31 December 2006

What Motivates Scholarship?

The new scholarly blog, Tibeto-Logic, which I recently quoted on the topic of Cathedral Bell Diplomacy in Armenia and Tibet, articulated something else that has continued to resonate with me. The blogpost I cited begins with a quote from a well-known philosopher and mathematician given the ironical epithet, The Mysterious Whitehead, and ends with some reflexive rumination about the purpose of the blogger's scholarship.
In considering the history of ideas, I maintain that the notion of 'mere knowledge' is a high abstraction which we should dismiss from our minds. Knowledge is always accompanied with accessories of emotion and purpose.
— Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 1933.
...

My present task as a Tibeto-logical thinker is a Tibeto-centric one. I hope I have succeeded in drawing up a small sketch that puts cracks in the stereotype of Tibet as a place cut off from the world. It's a country right here with us on the ground, living and breathing in our times. Just so or, well, nearly so, it was an integral and meaningful part of Eurasia during the rule of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. Some degree and kind of globalisation was in process at that time. And that remains true even if, limiting ourselves to what has been said within the bounds of this essay, the international presence in Lhasa would seem to have been mostly mercantile and proselytizing in nature. If these interests were being played out on a less than even playing field, we cannot pretend that today that field is necessarily more even or equitable. We should not be quick to dismiss the past based on ill-considered assumptions that things have gotten better, or all that much better, meanwhile.

And finally, I hope Tibetans will find in these investigations a source of pride in the past and encouragement for the future. There is real reason to take pride in the pursuit of that admirable Buddhist virtue of tolerance (Tibetan zöpa, or kshanti in Sanskrit, one of those Paramitas that go far beyond the bounds of duty) that enabled Tibetan society in the 17th century to often welcome and sometimes embrace the strangers among them: the Armenians, the Muslims, and yes, the European Christian missionaries. Oh yes, you're right, I neglected to mention the Chinese, Indians, Mongolians and Newars. Now that people from every culture are living in practically every country, it's increasingly important that we look back to times like these and find out how, and just how well, they did it. It's in our interests.
This resonates with me on one level because my academic work focuses on a small corner of Papua New Guinea, where my two primary concerns are (1) to document poorly described languages and (2) to demonstrate that the histories of tiny coastal villages there have never been either all that stagnant or all that isolated. My documentation efforts are far from complete, but have at least sufficed to qualify the village in which I did fieldwork to establish its own Tok Ples (village vernacular language) school, despite having no more than 300 native speakers. The initiative was all theirs; not mine. My host during my fieldwork (thirty years ago!) had been a schoolteacher and the village was using part of its timber royalties to further the education of its youth.

But the wrapper of self-examination on the "Mysterious Whitehead" blogpost resonates at an even more abstract level because it acknowledges that, while the means of scholarship are (ideally) rational, the initial motivations are (in general) not. The most coldly rational motivation for pursuing a particular line of academic research is the availability of funding sources whose allocations are very much dependent on the political goals of the granting agencies. Of course, many scholars take pride in biting the hands that feed them, while others pursue their own political agendas even without external material inducement.

In my experience, the prime motivator for the scholarly output of untenured academics is ambition/fear of failure. Since I've never had the carrot of academic tenure dangled in front of me, I've only experienced the level of paranoia typical of tenure-chasing academics vicariously, most notably in Nicolae Ceauşescu's Romania, where similar levels of fear seemed to pervade not just academia, but the rest of society as well.

Meanwhile, the prime motivators for tenured academics seem to be (1) collegiality, (2) personal rivalry, and (3) guilt. At least that's what motivates the fits and starts of my lackadaisical output as an academic hobbyist.

29 December 2006

A Contrarian Take on the Six-Party Talks

On Christmas Eve, the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal ran a short stocking stuffer of an op-ed by literary contrarian B. R. Myers, who wrote his dissertation on North Korean literature (reviewed here).
No country today is as misunderstood as North Korea. Journalists still refer to it as a Stalinist or communist state, when in fact it espouses a race-based nationalism such as the West last confronted during the Pacific War. Pyongyang's propaganda touts the moral superiority of the Korean race, condemns South Korea for allowing miscegenation, and stresses the need to defend the Dear Leader with kyeolsa, or dare-to-die spirit--the Korean version of the Japanese kamikaze slogan kesshi [決死]. The six-party talks are therefore less likely to replicate the successes of Cold War détente than the negotiating failures of the 1930s. According to early reports from Beijing, the North Korean delegation appears more confident than ever. It has clearly been emboldened not only by its accession to the nuclear club, but by the awareness that Seoul will continue providing food and financial support no matter what happens....

The ideological landscape of the peninsula defeats the reasoning that led to the six-party talks in the first place. North Korea is not a communist country with ideological and sentimental reasons to listen to China and Russia; it is a virulently nationalist state that distrusts all the other parties at the table. And though the rhetoric of a "concerted front" against North Korea has proved to be just that, it has sufficed to heighten South Korea's sense of solidarity with the North. This will continue to mean plenty of aid money for Kim Jong Il with which to build weapons. The U.S. has urged Beijing to bring more pressure to bear on the North. But if America can do nothing with its own ally, it can hardly expect the Chinese to do more with theirs.
via The Marmot's Hole

UPDATE: B. R. Myers responds to comments over at The Marmot's Hole.

27 December 2006

Choose One, South Korea: Homogeneity or Unification

Volume 30 (2006) of Korean Studies (Project Muse subscription required) contains a perceptive book review by an antinationalist expat Korean of a perceptive book by an anthropologist of Africa who turned his attention to questions of national unity in the Korean peninsula.
The book maintains that South Koreans have patterned their identity in opposition to images of North Korea. For South Koreans, North Koreans are viewed ambiguously, both positively and negatively at the same time. On one hand, North Koreans are seen as being helplessly indoctrinated by their regime, and “uncivilized, heathen, and backward” (p. 8). At the same time, North Koreans are also praised for preserving old Korean traditions, which are considered to have been lost in South Korea through the process of modernization. In colonialist fashion, South Koreans actually define themselves by the “othering” of North Koreans.

South Koreans also consider unification as the recovery of national homogeneity, and thus as the “endgame.” The author argues that this very attitude and discourse actually hinders Korean unification, as overemphasis on national homogeneity would result in the denial of the diversity of the nation. He points out that the difference between North and South could be seen as “a foundation for new communities that bring together Koreans’ separate and yet shared experiences of division in a way that strengthens the nation” (p. xi). The book suggests an alternative future of diversity and heterogeneity rather than the homogeneous national future that most South Koreans imagine.

The book’s arguments are original and bold. According to the author, his not being a “true expert on Korea” made it possible for him to question the seemingly obvious issues of national homogeneity and unification. As an anthropologist studying the tribal groups of central Africa, the author came to be interested in the question of Korean unification after learning about the continued division within the minds of Koreans despite their alleged homogeneity. This contrasts with the two tribal groups of northern Zaire, who “are culturally, physically and linguistically distinct from each other, but live in the most intimate association with each other” (p. 16). The author may not be an expert on Korea, but this book reveals his great erudition.

The book contains many rich theoretical elaborations, thorough analyses, and useful analogies. The most important aspect of the book is its skillful and sharp analysis of the role of North Korea in the formation of South Korean identity, the problematic assumption of national homogeneity, and the South Korean “colonialist” view of their brothers in the North. Korean nationalism, developed in the twentieth century through the experiences of Japan’s colonization and national division, functioned as an ideology of liberation. However, the same ideology also worked as a “meta-narrative” and suppressed other narratives and thus hampered the development of a more democratic culture in Korea. The book’s argument that “unification will require a reckoning with difference, especially different conceptions of history, and a direct confrontation.... with South Korea’s master historical narrative and mythology of homogeneity” (p. 96) is an important message for all Koreans.
The book under review is Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War, by Roy Richard Grinker (St. Martin’s, 2000).

26 December 2006

Bobkabata kabatabobbus et cetera

Scientists who name newly discovered species often name them after their mentors or colleagues, but some have more than a little bit of fun in the process. Take, for example, these two species of parasitic copepods:
Bobkabata kabatabobbus Hogans & Benz, 1990 (parasitic copepod) Named after parasitologist Bob Kabata [whose real given name is Zbigniew!].

Hoia hoi Avdeev & Kazatchenko, 1986 (parasitic copepod) Named after Ju-Shey Ho.
But sometimes they name new species after well-known figures of popular culture.
Funkotriplogynium iagobadius Seeman & Walter, 1997 (mite) from Iago, "James" and badius, "brown," named after James Brown, the King of Funk.

Mastophora dizzydeani Eberhard, 1984 (spider) Named after a baseball player. The spider uses a sticky ball on the end of a thread to catch its prey.

Strigiphilus garylarsoni Clayton, ~1989 (owl louse) "I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along." - Gary Larson
Newly discovered species of dinosaurs seem to arouse extra large doses of taxonomic whimsy:
Dracorex hogwartsia Bakker et al. 2006 (pachycephalosaur dinosaur) Named for Hogwarts School of Harry Potter fame. The genus means "dragon king." J. K. Rowling wrote, "I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs." The skull is on display at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Drinker nisti Bakker et al., 1990 (ornithopod dinosaur) after the National Institute of Standards and Technology (of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce). "It's the only dinosaur named after an arm of the federal government. Someday I'm going to name one after the I.R.S." - Robert Bakker.

Qantassaurus Rich & Vickers-Rich, 1999 (Ornithopod dinosaur) Named after Qantas Airlines.

Quetzalcoatlus northropi Lawson, 1975 (Texas pterosaur) Named after an Aztec god and an aircraft designer. The pterosaur was as large as an ultra-light plane.
New strains of bacteria often seem to be discovered in labs, rather than in the field, and quite a few end up named after institutional acronyms.
Afipia (bacterium) after AFIP: Armed Force[s] Institute of Pathology.

Cedecea (bacterium) after CDC: Centers for Disease Control.

Desemzia (bacterium) after DSMZ: Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen.
These examples come to you courtesy of Mark Isaak, whose Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature is worth perusing at greater length—and multiple times.

And with that, I leave you to the fish genus Sayonara Jordan & Steele, 1906

25 December 2006

A Korean Worker's Take on Korea, Japan, & China

Four or five years ago I was asked by one work site manager to make the "direct commute" (as we day laborers say) to a job that I had originally obtained through the Center. I did this for about ten days running. Two Koreans, one about fifty and the other in his mid twenties, were working there, and they would chat with me in their broken Japanese during rest periods and the noon break. I couldn't figure out their relationship. That they were not parent and child was obvious I enough. I decided that they were two men of differing ages who just happened to be getting work, illegally (or so I surmised), with the same firm. That peculiar rule in Korean society of deference by the junior party to the senior (something I learned from my reading), which would have applied had they been acquaintances from the same village and come to work in Japan together, was not in effect between them. If the older man were indeed fifty, he would have been just a couple of years older than I, yet he had a commanding presence that made him seem for all the world like my father. When I got to talking with him, I realized that he was a fervent patriot. Somehow I was not surprised. He said his name was Shin.

"We go ahead of Japan. This I am sure. Less than ten years." These are the kinds of things he liked to say. The younger Korean appeared to be uninterested in talk of this sort and simply wolfed down his boxed lunch. For ten days I teamed up with this Korean duo and took orders along with them from the site manager. The older Korean assumed the role of team leader and told us what to do. He was far more proficient at Japanese than his young compatriot, and it was possible to carry on an extensive conversation with him.

"I am not man who works like this. I was company president. Do you understand? My company closed. I was forced to come to Japan and earn money." As he spoke, Kim, the younger Korean, would look on with an ironic smile without really listening. (He rarely spoke a word; indeed, it's possible that he understood no Japanese.) Kim did not have the face of an educated person—that much was certain.

"I have three children," Shin said. "Oldest one in college. ——— University. You know it?" When I shook my head, he continued, "Good school. He join elite. Give orders. We three here take orders. This is difficult thing."

Shin may have had a problem with Japanese at the level of nuance, not being able to inflect his emotions correctly, but his very direct and open manner of expressing his desire to advance in the world definitely got my attention.

Shin asked me how old I was and learned that I was a bachelor and living alone. "You have no family at your age?" he proclaimed haughtily. "That shameful! You should not tell it to others. I feel sorry for you."

Sometimes I would get into arguments with Shin.

"Japan not apologize for things they did to us. This no good. One day maybe we attack Japan. But we not do to you what you do to us. We are moral people. We are most moral and most superior people in Asia. This I am sure." ...

"Japan number one in Asia now, Korea number two. some day Korea number one." The hierarchy featured in these pronouncements appeared to have nothing to do with morality, however, and everything to do with economic and political power in the global pecking order.

"That's not true at all," I countered. "China's number one in Asia now, if you ask me.

Shin immediately shook his head. "No, very wrong—very wrong!" he snapped, curling his lips in contempt of China. "Look at Chinese. They fall behind. Long ago they were teacher. Now they are backward country. Their income less than one tenth of Koreans. That country is lowest country. It is dirty country." ...

And so I learned that not only was Shin a stalwart anticommunist, he also had no love, as I'd heard most Koreans had, for China, the country that Korea once recognized as its master.
SOURCE: A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer, by Ōyama Shirō, trans. by Edward Fowler (Cornell U. Press, 2005), pp. 92-95

Anglosphere Navies vs. Cuban Pirates, 1820s

The United States sent out a second pirate-hunting squadron in 1823, this time under the command of Commodore David Porter, a naval hero who had captured the first British warship taken in the War of 1812. There had been a debate during the winter as to the best method of combating the pirates and it was decided that, to be fully effective, the squadron 'will require a particular kind of force, capable of pursuing them into the shallow waters to which they retire', as President Monroe informed the Senate. And so, in addition to the ships which had sailed with Biddle in 1822, Commodore Porter was supplied with a fleet of vessels specifically tailored to the task in hand, the first time that such a sensible policy had been adopted in pirate-hunting history. These included ten fast schooners, with a draught of less than seven feet and fitted with twenty or twenty-four sweeps, and five light double-bank cutters or barges, each to row twenty oars and adapted to carry forty men, well armed with muskets, pistols, boarding pikes and cutlasses. The squadron was also graced by the presence of the US steam brig Sea Gull the first naval steamer of any country to serve in action. She was originally built as a New Jersey ferry and 'the croakers predicted that she would founder at sea in the first blow', as Porter told his son who later wrote his biography. But in fact the Sea Gull did good service, mainly as a mother ship to the rowing vessels, though she had a chance to use her powerful guns on occasion and in May 1825 was reported to have sunk a pirate ship after a two-hour gun battle off Matanzas.

Porter chose as his base Key West, American since 1819 and only a hundred miles from the coast of Cuba. The United States was now at last getting cooperation from the Spanish authorities in Cuba and his orders permitted him to pursue pirates ashore, having first given notice of his intentions, orders which shared the ambiguity of those given to the British commanders. American relations with these British counterparts were excellent, the British going so far as to replace the normal admiral commanding the Jamaica station by a commodore so that Porter would not be outranked and 'we might meet on equal terms', as the American commodore recorded with gratitude. There was a certain amount of division of labour, the British concentrating their searches on the south coast of Cuba and the Americans on the north, but men of the two navies also hunted together, as in March 1825 when the boats from the British frigate Dartmouth and the schooners Union and Lion joined up with boat crews from the Sea Gull in a successful pursuit of the pirate schooner Socorro. 'I am happy to say,' reported the British commodore Sir Lawrence Halsted, 'the greatest harmony prevailed throughout the service, the men of either nation receiving orders from the officers of the other and obeying each with equal alacrity.' This harmony was echoed by Lt. Com. McKeever of the Sea Gull who praised 'the handsome manner in which we were seconded by the officers and crews of the boats of HMS Dartmouth. There had been a certain amount of cooperation between the British and French in previous anti-pirate campaigns, in both the Leeward Islands and West Africa, but nothing on the scale of this Anglo-American camaraderie, this being nicely epitomised by the kind and friendly treatment given to sick British sailors at Key West which included taking convalescent men for a trip round the Florida Keys in the steam brig.

Such cooperation, along with Spanish assistance and the choice of the right sort of vessels for the job, was to prove the doom of the Cuban pirates, but the service was quite incredibly arduous for the British and American sailors and marines involved. Nearly all the close-up work was done by men rowing in open boats who pursued the elusive pirates from cay to cay, through shoals and reefs and into hidden passages through the mangrove swamps, such close pursuit often being done under fire from the retreating pirates. Captain Godfrey of HMS Tyne reported a successful cruise by his men who had chased pirates 'in open boats without any kind of shelter for thirty days and thirty nights', a record beaten by Lieutenant Platt of the United States Navy who was employed for sixty-eight successive days in an open boat on the north-west coast of Cuba, 'in the examination of the inlets, bays, keys, and other places of piratical resort'. A report to the House of Representatives in January 1825 stressed the perilous service being imposed on Americans engaged in anti-pirate duty, who faced disease as well as danger in vessels too small to maintain health on long cruises. But such sacrifice was justified by the result. 'They enabled the commanders to scour the coast, to penetrate into the shoal waters of the creeks and inlets, to the very margin of the land.' No pirate hunters in the past had ever shown such zeal, determination and courage as these truly professional British and American sailors and marines.
SOURCE: The Pirate Wars, by Peter Earle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003), pp. 242-244

23 December 2006

Tobi, the Aristocrats among Day Laborers

Tobi [鳶 'kite (bird)', or 'steeplejack', the latter short for 鳶職 tobishoku 'high-rise scaffolding work'] are the aristocrats of San'ya. In the same way that it is possible, in Europe, to distinguish the aristocracy from the common folk by how they look, so it is possible to distinguish tobi from common day laborers by their appearance (their faces more than their physique). The training required to nurture their skills to a level worthy of their calling and the confidence gained through having those skills recognized by their peers give them a commanding presence and bestow on their countenances a certain poise. All in all they cut a very dashing figure. There is a certain crispness about their movements and indeed about their entire demeanor. I would imagine that their individual abilities vary considerably, but the best have a truly unmistakable aura about them. One can tell at a glance: yes, this man, without question, is a tobi.

Carpenters and ironworkers are not employed as day laborers or as contract laborers, so there are none in San'ya. Here, the word shokunin—skilled worker—means only one thing, and that is tobi. Men like Saito (Mr. "One-Man Salvation Army") and Ikeno (the former stockbroker) are exceptions; you could never surmise from their characters what the typical tobi is like. I have never actually met a tobi who treats laborers like slaves, barking at them and driving them into the ground; I have, however, run across several who were proud to the point of arrogance—so much so that they never paid us laborers any heed. (It was as if we never even entered their field of vision.) And I must say that I was not necessarily put off by their arrogant pride.

My hatred of working as a tobi's assistant and being hounded on the job lives side by side with my admiration for the tobi "race." Yet when all is said and done, it seems to me far preferable that the haughty arrogance of these men live on than that it wither away—these men who work closer to death's door than any other group of skilled workers in Japan. There are among tobi some men (although admittedly few in number) who actually consider themselves works of art. I would much rather that such men never vanish from the scene. More and more of late I hear stories of this or that tobi doing the work of a common laborer. I fervently hope that these men—San'ya's very own aristocrats—will be able to ride out this terrible recession. Speaking as a common laborer from San'ya's "plebeian class," I pray that San'ya's spiritual patricians, defending their manly pride and honing their reputations in the face of great danger, manage to survive these hard times and live another day.
SOURCE: A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer, by Ōyama Shirō, trans. by Edward Fowler (Cornell U. Press, 2005), pp. 61-62

On Leaders Forged (or Not) in Manchuria

It is extremely difficult to try to generalize, but I think that we must consider this issue—including the problem of war responsibility—in a multilayered manner. I myself think that at present this is a theme for future research, not a time at which we can offer generalizations. Thus, let me just say a few words about the directions subsequent research might take and how we can try to place Manzhouguo in world history.

Although I have written about it in a number of articles, I think we need to reassess once more the meaning of Manzhouguo in postwar Asia. The legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party derives at least one of its bases in the fact that it won the anti-Japanese war which began with the Manchurian Incident. In this way, the fact that some Japanese argue for the legitimacy of Manzhouguo thus denies the very legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. This dispute is unproductive, with a strong probability of the two sides following parallel tracks semipermanently.

Let me focus for a moment, though, on the importance of Manzhouguo on the Korean peninsula in postwar East Asia. First, in the Republic of Korea there were a number of men who were educated in Manzhouguo—such as Pak Chŏng-hŭi (1917-79) and Ch'oe Kyu-ha (b. 1919) who graduated from the Daidō Academy—and acquired power in postwar Korea. [Aikido had a curious prominence in its curriculum.—J.] In this instance, Manzhouguo served as a supply base for human talent. We certainly cannot say this was always the case, for the debate continues over what the "pro-Japan faction" in Korea was. I have only introduced a very limited number of such men in my own work, but in fact there were a large number of them.

In North Korea as well, Kim Il-sŏng (1912-94) derived one of the bases of his legitimacy in the victory against Japan in Manchuria, and this legacy continues for North Korea today. There are pros and cons, but the postwar in East Asia cannot be understood without Manzhouguo.

By the same token, as concerns wartime and postwar Japan, Tōjō Hideki (1884-1948) came to amass such great power by virtue of the unification of the military police (kenpei) and the regular police in Manzhouguo. It was the first case he confronted as commanding officer of the Guandong Army's military police, when he was awakened to his administrative skills. Until that point, he had always been treated rather coldly in Japan, but in the process of his acquisition of power thereafter, the administrative experience tying him to the military police in Manchuria was to have critical importance.

Kishi Nobusuke spent only three years in Manchuria, but the money and personnel he put together at that time was to have a huge impact on postwar politics. Together with such men as Shiina Etsusaburō (1898-1979), Nemoto Ryūtarō (b. 1907), Hirashima Toshio (b. 1891), these mainstays of the Liberal Democratic Party all had Manchurian experience. At the time of the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (Anpo) in 1960, Kishi made a trip to Southeast Asia before visiting the United States. The reason for this, in Kishi's words, was that, for Japan to cross swords as equals with the United States, it was best for it to assume a position as the leader of Asia. Only then, as he put it, would Japan be on an equal standing with the United States and thus be in a position to have the Anpo Treaty revised.

In reply to a question from an interviewer, Kishi noted: "My present feeling that Japan must become the leader of Asia is no different from the consciousness I had when I went to Manzhouguo. This has not changed in the least even in the postwar era. If indeed I possess a kind of pan-Asianism, then my present sense of things is completely linked to the time when I traveled to Manzhouguo." Thus, his Manzhouguo experience—including the money he amassed—played an extremely important role in his career. Although a well known story, Kishi told a fellow bureaucrat upon returning to Japan: "It's best to use money after filtering it." The effectively plutocratic essence of the Liberal Democratic Party as it has come down to us now may then be said to trace its roots back to Manchuria....

The generation of Japanese prime ministers from Yoshida Shigeru (1878-1967), who was consul-general in Fengtian, and Kishi down to Fukuda Takeo (1905-95) and Ōhira Masayoshi (1910-80) all had Asian experience. When he was serving as a secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fukuda spent over two years in Nanjing as an advisor on economic affairs to the government of the Republic of China. Ōhira worked in the Asian Development Board in Zhangjiakou and the liaison section of the Mengjiang regime.

Through the years of Fukuda and Ōhira, it was people who knew Asia as a tactile experience who served as prime ministers. Thereafter, Japanese policy toward Asia became thoroughly clumsy and unskilled. To be sure, the early men had stood on the side of the rulers, but they understood, as if it was experience acquired through their skin, about the vastness of the Asian mainland, the atmosphere prevailing there, and the enormity of the population. This also meant that they understood its formidable character. The prime ministers who followed them, however, lacked as a sense of touch this spatial understanding of Asia and China, and the influence exerted by this absence of experience on Japanese policy vis-à-vis Asia has been immense. In particular, from Hosokawa Morihiro (b. 1938) to the Koizumi Jun'ichirō (b. 1942) now, the continued blur of Japan's Asian policy is, I believe, linked to a lack of Asian experience. I would even go so far as to say that there is no remedy for this lack of sensibility.

I by no means want to leave the impression that their role in colonial rule was a good thing, but the fact that the policies of Japanese political figures, including diplomatic officials, toward Asia has now entered a dangerous stage is, in my view, heavily influenced by the lack of experience—including that acquired in Manzhouguo—gained through the senses and not simply having seen the place but having lived there. This will remain a problem for the future. I would argue for the need for men and women who wish to become politicians to spend two or three years wandering about various sites in Asia.
SOURCE: Manchuria under Japanese Dominion, by Yamamuro Shin'ichi, trans. by Joshua A. Fogel (U. Penn. Press, 2006), pp. 238-239

And the same goes for would-be leaders from other parts of the globe. Well, I can't quote any more from this book. I have to send it on to my brother who just finished teaching a course on East Asia.

22 December 2006

Cathedral Bell Diplomacy in Armenia and Tibet

A lengthy post on a new blog, Tibeto-Logic, by a serious scholar of Tibet begins with unexpected tales of cathedral bell diplomacy in mountain realms of Central Asia in centuries past.
In the heart of Armenia, both corporeal and spiritual, stands the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, about 1700 years old, and founded on a still more ancient fire altar. Although not so well known to the world at large, it is a very holy place for Armenian Christians, more or less equivalent to the Vatican for Roman Catholics or the Jokhang for Tibetan Buddhists. Inside a tower attached to the Cathedral is a large bell with a Tibetan inscription. I haven't yet been able to see a photograph of the letters, but hope to before long. It isn't certain when the bell came to Armenia, but it is at least possible that it was supplied at the time the bell towers were built. The main bell tower was finished in 1657 by the Catholicos Yakob, and was further decorated in 1664. Soon after, in 1682, three further bell towers were added by Catholicos Eliazar. I'm told the Tibetan bell was still there last summer.

In the heart of the old city of Lhasa still today lies the Buddhist 'Cathedral' known as the Jokhang. Carbon datings have apparently confirmed that the main wooden structure of the Jokhang really does date back to its founding in the first half of the 7th century during the reign of Emperor Songtsen Gampo, who died in 649 give or take a year. As strange as this might sound, there is or was a Christian bell, minus its clapper, hanging in the vestibule of the Jokhang, although at the moment it may lie in storage. It was left as a relic of the Capuchin missionaries, who kept a chapel in Lhasa during the first half of the 18th century.

The Oldest Mosque in North America

Freelance journalist and journalism professor Michael Judge profiled the oldest mosque in North America in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa--Not far from the banks of the Cedar River and the concrete silos of the Quaker Oats plant, in a working class neighborhood adorned with Christmas lights and American flags, sits the oldest mosque in North America. Founded in 1934, and admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, it's not what you think of when you think of a mosque. There is no lofty minaret, no balcony for the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer. There is, however, a place of worship that most resembles a one-room schoolhouse--a single-story, white clapboard box with plain black shutters. If it weren't for the crescent-topped green vinyl dome and the canopy above the entrance bearing the words "The Mother Mosque of America: Islamic Cultural & Heritage Center," one might easily mistake it for a modest, if not meager, Pentecostal church, which indeed it was for a brief stint in its history before being abandoned altogether....

"We've been here for four and now five generations," says Imam Tawil, pointing to a panoramic black-and-white photo of dozens of early settlers; the picture dates to 1936 and shows an imam and priest, both of Middle Eastern descent, proudly shaking hands in the center. "We're as old as the oak trees in Iowa," he continues. "We're part of the fabric of this great state. We're Americans with dreams and aspirations." Many of the earliest Muslim settlers came to Cedar Rapids in the late 19th century from what is now Lebanon to work the farmland and raise crops of their own. As the community grew, it needed a permanent place to worship. Despite the hard times of the Great Depression, the local Muslim community pooled its resources and the "Mother Mosque" was dedicated on June 16, 1934. Sixteen young men from the Muslim community here served their country in World War II; two of those men never made it home. Since then, Muslim-Americans from eastern Iowa have served their country in nearly every major military conflict. "At least 20 members of the community are currently enlisted in the military," says Imam Tawil. "Several are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq right now." Cedar Rapids is now home to Muslims from some 30 countries, including Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, dozens of Iraqi families--mainly Shiites who rose up against Saddam--found refuge here. Today, of the 700 Muslim families who call eastern Iowa home, more than 50 are from Iraq. "Nearly all of these refugees are striving to become U.S. citizens," says Imam Tawil, who emigrated from Jerusalem in 1983 and became a U.S. citizen in 1990. A Palestinian by birth, he says, "I have never had citizenship anywhere else but America. Every time I vote I feel so proud because I didn't have this right in my home country." Around the same time that he became a U.S. citizen, Imam Tawil set out to renovate and restore the Mother Mosque. The building, which had gone vacant after housing a Pentecostal church and a teen center, was purchased in 1990; renovations began in 1991 and a grand opening was held in February 1992. The mosque serves mainly as a cultural and historical center since a modern Islamic Center was completed in 1971.

21 December 2006

Manchuria as Japanese and International Refuge

When we consider the political space of Japanese modernity, Manchuria seems to possess distinctive significance. It is important to remember when considering Japanese modernity that with the exception of only a very small number of people, such as the actress Okada Yoshiko (1903-92) who defected to the Soviet Union in 1938, and the translator and dramatist Sano Seki (1905-66), scarcely any Japanese took refuge abroad. The issue itself of why there were so few Japanese refugees is important, I believe, in understanding the history of Japanese modernity. In modern Japanese history, Manchuria appears to be something of a space for taking quasi-refuge.

The [South Manchurian Railway], too, provided a site accepting of large numbers of leftist converts. In this sense, it was the only asylum in modern Japan. A moment ago, I mentioned a certain image of Manchuria that was invested with ideals and in which was sought that which could not be realized in Japan. I think Shiba Ryōtarō (1923-96), the famed historical novelist, was no different in this regard. He was drawn to Mongolia out of a yearning for the wilderness of Manchuria and Mongolia. It bore the sense for him of an asylum to which one might escape from the space Japan blockaded. This phenomenon was not limited to men, for looking at the memoirs of Japanese women as well we see some who went to Manchuria because they could not develop personally in Japan. For example, there were a certain number of women who had dreams of developing into teachers or who wanted to teach people of other ethnicities.

In this sense, we have two polar images of Manchuria in tandem: the extremely dark image of a Manchuria as a hellish abyss and that of Manchuria as a site for asylum. Whichever extreme would emerge would depend on the person, and the image of Manchuria, then, was inevitably rent asunder. Although this is a bit of personal experience, I became quite close to Professor Matsuda Michio (1908-98). When I was writing Kimera: Manshukoku no shōzō (Chimera, a portrait of Manzhouguo, published in 1993 [the volume herein translated—JAF]), he once said to me: "It's strange that you're using your energy on such a thing as this. As far as we're concemed, it'd be just fine to forget Manzhouguo altogether. It's bizarre that such a thing ever existed." I have never forgotten these strong words of his to me. For people who lived through it, Manchuria remained an object to be rejected but which continued nonetheless. I think that this is one of the reasons that evaluations offered by postwar scholarship on Manzhouguo has been split in bipolar fashion....

One additional issue is the existential importance of Manchuria for the Jewish people. Shanghai was the most important Jewish place of asylum in Asia, but second to it was Manchuria. Of course, once the Tripartite Alliance was signed among Japan, Germany, and Italy, they were to be expelled from Manchuria, too, but such schemes as the "Fugu Plan" conceived of a harmony of the six ethnicities—the five initially conjured up and the Jews—and military officers such as Yasue Norihiro (1888-1950) and Inuzuka Koreshige (1890-1965) were actively trying to realize it. "Fugu" or blowfish carried the meaning that, although this kind of fish is delectable, if it disagrees with you, its poison can be especially strong. If Jewish capital could be well used, this scheme envisioned, then it could be of great value. In the sense of using such a plan to control the Jews in the United States, this tactic was an extremely calculated political ploy.

Reading through the memoirs of people who actually lived in Manzhouguo, it appears that places such as Harbin were relatively easy for Jews and White Russians to live in. We know a bit about what happened to White Russian men who graduated from Kenkoku University. We thus need research which will examine what Manzhouguo, or the Kenkoku University, may have meant for White Russians. For not only Jews, but Muslims who had escaped from Central Asia as well, Manzhouguo provided a kind of asylum, as I describe it in my recent book, Shisō kadai to shite no Ajia (Asia as an intellectual task, published 2001), an important site where people who had escaped Soviet oppression could live. It is an undeniable irony of world history that, for people who escaped from Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, Manchuria bore importance as a space for survival. There were many more who traveled through Manchuria en route to the United States, and we need studies which examine this phenomenon.

Needless to say, there is as well the issue of how Manzhouguo tried to use the Jews and Muslims. Research on ethnic groups in Manzhouguo to this point has examined only the "five ethnicities," but we need to insert into our vision the flows of such world-historical peoples as the Jews and Muslims and consider the place of Manzhouguo in their migrations. We are collecting material in this area now. There is even a recent book about Poles in Manchuria, published in Poland, describing who was there and what they did.
SOURCE: Manchuria under Japanese Dominion, by Yamamuro Shin'ichi, trans. by Joshua A. Fogel (U. Penn. Press, 2006), pp. 233-234, 237-238

Japanese Army Drug Lords of Manchuria

Furumi Tadayuki (1900-83), who served as assistant director-general for administrative affairs in Manzhouguo, once said: "Manzhouguo is an immense installation created by a top secret fund of the Guandong Army." The Japanese army was able to engage in extensive activities, such as intelligence gathering, throughout Asia, because it had sufficient funds which Manzhouguo siphoned off. This practice cast a huge shadow over postwar Japanese politics, beginning right with Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke (1896-1987). The basic source for the monetary fund was opium. This was the problem which Gotō Shinpei worked hardest on in Taiwan; by making the sale of opium a monopoly, Gotō tried gradually to reduce the quantity of it available. He took the same approach in Manzhouguo, and although it was said to have been well regulated in Manzhouguo, this was in fact not the case. Opium production provided the richest source for such a slush fund. It was not only produced in Manchuria, but steadily flowed into Manzhouguo via Turkey, India, and Shanghai. The opium produced colosgal profits which became the financial source for Japan's military schemes. The very fact that Amakasu Masahiko (1890-1945) gained such power in Manchuria was due to this money. While Kishi was a mere bureaucrat, Amakasu had at his disposal a slush fund of some ten million yen—which would come to ninety billion yen (roughly $800 million) today—for his special operations. This is difficult to prove on the basis of documents, the only corroboration being oral testimony, but younger scholars are now examining materials in such places as the Public Record Office in Great Britain on the remittance of opium, and this issue will probably be cleared up in the not-too-distant future.
SOURCE: Manchuria under Japanese Dominion, by Yamamuro Shin'ichi, trans. by Joshua A. Fogel (U. Penn. Press, 2006), pp. 231-232

20 December 2006

Three Years and 1377 Blogposts

I started blogging on a Saturday exactly three years and 1377 blogposts ago. I need to concentrate on a few other things over the next few weeks so posting will be a little lighter than usual.

On Limiting the Misfortune One Causes Others

I have lived in this same bunkhouse for most of my career in San'ya, sharing a room with six others and separated from them by a single curtain. The manager who sat at the front desk when I moved in has already departed this world, having succumbed to liver cancer. I suppose I can number myself among the old-timers at this doya [ドヤ].

I can't say that life here has been all that comfortable, but I've made an effort to develop something resembling affection for the destiny that has landed me in this place. This is how I look at it: What would have happened if by some mistake I'd remained stuck in a job with an ordinary firm? Unable to resist the all the static around me, I probably would have gotten married and had a family. Yet would such a life course really have been better than my life here in a doya? I think not. I doubt very much that I could have maintained my mental equilibrium had I been placed in those circumstances.

I am a vessel that was made to hold nothing more than my own body and soul. I have been quite incapable of shouldering any other burden than these. My psyche would have been crushed by any added weight. The consequence would have been not just my mental breakdown and a life of confinement but also the certain misfortune visited on family members as a result of my breakdown. At the very least, then, I've been able to prevent myself from becoming the source of other people's unhappiness. Those who are made like me or who have turned out like me would surely have ended up leading the kind of life I'm leading in the sort of place I'm living in, regardless of the era. Yet might I not take secret pride in the fact that I have been able to limit the misfortune I've caused others to the bare minimum? (In the case of my parents it really can't be helped.) This is how I sometimes view things. At other times, when I'm in a more positive mood, I fancy that I have happened upon a life here that quite agrees with me. There is nothing to add or detract, and I really have no cause for dissatisfaction.

I have always tried to steer my thoughts in this direction. I intend to stay the course. If possible, I'd like to remain lost in these thoughts and slide as if in a trance toward death. For someone like me, who is on the threshold of old age, such a wish is akin to a prayer of supplication.

No matter what the future holds, I am determined not to harbor any bitterness toward the fate that has led me to this place.
SOURCE: A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer, by Ōyama Shirō, trans. by Edward Fowler (Cornell U. Press, 2005), pp. 15-16 (reviewed here and here)

UPDATE: I had a heck of a time trying to track down the kanji for the word Japanese word doya, which I couldn't find either in my dictionaries or on Google. I finally found it spelled in katakana in the Japanese Wikipedia entry for San'ya (山谷), an area of Tokyo that contains many doya.

19 December 2006

Pirate Recruits and Draftees in the Early 1700s

Pirate ships recruited men from every sort of vessel which sailed the Atlantic and Caribbean, but there were two trades which stood out as a source of willing men. The first was the Newfoundland fishery which attracted the pirates of the 1710s just as it had those of a century earlier. Here every summer there were some two thousand English and American sailors and fishermen, 'shamefully exploited by the masters of their ships' and doing work of 'extraordinary labour and pains', perfect recruits for the pirate ships who came to Newfoundland 'to get better manned'. The West African slave trade was an even better recruiting ground for pirates, the crews of slavers being 'generally glad of an opportunity of entering with them', as Snelgrave reported. Slavers were notoriously unpleasant ships to work in, with more than their fair share of harsh and brutal captains and with incredibly high mortality among their crews, an average of one in four who shipped at English slaving ports such as London and Bristol not surviving the voyage. Sailors were described by a clergyman eager to redeem them as 'a third sort of persons, to be numbered neither with the living nor the dead: their lives hanging continually in suspense before them'. This was literally true for the crews of slavers, making them very willing to swap their harsh conditions for the easygoing life aboard a pirate ship, even if it was a 'voyage to Hell' in which they would inevitably die sooner or later, as a pirate in Captain Cocklyn's crew described the prospects of the venture on which he had embarked.

In the first three or four years of this period of piracy, few men were forced to join the pirates, except those known as 'artists', skilled men desperately needed aboard the ship such as carpenters, coopers, sailmakers and surgeons or perhaps a tailor, the pirates with their shipworn clothes 'wanting such a person very much', as a tailor forced to serve Bartholomew Roberts against his will declared at his trial. Musicians, such as trumpeters and fiddlers, were also more than likely to be forced on board as music was an essential part of life on a pirate ship. De Bucquoy describes the men on Taylor's ship practising with their weapons on deck, 'while their musicians play divers airs so that the days pass very agreeably', though this might not be so pleasant for the musicians who were ordered 'to play their tune or be beat', as was 'one of the musick' of a slaver captured by pirates in West Africa.

But the general run of sailors, 'being encouraged by the daily and uninterrupted success of the pirates', needed no force to make them enlist, sometimes whole crews at a time, but more often just two or three of the more adventurous or more discontented of the merchant crew. John King, a young passenger on a sloop captured near the Virgin Islands by the famous pirate Black Jack Bellamy, was absolutely determined to join his crew. 'He declared he would kill himself if he was restrained and even threatened his mother who was then on board as a passenger.' But such enthusiasm for the piratical way of life began to wane as time went on and it became increasingly apparent that life as a pirate was likely to be a short one. Now volunteers dried up and more and more men were forced to serve, often with a pistol at their head or with a whip, a change in policy which made pirate crews dangerously divided between forced and willing men and enabled the former to take control of the ship on several occasions.
SOURCE: The Pirate Wars, by Peter Earle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003), pp. 166-168

18 December 2006

Multiple Religious Secessions in Virginia

I can well predict the reactions of many secular progressives to the latest news about religious secession in Virginia.
The efforts of Episcopal Church leaders to bring about reconciliation within the troubled denomination suffered their biggest blow yet, as eight parishes in Virginia voted this weekend to sever ties with the church.

While the actions involved only eight of 7,200 Episcopal congregations, they showed that traditionalists in the US and Africa are intent on raising the pressure within the Anglican Communion. These pressures will likely come to a head next February, when the 38 top Communion leaders meet in Africa. Some have said the disagreement are so basic that they cannot sit down with the new US leader, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

As the US branch of Anglicanism, the church has been a lightning rod within the global community over its 2003 consecration of a gay bishop, with traditionalists threatening schism unless the church's convention repented its decision.

A small number of conservative US parishes had formed a network within the church - the Anglican Communion Network - to press for a return to traditional teachings. But this weekend's actions amounted to a dramatic secession involving two of the largest and most historic congregations. (One of them can say, "George Washington worshiped here.")

The Falls Church and Truro Church in the northern Virginia suburbs voted overwhelmingly to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a group connected to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the most prominent and outspoken leader of traditionalists.

The office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Communion, issued a statement after the votes clarifying that CANA was "a 'mission' of the church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion ... nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment."

National churches within the Communion are autonomous, and rules prohibit one national church from interfering in the affairs of another. This tradition has been strained as US conservatives developed ever closer ties with church leaders in Africa and elsewhere. One congregation in Texas recently left the Dallas diocese and put itself informally under the bishop of Peru.

Earlier this month, the 10,000-member Diocese of San Joaquin in California took the first step toward changing its constitution to sever ties with the church.

After the June election of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, seven dioceses petitioned Canterbury for "alternative oversight." Some oppose female leadership in the church; others say they cannot work with the new leader because she favors blessing same-sex unions and a role for gay bishops.
What many secular progressives (and regional bigots) may not realize is that many moderate Virginians have already seceded from the politically conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for similar reasons: an objection to the polarizing politics of their respective elites.

As the SBC moved toward religious fundamentalism during the 1980s and 1990s, many Southern Baptist congregations redirected their offerings to more moderate organizations such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the Mainstream Baptist Network. After the SBC withdrew from the Baptist World Alliance (headquartered in Falls Church, VA) on the grounds that the BWA was "too liberal," two of the most powerful of the dissident Southern Baptist state organizations, those in Virginia and Texas, applied to join the BWA.
In what would be a first for the Baptist World Alliance, state associations of Southern Baptists in Virginia and Texas--who at times assert their independence from the Southern Baptist Convention--have been recommended as full members in the Baptist World Alliance, the organization that the SBC left last year in an ideological dispute.

British Baptist Alistair Brown, who sits on the BWA membership committee, said in March that it is "the committee's unanimous view that both be recommended" to the BWA General Council to become full member bodies of the worldwide group of Baptists.

The Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which are already major financial contributors to the Baptist World Alliance, in January joined the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of BWA's six regional groups.

Both state groups relate to the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other nationwide missions organizations.

But if "the recommended membership is approved by the BWA's General Council during its meeting in July, it would mean the two state conventions would become members on the same level as CBF, the American Baptist Churches, or any of the 200-plus other national and regional Baptist groups that make up BWA's membership. They would be the first U.S. state conventions to join.

The moves by the two conventions come after the SBC voted last year to leave the global fellowship amid charges that it was too liberal, a charge denied by BWA leaders. "Both bodies express sadness at the withdrawal from membership from the BWA of the Southern Baptist Convention," Brown told the assembled BWA leaders. "And they said that the withdrawal from the BWA had removed from them a means of fellowship with Baptists from around the world."
And the same goes for the Episcopal Church, whose leaders have drifted too far left, while the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have drifted too far right in relation to substantial numbers of their respective coreligionists. Both sets of elites are starting to feel the backlash.

A Far Outlier Favorite Blogpost for the Year

I only recently discovered the fascinating blog Dumneazu, which follows threads of food, family, friends, and folklore wherever they lead across time and space, with plenty of photos from past and present. Its author is one of my favorite commenters on Language Hat. The Dumneazu blogpost on The Dwarf Jewish Theater of Maramures has got to be among the most far-outlying I've read all year. Here's a taste.
There is an extensive wikipedia entry on the Ovitz Family. On arrival, the family members were selected by Dr. Jozef Mengele for genetic experiments. Thus it was that the Ovitz family, which in May 1944 arrived in Auschwitz together - seven dwarfs and the rest of their normal-sized family members - many of whom might have been murdered immediately had they arrived on their own, were not only spared the gas chambers, but were accorded special conditions which helped facilitate their survival. What's more, they were able to convince the Nazis that their trusted family assistant and coachman Shimon Slomowitz, his wife and six children, as well as two additional neighbors from Rozavlea with no special connections to the family, were also relatives, and as such were allowed to join the Ovitz group. Incredibaly, the Ovitz' were one of the only families to enter Auschwitz and survive intact, along with most of the other Maramures Jews whom they falsely claimed as relatives - thus attracting the protective umbrella of Mengele's expermientation.

After the war, the Ovitz family settled in Haifa in the newly established state of Israel, where they called themselves the Seven Dwarfs of Auschwitz and began touring. Their bittersweet cabaret was an enormous success. When they retired they had enough money to buy two cinemas, a café and a large flat where they lived together. the last surviving member of the family troupe, Perla Ovitz, died in 2001 in Haifa after revealing her amazing story to Israeli journalists Koren and Negev. "If I was a healthy Jewish girl, one meter seventy tall, I would have been gassed like the hundreds of thousands of other Jews in my country. So if I ever wondered why I was born a dwarf, my answer would have to be that my handicap, my deformity, was God's only way to keep me alive."
I'm a little puzzled by the blogname Dumneazu. When you google it, Google asks whether you might have meant Dumnezeu, lit. 'Lord God'. Perhaps it's a dialectal variant.

Whatever it may be, it provides me a good excuse to disquire a bit about Romanian deferential pronouns. The nondeferential second person singular, of course, is the familiar tu. The polite second person singular is dumneavoastră (often abbreviated d-vă), lit. 'your (plural) lordship'. The "officious" second person singular is dumneata (d-ta), lit. 'your (singular) lordship'. (The officious second person is the one they taught us at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey—presumably suitable for interrogating people from a position of authority.) There's even a set of polite third person equivalents: dumnealui (d-lui) 'his lordship' and dumneaei (d-ei) 'her ladyship'.

UPDATE: The blogger himself clarifies the mystery in the comments:
The name Dumneazu is a dialect variant - it is actually the nickname of a friend of mine who is the lead fiddler - the primas - of a Gypsy band in Transylvania. Everybody in the band does exactly what he tells them to do, hence the nickname. In the Transylvanian dialect that they use in Maramures, and even stronger in Moldavia, the -e sounds often get elided into -ye sounds. Pe mine becomes pe minye, etc. In the Boyash (Rudari who speak Romanian, having lost Romani) gypsy dialect of Romanian spoken in Hungary and Croatia the interesting written (mostly used for song lyrics) form - mnye - is used.

15 December 2006

Daniel Drezner on the Globalization of Baseball

International relations professor (and Red Sox fan) Daniel Drezner has compiled a range of responses to the signing of Japan's top pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka, by the Boston Red Sox. One of the excerpts he cites comes from Bryan Walsh at Time.com.
Most Japanese fans ... are celebrating Matsuzaka's signing as further proof that Japan's best players can compete on baseball's premier stage. Japanese players who move to the majors are no longer seen as leaving Japan behind; they are seen as representing their country in the international game. It's a sign that the globalization of sport is finally penetrating this often isolationist country, that many fans here would rather watch an international game with the top players in the world than settle for a lessened domestic product. As one Japanese baseball blog put it: "Finally, all the dream matches will come true in 2007. Matsuzaka vs. Godzilla Matsui, Matsuzaka vs. Genius Ichiro, Matsuzaka vs. Igawa! I wish the MLB 2007 season would start soon." He's not the only one.
I suspect Mongolians feel the same way about the success of their countrymen in Japanese sumo, as people in Hawai‘i once did. Japanese professional sumo is, I think, more internationalized than Japanese professional baseball, but the latter is rapidly catching up. However, if Japan's Central and Pacific Leagues are at the AAA level relative to the North American major leagues, sumo outside Japan is barely at the A level, in my opinion.

Last Saturday, I caught the last half of "Sumo World Challenge from Madison Square Garden in New York" on ESPN2. The final four were from Japan, Poland, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands. The Japanese wrestler won, and they were all rather skillful, but I found the dumbing down of sumo ritual for the benefit of those provincials in NYC pretty jarring. I got the distinct impression that the low-key—even taciturn—color commentator, retired pro sumo grand champion Musashimaru, was slightly embarrassed.

No-Sword on the Kanji of the Year

Matt the language blogger of No-sword offers some etymological insights into Japan's Kanji of the Year, 命 inochi 'life'. Here's a snippet.
Probably the most interesting way 命 can be used is to write mikoto, which is the "highness" (as in "your") that I mentioned above. "Highness" is, obviously, a gross translation that takes the cultural context out back and breaks its kneecaps; the word mikoto is from /mi/ (honorific) + /koto/ ("word") and was first used to refer respectfully to what gods and emperors said, or did, or were -- the distinction was not always clear-cut, as is often the case with gods and emperors*. In any case, that is why everyone who's anyone in Japanese mythology has a name ending in -no-Mikoto.

14 December 2006

Pirate Communes in the Late 1600s

The buccaneers are better documented than the pirates of the early seventeenth century, there being several surviving books and journals written by people who had themselves sailed with them, such as the buccaneer surgeon Alexander Exquemelin and the great navigator and travel writer William Dampier, as well as much comment from their captives and by observers ashore, especially the French who were fascinated by these early denizens of their West Indian colonies. This material shows that there had been several interesting developments in pirate customs and mentality. What has most intrigued the modern observer is the evidence of a degree of democracy and egalitarianism which ran quite counter to the norm anywhere else in the late seventeenth-century world. This is perhaps most striking among the true hunting buccaneers, a community of exiles who scorned the laws of all nations but honoured their own rules, 'the custom of the coast', and were so determined to forget the social hierarchy of the outside world that it was forbidden to speak of a man's origins, and surnames which might have given those origins away were replaced by noms de guerre or nicknames.

The privateers did not go so far as this, but they were still remarkably egalitarian by the standards of their day. They respected the governments of Jamaica and Tortuga from which they drew their commissions and were prepared to pay a share of their prizes for the right to operate from these safe ports, just as the corsairs of the Mediterranean did. They were also sufficiently capitalistic in their mentality to recognise the rights of the owners of their vessels, most of which were owned and fitted out by investors ashore. But they did this with reluctance and the Jamaican privateers were notorious for cheating the owners of their ships, refusing to count as spoil to be shared with investors much that would have been shared by a privateer operating from a European port. Significantly, this included the goods, money and slaves seized in raids ashore, their most important source of booty, but they also had a very liberal interpretation of what was known as 'free enterrance and plunder', goods seized from a prize at sea and divided at the mast before the privateer returned to port? And, once they had become out-and-out pirates, as most of them had by the 1680s, they of course no longer recognised owners at all and shared everything among themselves.

This share was 'a very exact and equal dividend', 'man for man', with the exception that boys got half a share and slaves got nothing, for the buccaneers were not so egalitarian that they would forgo the opportunity to retain 'negroes to do our work', as one of them noted in the journal he kept of his voyage. Captains and other senior officers got more than a man, but not very much more, 'five or six portions' for a captain according to one account, 'a double lot' according to another, while the French missionary Jean-Baptiste Labat reported that even this was not a right but 'a gift which is given them by the rest of the crew'? There were also arrangements for compensation for those who had been wounded or maimed, such as 500 pieces of eight (about £100) or five slaves for the loss of an arm or a leg, slightly more if it should be the right arm or leg, and 100 pieces of eight or one slave for an eye or a finger, while one account says that 'if a man has a wooden leg or a hook for his arm and these happen to be destroyed, he receives the same amount as if they were his original limbs'. Extra payments were also made to those who first sighted a ship later taken, the first to board or the first to storm a fortification, rewards for the sharp-eyed and the brave which were very similar to those accorded by the 'Custom of the Corsairs' in the Mediterranean.

The management of a privateer ship was as egalitarian as its division of prizes. Captains were chosen by the vote or acclamation of their men, and articles of association or chasse parties were agreed between captains and crew. In Morgan's time the crew elected two representatives to speak for them, but later there evolved an elected officer whose function was to speak on the men's behalf, to see that they were treated correctly and that the division of booty was really equal. This was the quartermaster, described by Dampier as 'the second place in the ship, according to the Law of Privateers', though a minor office on a merchant ship, and this was a position that the quartermaster would retain among the pirates of the early eighteenth century. Consultations in which decisions on the next move would be made by majority vote were frequent, every day according to one account, and there were also meetings to determine collective codes of behaviour, as on the occasion recorded by the French buccaneer Raveneau de Lussan in his journal. 'We then drew up regulations condemning anyone to forfeit his share of our loot if convicted of cowardliness, rape, drunkenness, disobedience, larceny, and failure to obey orders.' Both ships and men were free to opt out if they so wished, a ship by the collective vote of the men and a man by his own choice. 'Privateers are not obliged to any ship,' wrote William Dampier, 'but free to go ashore where they please, or to go into any other ship that will entertain them,' a freedom which would certainly not have been accorded by the rules of later pirates who bound a man to the ship once he had joined, whether willingly or unwillingly.
SOURCE: The Pirate Wars, by Peter Earle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003), pp. 100-102

13 December 2006

European Attitudes toward Barbary Corsairs, 1600s–1700s

The absence of a concerted joint effort by the Christian maritime powers allowed the corsairs of Barbary and Sallee to survive into the nineteenth century. This shameful failure of international cooperation had three main causes. In the first place, the great maritime nations were always suspicious of each other's intentions and were often reluctant to believe that a proposed attack on the corsairs was not a cover for some other more nefarious activity. Such suspicions were sometimes justified and so 'an expedition against the Barbary corsairs became the stock diplomatic formula for covering some ulterior and sinister design', as the historian Sir Julian Corbett put it in his study of England's early naval adventures in the Mediterranean. It also soon became apparent to the maritime powers that the Barbary regencies could be valuable allies in the numerous European wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as long as peace could be negotiated with them. This made collusion in naval expeditions against Barbary almost impossible, since it became naval policy to exploit friendship with Algiers or the other regencies in order to gain an advantage over whichever of the other European powers was currently the enemy. The last reason for this failure was even more cynical and was noted as early as 1611 by the English consul in Syria. 'He remarked there were difficulties in the way of uniting sovereigns for the suppression of piracy, for some are not displeased that pirates exist and are glad to see certain markets harassed.' This observation made at a time when there seemed to be genuine hopes for cooperation became even truer in later years. The maritime powers, especially England and France, realised that if the corsairs could be persuaded by force and diplomacy to leave their shipping alone, these predators would then concentrate their attention on the shipping of weaker nations and so reduce the competition in trade. The French attitude towards Barbary was summed up in a memorandum of 1729. 'We are certain that it is not in our interest that all the Barbary corsairs be destroyed, since then we would be on a par with all the Italians and the peoples of the North Sea.' What France wanted was 'just enough corsairs to eliminate our rivals, but not too many'. Such sentiments were shared by the English, a nation who first condoned the piracy of its own subjects as it helped them force their way into the commerce and carrying trade of the Mediterranean and then exploited the piracy of the corsairs to sustain and increase their dominant position.

This desirable if immoral position was to take a long time to achieve. The Barbary corsairs, especially those of Algiers, were formidable opponents in the 1620s and 1630s whose well-manned ships need feel little fear of the ships in the generally weak Christian navies of the day, since those they could not defeat in battle they could easily evade. 'It is almost incredible to relate in how short a time those ships out-sailed the whole fleet out of sight,' wrote the English Admiral Mansell after his failure to capture some corsair ships off Majorca on Christmas Day 1620. Algiers itself was virtually impregnable, a large, well-fortified city on what was normally a lee shore whose harbour was protected by a mole and a boom which could be drawn across if danger threatened. The other corsair cities were more vulnerable, but still offerred a formidable challenge to those who dared to attack them. And so, although many attacks were made on the ships and cities of the corsairs by the English, Dutch, French, Maltese and especially the Spaniards, not much progress was made in the first half of the seventeenth century. The Barbary corsairs, those 'pirates that have reduced themselves into a Government or State' as the jurist Charles Molloy neatly put it, remained a very great danger to the ships and coastlines of Christian Europe.

The situation was to change in the years after 1650 which saw a huge increase in the naval strength of England, Holland and, later, France and a growing commitment to the belief that one key function of wuch navies was to protect the nation's trade. These years also saw a change in the make-up of the European navies which had previously been dominated by large and very powerful ships. These remained, indeed became even more powerful, but they were now supported by much larger numbers of relatively small, fast vessels of shallow draught that had been originally designed to catch the privateers of the day but were of course also invaluable against the Muslim corsairs.
SOURCE: The Pirate Wars, by Peter Earle (Thomas Dunne Books, 2003), pp. 72-74

12 December 2006

Reshaping China's Coal Industry

SURELY NO NATION ON EARTH has as many coal miners or coal mines as China. In 1996, 5 million Chinese mined coal, virtually all of them underground. At the same time in the United States, about 90,000 miners were digging about the same amount of coal. The reason for the disparity, of course, is that Chinese mines rely much more on cheap labor than on costly machines. In addition to its many large mines, China has tens of thousands of tiny mines that each employ just a handful of miners.* The small mines are vastly more deadly than the big mines, which are themselves quite dangerous. In 1991, a particularly bad year, 10,000 Chinese coal miners died in accidents. By comparison, the number of Americans killed in coal mining in 1992, a bad year for the U.S. industry, was fifty-one.
*In 1998, China had about 75,000 mines employing an average of thirteen miners each. These small mines have a death rate seven times higher than the large ones.
... As they are in the United States and other coal-producing nations, the small inefficient mines are shutting down in favor of larger ones. In China, though, the scale of the disruption is mind-boggling: Beijing claims to have closed down 30,000 small mines just since 1998. Although the true number is surely less, there are undeniably painful reforms underway that have already thrown perhaps a million Chinese coal miners out of work.* These sweeping changes reflect the fundamental shift in Beijing's economic philosophy over the years: In a move more reminiscent of J. P. Morgan than Mao Zedong, the Communist government is now openly urging coal companies to merge into larger and larger enterprises, and to form "cartels" to limit overproduction and improve profitability.
*According to widespread reports, many communities have defied Beijing and quietly reopened their small mines; as a result, several officially "closed" mines have suffered deadly mining accidents in recent years. However, reports that miners are being laid off in huge numbers, including at large state-run mines, are more credible. Between 1992 and 1995, reportedly 883,000 coal miners (more than ten times the total U.S. coal mining workforce) were laid off, and there are plans to lay off nearly 800,000 more.
SOURCE: Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese (Penguin, 2003), pp. 207-208, 221-222

Reshaping the U.S. Coal Industry

THERE MAY BE NO POLLUTANT in all of history that people have worked harder to defeat than sulfur dioxide. In the United States alone the battle against it has absorbed years of effort and billions of dollars. Although it is nowhere near won, it has already utterly transformed the coal industry. It has also created deep political fissures between states and regions, as local fortunes rise and fall and as states struggle to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to fight this invisible foe and to stop 11 killing their downwind neighbors.

Coal provides just over half the electricity for the United States, with huge and politically important regional variations. Many states, especially in the coal-producing regions, get virtually all their electricity from coal; others, especially on the West Coast and in New England, burn next to none. They rely instead on the three power sources that make up almost all the other half of the nation's electricity—hydroelectric dams, nuclear power, and natural gas—though sometimes they also import coal-fired electricity from other states. However, the number of people a state's coal plants actually sicken or kill (and the amount of acid rain and lost visibility they cause) depends not just on how much coal they burn bur on the kind of coal they use and how they burn it.

People who run coal-fired power plants can cut their SO2 emissions in two ways: They can scrub, or they can switch.... It's often cheaper and a lot easier, though, just to switch to a kind of coal containing less sulfur. This option has caused some painful changes to the traditional U.S. coal industry by wrenching much of it away from the high-sulfur coal fields of the East and moving it to the low-sulfur coal fields of the West. Western coal has always been easier to dig because it lies in thick seams near the surface; but it is younger and generally packs less of an energy punch than the older eastern coals. In 1970, before environmental laws made sulfur content so important, only a tiny, share of U.S. coal came from west of the Mississippi. Today, more than half of it does, and the growing western low-sulfur coal fields are continuing to drain business away from the suffering high-sulfur eastern fields. Wyoming, with its vast surface mines, is now the nation's top coal-producing state. One result of the shift is that the coal industry can no longer view the environmental movement solely as a threat; the western coal fields, at least, owe much of their growth to environmental laws, and could benefit even more from stricter SO2 limits.

The shift to the western United States has transformed this ancient industry in other ways, too. Even though coal fueled the rise of the machine in virtually every sector of the economy, the extraction of coal (as opposed to mine drainage or coal transportation) long depended far more on manual labor than on machines. Today, though, nearly two-thirds of American coal comes from surface mines, where it has been scooped up by some of the world's most gargantuan machines. This mechanized mass production has helped make the direct cost of coal incredibly cheap by any measure.

The mechanization of mining has also devastated the work force. Because only the largest mines can afford to mechanize, the smaller mines that characterized the soft-coal industry for so much of the twentieth century have finally been driven out. More than three-quarters of the coal mines operating in the United States in 1976 have closed, and the current work force of 72,000 coal miners is less than a third of what it was a quarter century ago. The once mighty UMW now represents a mere 20,000 miners, who produce less than a fifth of American coal.
SOURCE: Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese (Penguin, 2003), pp. 177-180

Legacies of a Passing Age: Offprints and Philately

Caleb Crain, who blogs at Steamboats Are Ruining Everything, remembers the role offprints used to play in scholarly publishing--and stamp collecting.
Offprints are unbound printed pages of an article, which a scholarly journal provides to the article's author so that he may share them with colleagues. The protocol is -- or rather, was -- that when a researcher wanted to read an article that happened to appear in a journal he didn't subscribe to, he would send a postcard to the author, care of his institutional address, asking for an offprint. And the author, as a matter of scholarly courtesy, would mail it to him free. My father is a scientist, and when I was little and collected stamps, most of them came from the postcards sent to him and the other scientists at his institution, requesting offprints. In those days, the 1970s and 1980s, the requests by and large came from developing countries, where the research institutions had less money for their libraries. The postcards came from all over the world, in other words, from countries I'd never heard of and imagined I would never see, and it gave me a thrill to see them, emblems of the glamour and global reach of the life of the mind.
He's also offering to send you an offprint if you send him a postcard.

10 December 2006

Darfur Conflict Spreads into Central Africa

Lydia Polgreen of the NYT reports on the southward spread of yet another conflict not worth stopping, although France has intervened at the request of the current government of the CAR.
KALANDAO, Central African Republic — The Central African Republic — so important as a potential bulwark against the chaos and misery of its neighbors in Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan — is being dragged into the dangerous and ever-expanding conflict that has begun to engulf Central Africa.

So porous are its borders and ungoverned are parts of its territory that foreign rebels are using the Central African Republic as a staging ground to mount attacks over the border, spreading what the United Nations has already called the world's "gravest humanitarian crisis."

The situation is so bad in some places that 50,000 residents have fled the Central African Republic to find refuge in Chad, of all places, while starvation threatens hundreds of thousands who remain.

"This is the soft belly of Africa," said Jerome Chevallier, a World Bank official who is trying to help stabilize the Central African Republic. "It has little protection from whatever might strike it."
There's much more on Darfur and the fighting in Chad at Passion of the Present.

Head Heeb on the Somalian Regional Proxy War

The ever-vigilant Head Heeb has been closely following the growing likelihood of a regional proxy war in Somalia. Here is are the final paragraphs of his latest post.
Ethiopia and its local allies will push south from Puntland at the same time as they try to break the encirclement of Baidoa. This may, in turn, spiral into a proxy war; the same UN report that estimated the Ethiopian troop presence at 6000 to 8000 noted ominously that up to 2000 Eritrean soldiers may be in the country fighting on the Islamist side. In addition to Ethiopia's jitters over the possibility that an Islamist state in Somalia might support domestic insurgencies, its fears of a second front against its long-time regional enemy now seem to be materializing.

And as if this isn't enough, the possibility of Somalia being torn apart in a regional proxy war has a truly ironic postscript. A report on the fighting in the Independent notes sardonically that "the Palestinians are next in line to take over as head of the Arab League - raising the bizarre prospect of the Somali peace talks (if they are ever restarted) moving from Khartoum to Gaza." Bizarre this may be, but not necessarily inappropriate. Given the number of contending factions in Somalia, the diversity of their interests, the unlikelihood that they can be persuaded to compromise and the number of foreign countries that want a hand in the outcome, Gaza might be the perfect place for them to negotiate.

Haruki the Hybrid

Emily Parker in today's Wall Street Journal profiles the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Here's a snippet that detours from the primary focus on how Murakami deals with Japan's dark past.
Even as he chooses to spend much of his time in Honolulu, Mr. Murakami appears to reveal the punctilious ways of his homeland. (He reminded me to take off my shoes before entering his home, an airy Hawaiian residence that offers a breath of quiet and anonymity for the celebrity writer. Then he promptly sat down at a light wood table--in formal repose--and looked at me expectantly, waiting for the interview to begin.) And as if to confirm this impression, the Kyoto-born Mr. Murakami says that, in some ways, he is 100% Japanese. "The difference," he says, "is that I'm kind of individualist."

In truth, he is a cultural hybrid. He has spent time living in the U.S., and in our conversation he jumps back and forth between English and Japanese. His own books are dotted with Western cultural references, and he has translated several American classics into his native language, such as the work of J.D. Salinger, Raymond Carver and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He claims to be somewhat of a black sheep in his home country, in part due to his distaste for drinking parties or social conversation. How about Karaoke? "I hate it," he says in Japanese. "If I enter a store and there is a Karaoke machine there, I leave immediately."

I wonder if the author knows that removing shoes at the door is a custom that is nearly universal in Hawai‘i.

09 December 2006

Anthracite Elites vs. Bituminous Boondocks

THE 1902 STRIKE [in the anthracite fields of northern Pennsylvania] served to emphasize how the nation had divided into clean anthracite cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and dirty bituminous ones, like Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Birmingham.* In New York City, as the strike-induced shortage caused anthracite prices to rise, more and more coal users turned to bituminous, violating city laws and alarming city residents. Some plants allegedly switched to bituminous after dark when the smoke would attract less attention. In June of that year, the New York Times carried the distressing headline "Smoke Pall Hangs Over the Metropolis," something that was true every day in the soft-coal cities. A letter to the editor, bemoaning the growing illegal use of bituminous during the strike, asked, "Are we to have fastened on us the frightful infliction which curses Pittsburg and Chicago?" Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate whose bituminous-burning mills in Pittsburgh added greatly to that city's "frightful infliction," chose to live in New York City, and warned: "If New York allows bituminous coal to get a foothold, the city will lose one of her most important claims to pre-eminence among the world's great cities, her pure atmosphere."

Pure atmospheres were something most bituminous cities had not seen, and would not see, for a very long time. Most of the bituminous cities saw their coal smoke as the inevitable byproduct of industry, and saw industry as the source not merely of their material wealth but of modern civilization itself. And yet, this belief was not unshakeable. By the late nineteenth century, it was starting to clash with other firmly held attitudes that linked civilized life to cleanliness, beauty, health, and ultimately morality. In short, coal smoke was coming into conflict with an emerging environmental philosophy.
*In fact, nearly every city west of the Appalachians depended heavily on bituminous except the emerging cities in Texas and California, where oil and natural gas were locally available. The reason was the cost of transportation; bituminous was mined in some twenty states by 1900, anthracite only in eastern Pennsylvania. In St. Louis, for example, anthracite could cost four times more than soft coal from the mines of Illinois.
SOURCE: Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese (Penguin, 2003), pp. 148-149

Wood-burning Trains: "A Storm of Fiery Snow"

Anthracite country is often called the cradle of American railroading, and with good reason. Apart from a couple of relatively minor exceptions, the anthracite mine operators were the first Americans to use rails, and they greatly advanced the science of building railways. White and Hazard built a nine-mile rail line from their Summit mine down to the Lehigh [River] in 1827. Gravity carried the coal cars and a carload of mules (who refused to walk down once they had experienced rail travel), down to the Lehigh, and then the mules pulled the cars back up.

Rails spread quickly throughout the anthracite region, and the rest of the East, and eventually locomotives followed. Schuylkill county had more track than any other small area in the country. Companies building railroads alongside the canals drained away canal business and bought up much of the region's coal property. The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, one of the nation's largest and most powerful companies, dominated the area, but there would be five railways so intermingled with th anthracite trade that coal and railroading were often considered a single industry.

Surprisingly, these trains didn't run on coal. For the first few decades, American trains burned wood, even those that existed for the purpose of hauling coal. Anthracite did not burn well in locomotive fireboxes as they were then designed, and the bituminous fields were not yet widely exploited outside of Pittsburgh. Wood was bulky and burned fast, though, so the trains had to stop often to refuel. All along the tracks, people made money cutting wood to sell to the railroads—just one more way that trains would help turn the United States from a forested nation into an agricultural and industrial one.

The era of wood-burning trains is one that train buffs look back on with particular nostalgia. With clean-burning wood, locomotives could be much flashier: They were painted bright red and fitted with polished brass ornamentation. Engineers were flashier, too, often wearing ornate suits and vests with shiny buttons. When the switch to bituminous coal occurred later in the century, the inevitable accumulation of soot and grime meant that engines had to be painted plain black, and engineers switched to overalls. Some say that when the engineer's uniform was toned down, his status as a workman fell, too.

One problem with the shiny, wood-burning engines proved hard to ignore: They spewed out a continuous shower of sparks and cinders wherever they went, "a storm of fiery snow," as Charles Dickens called it when he visited the United States. It was a beautiful display at night, but it had a predictable downside. Wood-burning trains commonly set nearby fields and forests ablaze; some said the trains burned more wood outside the firebox than inside.
SOURCE: Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese (Penguin, 2003), pp. 121-123