Tag Archive for East Asian Studies

Johnston Reveals Truth About Bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki in Op-Ed

johnston550Seventy years later, it is widely believed that President Harry S. Truman made a decision to authorize the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The truth, writes William Johnston in the Hartford Courant, is that he never did, at least not explicitly.

Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian Studies, examines in an op-ed how history has been rewritten surrounding the bombings. In fact, Truman’s first explicit decision about atomic bombs was to later order that their further use be stopped without his “express authority.” But in summer 1946, Johnston explains, the need arose to write an alternative narrative, as the bomb’s horrific effects on the people of Japan were revealed, and critics started asking whether the atomic bombings had been necessary, or even truly effective in ending the war.

Johnston writes:

The historian’s job is to explain the past using the most complete evidence available. That evidence shows both that Truman’s most substantial atomic decision was to demand his express authority for future bombings and that the bombings’ role in ending the war was ambiguous.

We may not like it when history is fuzzy, but that’s how it is.

It is more important now than ever that we understand history’s ambiguities, especially when it comes to the history of World War II and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Our country today faces many national security threats, from terrorism to global warming. A healthy democracy requires a well-educated populace, and history plays a major role in that education. Science, technology engineering and math cannot replace it.

The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan is a good time to recall their history and meaning. We need to remember where we have been while keeping an eye on the future. It is hard for those who are blind to the past to have a clear vision for the future.

Johnston is also professor of Science in Society, and professor in the Environmental Studies Program.

Johnston, Nakamura Present Papers at History of Science in East Asia Conference

Bill Johnston and Miri Nakamura celebrating after the conference at the Terroir Paris restaurant.

Professor Bill Johnston and Associate Professor Miri Nakamura celebrated with a toast after presenting papers in Paris.

Two Wesleyan faculty members presented talks at the 14th International Conference on the History of Science in East Asia, held in Paris, July 6-10.

On July 7, Miri Nakamura, associate professor of East Asian studies, read from a paper titled “Atomic Maids,” which focused on the role of Japanese housekeepers in mystery novels that were indirect criticisms of nuclear issues. On July 9, Bill Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian studies, professor of Science in Society, professor of environmental studies, spoke about the changing role of the environment in ideas about disease causation in 19th century Japan.

The conference is held every four years at venues around the world. Researchers from around the world came together to present and discuss their latest research relevant to the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia from antiquity up to the present day. With 317 papers, about 200 of which were delivered as part of the 45 panels, this year’s conference was the largest ever held.

 

Jung ’15 Employs Oral History to Study WWII Memories

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Hyo Jeong (Tina) Jung ’15 interviewed more than 40 Korean and Japanese elders for her thesis, “Conversation of Empathy: Understanding Children’s Lives During World War II in Korea and Japan through Oral History.” (Photo by Laurie Kenney)

#THISISWHY

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Hyo Jeong (Tina) Jung from the Class of 2015. She is a history major with concentrations in social movements and contemporary history, and an East Asian studies minor.

Schwarcz Addresses Moral Dilemma, Ethics in China in Colors of Veracity

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of a new book titled Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China, and Beyond, published by the University of Hawai’i Press in November 2014.

In Colors of Veracity, Schwarcz condenses four decades of teaching and scholarship about China to raise fundamental questions about the nature of truth and history. In vivid prose, she addresses contemporary moral dilemmas with a highly personal sense of ethics and aesthetics.

Drawing on classical sources in Hebrew and Chinese (as well as several Greek and Japanese texts), Schwarcz brings deep and varied cultural references to bear on the question of truth and falsehood in human consciousness. The book redefines both the Jewish understanding of emet (a notion of truth that encompasses authenticity) and the Chinese commitment to zhen (a vision of the real that comprises the innermost sincerity of the seeker’s heart-mind). Works of art, from contemporary calligraphy and installations to fake Chinese characters and a Jewish menorah from Roman times, shed light light on the historian’s task of giving voice to the dread-filled past.

Following in the footsteps of literary scholar Geoffrey Hartman, Schwarcz expands on the “Philomela Project,” which calls on historians to find new ways of conveying truth, especially when political authorities are bent on enforcing amnesia of past traumatic events.

Schwarcz, who was born and raised in Cluj, Romania, was one of the first exchange scholars to study in China in 1979 and has returned to Beijing many times since then.

For more information on the book or to order, visit the University of Hawai’i Press website.

Schwarcz will be speaking about her book at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Wasch Center. The event is open to the public.

East Asia’s Religion, Folkore Shared at New Student-Curated CEAS Exhibit

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Uncover the hidden stories of East Asia’s religion and folklore at a new exhibit, “Not of This World,” at the College of East Asian Studies’ gallery. To inaugurate the new College of East Asian Studies, students curated this exhibition of the most compelling artworks from the college’s collection.

“Not Out of This World” is on display Sept. 10-Dec. 5 and features aesthetically pleasing pieces that reveal spiritual worlds filled with love, betrayal and faith.  A ghost woman who searches for her husband, an immortal trapped in a peasant’s body, and a wheel that spins prayers are examples of the East Asian artwork displayed that weave the supernatural with mystical elements.

The gallery is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays. The gallery will be closed Oct. 18-21 and Nov. 25-Dec. 2. For more information call 860-685-2330.

Photos of the show’s opening are below: (Photos by Dat Vu ’16)

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Faculty Speak at Asian American Film Festival

Asian Cinevision and the 36th Annual Asian American Film Festival co-organized the 2014 Asian and Asian American Film Series. The film screenings take place on Monday nights at the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies. The most recent film, "An Unbounded Romance," screened on Feb. 24 and was followed with a discussion moderated by, from left, Marguerite Nguyen, assistant professor of English; Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French; Miri Nakamura, chair and assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Amy Tang, assistant professor of American studies and English.

Asian Cinevision and the 36th Annual Asian American Film Festival co-organized the 2014 Asian and Asian American Film Series. The film screenings take place on Monday nights at the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies. The most recent film, “An Unbounded Romance,” screened on Feb. 24 and was followed with a discussion moderated by, from left, Marguerite Nguyen, assistant professor of English; Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French; Miri Nakamura, chair and assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Amy Tang, assistant professor of American studies and English.

Zheng: “Wherever There Are Africans, There Is Good Music”

Su Zheng, associate professor of music, associate professor of East Asian studies, spoke in a recent China Daily USA article about the number of African musical artists in China and how their presence is “creating new types of harmony between the two lands.”

Zheng starts off by pointing out that “Wherever there are Africans, there is good music – just like wherever there are Chinese, there is good food.”

When she discovered that there were no reports on the presence of African music in China, she decided to research the music of the African diaspora herself. The research completed by Zheng and her team of three graduate students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music shows, while it seems improbable, that African music will greatly influence Chinese music at some point.

Schwarcz Explores Contemporary China through New Book of Poetry

Book by Vera Schwarcz.

Book by Vera Schwarcz.

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of Ancestral Intelligence, published by Antrim House Books in 2013.

In Ancestral Intelligence, Schwarcz depicts the cultural landscape of contemporary China by creating “renditions” of poems by a mid-20th century dissident poet, Chen Yinke, and by adding a group of her own poems in harmony with Chen Yinke’s. Like his, her poems show a degradation of culture and humanity, in this case through comparison of classic and modern Chinese logographs.

In the tragic yet inspiring story of Chen Yinke, Schwarcz finds her own powerful way of articulating the horrors of political oppression, and also the smaller but no less difficult personal afflictions of growing old, seeing loved ones suffer. The book’s front cover design by Andy Youlieguo Zhou depicts the degradation of one’s culture and language.

Schwarcz was born and raised in Cluj, Romania, where she began her explorations of poetry in several languages. Her mother tongues include Hungarian and Romanian, with Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Russian and French added along the way. After emigrating to the United States in 1962, she pursued degrees in East Asian studies and history at Vassar, Yale and Stanford. A member of the first group of exchange scholars to be sent to China in the spring of 1979, she has returned to Beijing repeatedly during the past three decades. All along, her corpus of scholarly writing has been accompanied by the publication of poems in several languages in the United States, Europe and Asia. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Schwarcz has made the quest for remembrance a central theme in all her works. Her writing has been nominated for the National Jewish Book Award and has been accorded several major grants, including a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Read Ancestral Intelligence poem samples online here.

Freeman Remembered for Supporting Asian Scholars Program at Wesleyan

Doreen Brown Freeman

Doreen Brown Freeman was born in England in 1923. She was co-trustee of the Freeman Foundation.

Doreen Brown Freeman, who together with her husband, the late Houghton “Buck” Freeman ’43, generously supported Wesleyan and especially the Freeman Asian Scholars Program, died July 12 in Honolulu.

The Freeman family, including Buck, Doreen and their son Graeme Freeman ’77, established the Freeman Foundation in 1993 after the death of Buck’s father, Mansfield Freeman, Wesleyan class of 1916, who had contributed greatly to Wesleyan’s East Asian Studies Program.

Buck Freeman was chairman of the Freeman Foundation, and Doreen was a co-trustee. They demonstrated a hands-on style of giving that ensured a personal connection with all those receiving foundation support. She was especially attentive to the Freeman Asian Scholars Program – the foundation’s landmark contribution to Wesleyan. Established in 1995 to promote cross-cultural understanding between the United States and Asia, the program provides scholarships for exceptional students from 11 East Asian countries to earn bachelor’s degrees at Wesleyan. The program has supported more than 340 students.

Doreen was instrumental in interviewing Freeman Asian Scholar candidates each year until 2010, and was an especially staunch supporter of candidates who came from challenging backgrounds with limited opportunities to study abroad. She also was particularly interested in hearing from the program’s students and alumni about the details of their lives.

“For decades the Freeman family has helped Wesleyan fulfill its mission of providing the best in liberal arts education,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “We are deeply grateful for all that the foundation has done and continues to do, and we mourn the passing of Doreen, who with her husband Buck, were wonderful friends. Our hearts go out to her daughter Linda, son Graeme and their families.”

Doreen was born in England in 1923. During World War II, she proudly served in one of Britain’s women’s service corps. At American International Group (AIG) – which was co-founded by Mansfield Freeman, and where her husband later rose to the top levels of company leadership – she took the initiative to “show the ropes” to younger AIG spouses. She was an avid reader and loved novels and memoirs about Asia.

Buck and Doreen’s generosity has made an enormous impact on Wesleyan. A gift at the end of the Campaign for Liberal Learning in the 1980s jump-started construction of Bacon Field House and the new pool in the Freeman Athletic Center. They also supported the Center for East Asian Studies, the Wesleyan Fund and other special projects. Their giving made them Wesleyan’s largest donors ever.

Wesleyan awarded Doreen an honorary degree in 2003, citing her as “a philanthropist whose strong compassion springs from commitment, grit, and a backbone of steel.”

Arrangements for remembrance will be private. Letters and notes are welcome at The Freeman Foundation, 1601 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96848.

Distinguished Scholars from China Discuss “Comparative Enlightenments” at Wesleyan

Distinguished scholars from China discussed "Comparative Enlightenments" with Wesleyan faculty during a forum May 9-11 at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

Distinguished scholars from China discussed “Comparative Enlightenments” with Wesleyan faculty and other guests during a forum May 9-11 at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

(Story contributed by Charles Salas, director of strategic initiatives)

“A golden example of what exchange should be between academic communities in the United States and China.” That’s how Gao Xiang, vice secretary of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and editor-in-chief of the Social Sciences in China Press, described the Chinese-American Scholarly Exchange Forum that took place May 9-11 at Wesleyan’s Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. The forum brought 15 distinguished scholars from China to Wesleyan to meet with American counterparts to discuss the topic of “Comparative Enlightenments.”

The forum was framed by Wang Weiguang, president of CASS, who expressed fervent hopes for this dialogue “between Eastern and Western civilizations as if a lamp is lit by another lamp, as if a dream illuminates another dream, and ultimately illuminates our entire human world.” CASS is far and away the most important center in China for studies in philosophy and the social sciences, and this is the second forum in which they’ve partnered with Wesleyan. The topic of the first forum (held a year and a half ago in Bejing) was “Tradition.”