more ]

ASIA 354 LEC Nationalism in East Asia

Last offered Fall 2022

Nationalism is a major political issue in contemporary East Asia. From anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, to tensions on the Korea peninsula, to competitive elections in Taiwan, to controversies in Japan about how history is portrayed in high school textbooks, national identity is hotly debated and politically mobilized all across the region. This course begins with an examination of the general phenomena of nationalism and national identity and their historical development in East Asia. It then considers how nationalism is manifest in the contemporary politics and foreign relations of China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Taiwan. [ more ]

ASIA 356 SEM Democratization in India and Pakistan

Last offered Spring 2024

Democratization has had both successes and failures in postcolonial South Asia. The region is home to the world's largest democracy in India, often cited as an unlikely and puzzling success story. At the same time, periods of democratic rule in Pakistan and Bangladesh are broken up by military interference, Sri Lanka's democracy is plagued by ethnic conflict, and Afghanistan has been unable to sustain democracy due to weak state institutions. What explains this diverse and uneven pattern of democracy in South Asia? The course delves into theories on political parties, ethnic politics, electoral institutions, civil-military relations, political violence, state-building, inter-state conflict, and civil wars to understand the variation in regime type in the region. It covers domestic and international factors that lead to democratization and democratic backsliding. We will focus on the role of political parties in democratization; the emergence of political dynasties; changes in the characteristics of the political elite; investigate claims of democratic deepening; and examine the effect of inter-state wars, land disputes, and insurgencies on democratic stability in the region. [ more ]

ASIA 389 SEM The Vietnam Wars

Last offered Spring 2021

This course explores Vietnam's twentieth century wars, including an anti-colonial war against France (1946-1954), a massive Cold War conflict involving the United States (1965-1973), and postcolonial confrontations with China and Cambodia in the late-1970s. Course materials will focus primarily on Vietnam's domestic politics and its relations with other countries. Lectures, readings, films, and discussions will explore the process by which Vietnam's anti-colonial struggle became one of the central conflicts of the Cold War, and examine the ramifications of that fact for all parties involved. The impact of these wars can hardly be overstated, as they affected the trajectory of French decolonization, altered America's domestic politics and foreign policy, invigorated anti-colonial movements across the Third World, and left Vietnam isolated in the international community. Students will read a number of scholarly texts, primary sources, memoirs, and novels to explore everything from high-level international diplomacy to personal experiences of conflict and dramatic social change wrought by decolonization and decades of warfare. [ more ]

ASIA 391 SEM When India was the World: Trade, Travel and History in the Indian Ocean

Last offered Spring 2021

What do Ibrahim Ben Yiju, a Jewish merchant from 11th century Yemen, Ibn Batutah, a Muslim scholar from 15th century Morocco and Captain Kidd, a 17th century English pirate have in common? All three men travelled and lived in the Indian Ocean region! This course explores the history of one of the world's oldest maritime highways that has connected the diverse cultures of Asia, Africa and Europe for millennia, thus making it a vital element in the birth of globalization. Moving away from conventional land-centric histories, we will focus instead on understanding the human past through oceanic interactions. South Asian ports and port cities remained the fulcrum of the Indian Ocean world throughout its history; traders, travellers, nobles, scholars, pilgrims and pirates from all over the world travelled to the Indian coast in search of adventure, spices, knowledge and wealth. Thus we will primarily focus on India's role in the Indian Ocean roughly from the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE through the expansion of various European communities in the region and the subsequent rise of the global economy and colonialism in the nineteenth century. Rather than following a strict temporal chronology we will concentrate on themes such as travel and adventure; trade and exchange; trust and friendship; religion and society; pilgrimage; piracy; the culture of port cities; and food across time. [ more ]

ASIA 411 SEM Han Dynasty Art in the Ancient World

Last offered Spring 2024

Although the Han Empire (206 BCE-220 CE) is credited for defining the "Han ethnic identity" or the so-called "Chinese-ness" as we know it today, its culture was also richly cosmopolitan, marked by constant interaction with the outside world. This course considers Han dynasty art from a transregional perspective by examining artworks that attest to rigorous artistic exchanges with foreign cultures, ranging from the luxury items imported from the Hellenistic, the Central Asian, and the Steppe cultures and their domestic adaptations, to the exported Han artworks excavated in the South East and the East Asian regions. These objects illustrate the Han Empire's growing awareness of its neighboring states and the ambition to visually assert itself as a powerful and open "universal empire." Students will learn about important artistic trends during one of the most international periods in ancient China, while gaining a materially-based vision of a globalizing ancient world bound closer than ever by the rise of the "Silk Roads" and maritime trade. The course is divided into five main sections following the logic of space. Beginning with the Han Empire (the "Center"), the seminar covers key themes in the development of Han art over four centuries. Assuming the viewpoint of the Han Empire, the course then examines the artistic exchanges with civilizations in the West (the Mediterranean and the Central Asian cultures) and moves clockwise to the North (the Steppe cultures), the East (Korea and Japan), and finally the South (maritime trade with South East Asian states). This arrangement of the syllabus is designed to help the students grasp and internalize the dynamic cultural contacts in a more embodied manner, while providing a working version of a spatial "grid" for navigating the students in their own exploration of the history of art in the ancient global world. [ more ]

ASIA 412 TUT Gandhi: History, Ideas and Legacy

Last offered Fall 2020

This course studies the life, work, and ideas of M.K. Gandhi (1869-1948), one of the most influential thinkers of the non-western world. Gandhi is well known today for his philosophy of non-violent resistance and its application in India's freedom struggle as well as his influence on the work of leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Hailed as the 'father of the Indian nation', however, Gandhi is not only known for his political ideas but also for his deep engagement with aspect of everyday human behavior and morality: truth, vegetarianism, sex and celibacy, to name just a few of his obsessions which contributed to making his broader philosophy. It is this commitment to a morally pure life that earned him the title of 'Mahatma' or Great Soul in India. This tutorial will focus on three key aspects of Gandhi: his ideas of peaceful protest as means of social and political change, his contemplations on moral philosophy, and on his legacy in modern India and the world. Students will read a combination of Gandhi's own writings as well as journal articles, monographs and films. The course will probe questions such as: What was the context and nature of Gandhian nationalism? Did it help to integrate the Indian nation? Was Gandhi truly a Great Soul, a saint or a shrewd politician? In what ways is Gandhi received and remembered by the Indian nation today? How does understanding a figure like Gandhi facilitate our understanding of modern nationalism, citizenship and political action? [ more ]

ASIA 414 SEM Merchant Cultures and Capitalist Classes in China and India

Last offered Spring 2015

As the expression "Chindia" in the title of a recent book suggests, contemporary commentators find it difficult to resist conflating the rise of China and India as economic powers in the early 21st century. There are, however, both significant parallels between the two national histories and important distinctions that shape their contemporary viewpoints and futures. This seminar will examine various historical dimensions of entrepreneurial activity in China and India from the early modern period through the twentieth century. It will focus on topics such as indigenous forms of merchant organization, the impact of nineteenth-century imperialism, the adoption of Western business forms and methods, and the relationship of entrepreneurial elites to the modern state. [ more ]

ASIA 415(S) SEM The Shosoin Imperial Treasury

Constructed in the eighth century to house artifacts associated with Emperor Shomu (reigned 724-749) and Empress Komyo (701-760), the Shosoin Imperial Treasury in Nara, Japan, preserves some of the finest examples of art objects produced across different cultural regions along the Silk Road, spanning Central Asia to Japan, from the sixth through the eighth century. Focusing on a selection of artworks, including painting, calligraphy, textiles, lacquerware, ceramics, glass, and metalwork, among others, this seminar examines issues of cross-cultural transmission of objects, artistic techniques, and cultural knowledge in the global medieval world, while also exploring the manners in which these artifacts visually and materially shaped kingship in eighth-century Japan and East Asia. Special attention is also paid to how recent relevant discoveries in archaeology and conservation science could contribute to art historical discourses. [ more ]

ASIA 416 SEM The Many Lives of Tokyo

Last offered Fall 2021

The city of Tokyo has had many lives from its early modern founding as the shogun's capital of Edo to its contemporary incarnation as a global megacity. This seminar explores how and why the city has changed--how an unassuming fishing village was transformed over four centuries into a vibrant early modern city of over a million people, the heart of a modern nation and metropole of an expansive empire, an emblem of urban cosmopolitanism, and a sprawling metropolis. Our focus will be on how people have lived, conceived, and shaped Edo/Tokyo. We will consider how different and various people have moved through the city; where and how they have lived, worked, and enjoyed themselves; how they have interacted with the natural and built environments; and how they have expressed their discontents with, and aspirations for, the city. Topics to be examined include: physical expansion, urbanization, and suburbanization; destruction and reconstruction from fires, earthquakes, and war; cultivation of opportunities to consume; and creation of urban popular cultures. The centerpiece of the seminar is the research and writing of a substantial and original paper that delves into a question of interest to you about the history of Tokyo. [ more ]

ASIA 417 SEM The Treaty System and Treaty Ports of China, 1840-1945

Last offered Fall 2023

China in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not colonized by a single Western power; instead several Western powers (and later Japan) exercised domination over China through a system of "unequal treaties" that granted them special privileges within Chinese territory. The years (1842-1943) in which these treaties were in effect is often called "The Century of Humiliation" by contemporary Chinese nationalists: a period of weakness that the rising Chinese nation still strives to overcome. The system imposed by these nineteenth century treaties, however, was a complex amalgam of legal, commercial, and residence privileges for foreigners in China that played a significant role in shaping the modern nation. One the most recognizable features of this system was the treaty port--an urban center designated as open to foreign residence, trade, and shipping. Extending from an initial five open ports to nearly fifty by the turn of the century, these ports became commercial and industrial centers that connected China to the global economy and created novel spaces of culture, labor, society, and politics. In this research seminar, we will use of several recent online collections of English-language primary source material to investigate the role of the treaty system and the treaty ports in modern Chinese history. The seminar will begin with an exploration of the historiography of the treaty system and "foreign presence" and culminate in an original research paper on a related topic of each student's choice. Throughout, we will work on general and specific research methods. [ more ]

ASIA 421(F) SEM Chinese Societies through the lens of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the world. How did the Chinese-speaking regions in Asia, including Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore, respond to the pandemic during its earlier years? How did their responses reflect the political and economic systems as well as the cultural values of Asian societies? What were the effects of these responses on the regions and people's daily lives? In this course, students will gain a deeper understanding of Chinese-speaking societies through an analysis of the "public" and "private" literature pertaining to the lived experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through readings and discussions of various materials such as government records, scientific publications, journalistic writings, personal diaries, and online narratives, students will explore a wide range of issues related to the politics, economy, public health, and sociocultural issues of Asian societies. Simultaneously, Chinese language learners will further enhance their language proficiency and intercultural competency by engaging in complex discourse in the target language. All readings and discussions are in Chinese. [ more ]

ASIA 425(S) SEM Becoming Taiwan: Social, Cultural, and Economic Discourses of Modern Day Taiwan

Nestled in East Asia, Taiwan stands as a dynamic island home to a populace of 23 million. From 1949, when the Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War, to becoming one of the Four Asian Tigers in the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan has developed into a multifaceted society through an array of social/cultural/economic changes associated with industrialization, globalization and identity formation. Throughout this course, we will delve into pivotal moments that have shaped contemporary Taiwanese society, drawing insights from literary works, films, journalistic exposés, and academic discourse. Through group discussions and individual projects, students will not only acquire specialized vocabulary but also hone their ability to dissect and debate complex ideas in Mandarin pertaining to the aforementioned themes. Crafted in a semi-tutorial format, this course aims to cultivate linguistic proficiency ranging from Advanced Low to Advanced Mid as outlined by the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. To enrich the learning experience, language partnerships will be forged in collaboration with a graduate program in Chinese pedagogy based in Taiwan, offering further opportunities for in-depth engagement with course materials. [ more ]

ASIA 470 The Indian Economy: Development and Social Justice

Last offered NA

The Indian economy has (usually) grown rapidly in the last three decades, but poverty has declined relatively slowly, malnutrition remains high, and the sex ratio remains heavily biased against women. Is this the persistence of long-standing historical disadvantages such as those faced by Scheduled Castes and Tribes? Does this reflect failures in policy, in areas such as trade, credit, or labor law? Or is the quality of governance primarily to blame? We will use the theoretical and quantitative methods of an economist to consider these questions. [ more ]

ASIA 481(F) TUT History of Taiwan

Almost all discussions of contemporary Taiwan reference the fierce debate over its sovereignty and international status: is the island of Taiwan an independent nation, or an "inalienable part" of the much larger and more powerful People's Republic of China? Part of the argument for Taiwan's separate nationhood derives from its claim to a unique history different from that of the P.R.C.. In this tutorial course, we will look closely at the distinctive aspects of Taiwan's history that underlie this claim, including its aboriginal populations, maritime history, experience of Japanese colonialism, settlement by mainland Chinese after World War II, role in the Cold War, and the development of a Taiwanese ethnic and political identity in the postwar period. We will also examine contemporary arguments for Taiwan as part of China. The goal of the course is neither to debate nor resolve the "Taiwan question", but to explore the history and historical arguments that inform it. [ more ]

ASIA 493(F) HON Senior Thesis: Asian Studies

For students pursuing an Asian Studies senior thesis. [ more ]

ASIA 494(S) HON Senior Thesis: Asian Studies

For students pursuing an Asian Studies senior thesis. [ more ]