AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 256

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Session 256: New Voices in Asian Studies: Selected Graduate Student Papers from AAS Regional Conferences - Sponsored by the Council of Conferences

Organizer: Patricia Welch, Hofstra University, USA

The papers in this panel were written by current or recent graduate students in Asian Studies. They were nominated by representatives of the AAS Regional Conferences in 2009-2010. This COC-designated panel is intended to encourage participation of the next generation of Asian scholars in regional and national conferences. The current panel—the third COC-designated panel--includes four presenters who come from four different disciplines (history, visual and cultural studies, literature, and political science. Emily Price examines agricultural extension services during the occupation of Japan to determine how they were implemented and their effect on the lives of rural Japanese women. Kyoung-Lae Kang discusses the last Korean silent film (Public Prosecutor and Teacher, 1948), which was released 13 years after Korea’s first “talkie.” Kang demonstrates that the success of this anachronistic silent film reveals cultural tensions related to Korean modern subjectivity. Through the melodramatic diegesis and the byunsa’s (narrator) narration, spectators become caught up in a symbolic dramatization of cultural anxieties. The third presenter, Michael Chan studies how abjection functions in Hoshino Tomoyuki’s Nauburiai. He posits it as a voluntary act that allows characters to function outside conventional societal paradigms and by extension create alternative forms of community. The final speaker, Shane Joshua Barter, explains terrorist violence in Thailand’s deep south and offers new insight into its causes and how it might be counteracted.

Learning to Stand Tall: Rural Japanese Women and Agricultural Extension Services During the Occupation of Japan
Emily Price, University of Maryland, College Park, USA

During the U.S. Occupation of Japan following World War II a primary goal of occupying forces was to promote ideas about “democracy.” This came in many forms. This paper describes how democracy was promoted to the women who worked and lived in Japan’s rural farming communities. For rural women, many of whom had only a basic elementary education and spent much of their time engaged in labor, a primary means of promoting democracy came through the Agricultural Extension Service. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, in close conjunction with U.S. advisors, developed a variety of programs designed to educate Japanese farmers about democracy and to concurrently promote more efficient methods of farming and living. These included agricultural cooperatives, educational meetings, agricultural research programs and youth activities. These programs also made efforts to reach out and include rural women. Additionally the Home Improvement Section of the Agricultural Extension Service directly targeted farming women and drew on the experiences of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own reform programs and activities. The Home Improvement Section faced many difficulties, with a lack of support—especially from the Japanese government—being its biggest problem. Gender-based discrimination hampered efforts to promote democracy among rural Japanese women, but some successes were achieved. This paper describes the various aspects of the Agricultural Extension Service with regards to its work with rural Japanese women, the problems the Service faced, and offers a modest evaluation of its results.

Maternal Face and Voice in Public Prosecutor and Teacher: Its Symbolism upon Korean Modern History
Kyoung-Lae Kang, University of Rochester, USA

This paper examines the last Korean silent film, Public Prosecutor and Teacher (Daeryong Yoon, 1948), released long after the sound film era began in the west and Korea. Does the belated production of a silent film attest to Korean viewers’ lingering attachment to pre-filmic traditions embedded in silent films, and their love for traditional cultures over western, modern ones? In fact, the off-screen narrator (byunsa), one of the conspicuous particularities of Korean silent films, inherits traditional performing arts conventions in his mode of narration. Byunsa enjoyed great popularity during the silent film era and marked a heated site of cultural negotiation, not only during the cinematic sound conversion but also in the confrontation with western modernity and imperialism. The byunsa narrator offers another parallel for Korean modern subjectivity. In the context of movie viewing, the byunsa, through his off-screen presence, constantly awakens the separation of enunciating subject from the subject of statement, and prevents viewers from bearing an illusion of a modern subject. Here, spectators’ attachment to the byunsa, may insinuate their reluctance to modern interpellation. In fact, historical records evince that the Korean public of this era could not embrace either the Japanese colonizers or the dictatorship of Lee’s regime following national liberation (1945). Both failed to satisfy the people’s wish to establish their own independent modern nation. This paper attempts to illuminate the politico-cultural implication of the belated production of the silent film, especially with respect to the delayed constitution of Korean modern subjectivity.

Abject Identities and Mutual Relations: Interrogating Community in Hoshino Tomoyuki’s Naburiai
Michael T. Chan, Yale University, USA

In Hoshino Tomoyuki’s work Naburiai (1999), the three main characters take on gender-neutral codenames to refer to one another, reflecting their own desires to separate themselves from their biological gender identities and, furthermore, from the relationships that depend on those identities. Chan argues that in Naburiai, this act is the first in a sequence of voluntary acts of abjection, and he utilizes Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject in order to explain the characters’ actions and their subsequent formation of a community based on locating themselves outside society and the paradigms that comprise it. By purposefully excluding themselves from the symbolic order of society and its “rules of the game,” as well as their constant concern over the demarcation of their “identities,” the three characters of Naburiai are very much abject characters, and it is in how the characters conceive of and function in their status as abject individuals that they provide a compelling example of the potential of alternative constructions of community in contemporary Japanese literature. Chan views Naburiai as symptomatic of a trend in contemporary Japanese literature that has refocused literature away from its view of the family as a paradigmatic form of community, and instead towards new forms of community defined by their struggles to create and maintain community structure during a time in which the elements that comprise the individuals within these community, such as gender, have become increasingly unstable and uncertain.

Strong State, Smothered Society: Explaining Terrorist Violence in Thailand’s Deep South
Shane J. Barter, Soka University of America, USA

Why have militants in southern Thailand utilized anonymous and at times indiscriminate terrorist violence against civilians? This paper gauges three potential explanations: resource wealth, weak states, and strong states. Contrary to political science orthodoxy, I explain the violence in Patani in terms of the considerable institutional strength of the Thai state, which largely structures and partially sustains violence in Patani. For the most part, the Thai state is characterized by strong institutions in the Deep South, reaching into education, religion, and village life through a vast array of administrative and security forces. This helps sustain the conflict by providing an additional grievance among locals who are frustrated by constant surveillance. The infrastructural power of the Thai state in Patani structures the form of violence by forcing militants underground, eliminating neutral venues, and leading to a crisis of information for both sides. As a consequence, the only forms of violence available to militants are terrorist strikes, mostly against soft targets. This leads to unorthodox policy implications, cautioning against autonomy under new regional administrative bodies, and instead suggesting a need to streamline redundant state bodies and weaken the Thai state at the front lines.