H215 The Idea of Asia in Modern History

Diana Lin/Spring 2013

Office: Hawthorn Hall 206A
(O)980 6981
Email: dchenlin@iun.edu
Website: www.iun.edu/~hisdcl
Office hours: MW 8:30-10am, 1-2:15pm or by appt.


This course explores the history of modern China and Japan from the mid 19th century to the present. We use questions historians often ask in undertaking their research on Asia, such as: how has Asia been defined in the past 150 years by the Asians and by those outside Asia? How has Asian history been told by China, Japan, and the U.S.? How have Chinese and Japanese politics, economy and culture develop in ways similar and different to Western countries, and how did modernization, often meaning learning from the West, in China and Japan impact the Chinese and Japanese sense of identity as Asians? We explore Asian history not as commonly accepted facts, but as narratives written from certain perspectives.

Goals for the course include:

H215 meets requirements for:

Learning Materials Available via Oncourse:


The following are requirements for this class:

Method of grading: all grades are assigned in percentages, which will be tabulated at the end of the semester and converted to letter grades. The averages of your take-home papers and of your weekly writing assignments will be taken to represent the grades for your take-home paper and weekly writing assignment. The conversion is as follows: 93-100: A; 90-92.9: A-; 85-89.9: B+; 80-84.9: B; 75-79.9: B-; 70-74.9: C+; 65-69.9: C; 60-64.9: C-; 55-59.9: D+; 50-54.9: D; 45-49.9: D-; 44 and below: F.

Grade distribution is as follows:

All grades will be shown in your Online Gradebook, accessible via Oncourse. You should send all your homework to me via Oncourse. I will also use the "Announcement" and class email functions of Oncourse to correspond with you.


Map of Asia

Map of China and East/SE/Central Asia

Class Schedule:

Week 1 (Jan.7-13)

Jan.7 Introduction: Modern East Asia: historical facts and interpretations.

Jan.9 Identifying elements of culture in ancient Chinese history. Holcombe, 30-44.

Forum essay #1: Identify some elements in Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism.

Week 2 (Jan.14-20)

Jan.14 Can culture be constructed? Keightley, "What makes Chinese "Chinese," some geographical perspectives (available from Oncourse week 2 module)

Forum essay #2: How does Keightley's geographical explanation of Confucianism conmpare with Confucianism discussed in Holcombe (pp.35-39)?

Jan.16 How rice became a factor shaping Japanese identity. Background reading: Holcombe, 114-125. Online reading: "Rice as self: Japanese identities through time" (available from Oncourse week 3 module)

Forum essay #3: Using rice as an example to discuss how national/cultural identities can be shaped by various factors.

Week 3 (Jan.21-27)

Jan.21 Martin Luther King's Day observed. No class.

Jan.23 Rice, Chinese economy and culture. Online reading: "Rice and technology in China" (available from Oncourse week 4 module)

Forum essay #4: Discuss how different ways of farming could contribute to a divergence of cultures (China and European countries).

Week 4 (Jan.28-Feb.3)

Jan.28 Major themes in the concept of "Modern East Asia." Holcombe, chap.7.

Forum essay #5: Identify the major themes that characterized China and Japan in the 19th century.

Jan.30 Contrasts and stereotypes: depictions of Asia in the West. Said, excerpts from Orientalism (available from Oncourse week 3 module) Edward Said, On Orientalism (Lecture on Youtube)

Forum essay #6: What was meant by Said's Orientalism? Name some of its key factors. Do they make sense to you?

Week 5 (Feb.4-10) First take-home paper due via Oncourse Assignments on Feb.4 morning. Topic: several authors of the readings above focus on a discussion of geographical/environmental (including ways of farming) influences on the formation of Chinese and Japanese cultures. Discuss their approaches and discuss if connections can be built between this argument and the subsequent confrontation between Asia and an expanding Europe as presented in week 4. The paper needs to be 4-5 pages, typed, double spaced. You need to use in-text citations. If you have any trouble with writing, please the Writing Center at Hawthorn Hall, #418 (phone: 219 980 6502).

Feb.4 Modernization in China and Japan. Holcombe, chap.8.

Forum essay #7: Compare and contrast the Chinese and Japanese paths to modernization.

Feb.6 Modernization versus Westernization: methodological considerations in judging losers and winners. Online reading: Platt "Why did Japan succeed and China fail? And isn't modernization the same thing as Westernization?" (available from Oncourse week 5 module)

Forum essay #8: How does Platt apply arguments from "Orientalism" to the discussion of historical narratives of modern China and Japan?

Week 6 (Feb.11-17)

Feb.11 Stereotypes and cultural constructs of China and Japan. Online reading: Ericson & Matson, "Lessons of the last samurai" (available from Oncourse week 6 module); Hayford, "What is so bad about The Good Earth" (available from Oncourse week 6 module). The "Last Samurai" trailer; "The Good Earth" trailer.

Forum essay #9: Discuss the strengths and limitations of cultural constructs of Japan and China through the movie/novel of the Last Samurai and The Good Earth.

Feb.13 "Asia" and "culture" as methods of understanding. Online reading: "Constructions of 'culture' in Asian studies and 'Asia' in cultural studies" (available from Oncourse week 6 module)

Forum essay #10: What are the advantages and limitations of applyimg culture to the study of modern China and Japan?

Week 7 (Feb.18-24)

Feb.18 World War II in the Pacific. Holcombe, chap.9.

Forum essay #11: How did World War II in Asia tie in with the domestic politics of China and Japan, and how did it affect their path to modernization?

Feb.20 Approaches to explaining the war. Online reading: Dole, "Approaching Hiroshima: three ways to engage with history" (available from Oncourse week 7 module)

Forum essay #12: Discuss the problematics covered in the discussion of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during the Pacific War.

Week 8 (Feb.25-Mar.3)

Feb.25 Some more thoughts on perspectives on the Pacific War. Griffiths, "What we forget when we remember the Pacific War" (available from Oncourse week 8 module).

Forum essay #13: Discuss some factors that influence how we remember the Pacific War in America and in Japan.

Feb.27 Factors influencing Chinese memory of WWII in Asia. Online reading: Mitter, "Nationalism, History and Memory at the Beijing War Memorial Museum" (available from Oncourse week 8 module).

Forum essay #14: Discuss the political factors influencing Chinese memory of WWII.

Week 9 (Mar.4-10) Second take-home paper due via Oncourse Assignments on Mar.4 morning. Topic: In February we covered China and Japan's paths to modernization, and World War II in Asia as well as interpretations of both modernization and WWII in China and Japan. Discuss how modernization and progress can be useful tools to understand China and Japan while also limit the discussion and understanding of China and Japan both before and during WWII. The paper needs to be 4-5 pages, typed, double spaced. You need to use in-text citations. If you have any trouble with writing, please the Writing Center at Hawthorn Hall, #418 (phone: 219 980 6502).

Mar.4 Post-War Japan. Holcombe, chap.10.

Forum essay #15: Try to pinpoint some factors that help to understand postwar Japanese developments.

Mar.6 Post-War China. Holcombe, chap.12.

Forum essay #16: Compare the trajectories of post-war China and Japan. How did their patterns of development differ and resemble each other?

Week 10 (Mar.11-17)

Spring recess.

Week 11 (Mar.18-24)

Mar.18 Forging a Pan-Asian identity. Online reading: Saaler & Spillman, Pan-Asianism as an Ideal of Asian Identity and Solidarity, 1850–Present.

Forum essay #17: Discuss the factors that led to a conscious shaping of an Asian identity.

Mar.20 A Pan-Asian identity and Chinese culture. Online reading: Duara, "The discourse of civilization and Pan-Asianism" (in Oncourse week 11 module)

Forum essay #18: Based on the readings for this week, what needs to be constructed in order to forge a Pan-Asian identity?

Week 12 (Mar.26-31)

Mar.26 Culture, empire and history. Wang, The Politics of Imagining Asia: Empires, Nations, Regional and Global Orders.

Forum essay #19: Compare Wang with Duara. How do they complement each other?

Mar.28 Economic development and political designation of the "Pacific Rim" studies. Cumings, "Rimspeak; or the Discourse of the Pacific Rim" (in Oncourse week 12 module)

Forum essay #20: Discuss the political significance of the Pacific Rim concept.

Week 13 (Apr.1-7)

Apr.1 The rise of Asian Pacific Studies. Dirlik, "Asian Pacific studies in an age of global capitalism" (in Oncourse week 13 module)

Forum essay #21: Discuss the political and cultural implications of the term "Asian Pacific."

Apr.3 Revival of "Confucian values." Zurndorfer, Confusing Confucianism with capitalism.

Forum essay #22: Discuss how Confucian values were interpretated in the early 20th century and in late 20th/early 21st centuries. What contributed to the differences?

Week 14 (Apr.8-14) Third take-home paper due via Oncourse Assignments on Apr.8 morning. Topic: based on readings from March and the first week of April, discuss the formation of concepts such as the Asian Pacific (Rim) and Pan-Asian identities in recent years. What political/economic/cultural factors have contributed to such concepts? The paper needs to be 4-5 pages, typed, double spaced. You need to use in-text citations. If you have any trouble with writing, please the Writing Center at Hawthorn Hall, #418 (phone: 219 980 6502).

Apr.8 Perceptions of Asia from the West. Sakai, "On the historical role of the West-Asia binary" (in Oncourse week 14 module)

Forum essay #23: Compare Sakai's argument with Said's Orientalism. Discuss the factors that underlie the West-Asia binary.

Apr.10 Formation of an Asian American identity. Asian American identity: shared racial status and political context.

Forum essay #24: Discuss how Asian American arose as a political concept and a cultural identity.

Week 15 (Apr.15-21)

Apr.15 Political factors and cultural construction, the Diaoyu/Senkaku incident versus Pan-Asianism. Deconstructing Japan’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

Forum essay #25: Based on what you read earlier, how would an incident like the current Chinese/Japanese territorial dispute affect the Pan-Asian movement?

Apr.17 Cultural identity and Japanese/Chinese competitions for regional power. Soft Power Politics in the Asia Pacific: Chinese and Japanese Quests for Regional Leadership.

Forum essay #26: Discuss how cultural identities are intertwined with regional politics for China and Japan.

Week 16 (Apr.22-28)

Apr.22 The idea of Asia as constructed. Duara, "Asia redux: conceptualizing a region for our times" (in Oncourse week 16 moduele).

Forum essay #27: How effective can you use Duara's article to summarize this semester?

Apr.24 Conclusion.

Week 17 (Apr.29-May 5)

Take-home essay 4 due on May 1 via Oncourse Assignments. Topic: Using primarily readings from April, discuss social, political, cultural or economic factors that help contribute to a concept of Asia in recent times. The paper needs to be 4-5 pages, typed, double spaced. You need to use in-text citations. If you have any trouble with writing, please the Writing Center at Hawthorn Hall, #418 (phone: 219 980 6502).