31 January 2009

Emigration for Education

From Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (Public Affairs, 2005), pp. 166-167:
I reached for the bowl of apricots on the table, picked out a plump one, and passed it to Mitra. She took a nibble with a sip of tea. Our time together was usually spent with her two daughters, dancing in the living room or eating pizza on the balcony. This was our first private conversation.

I had always wanted to ask her about why she had decided to leave Iran, even after Khatami. Was it hard deciding to go, I asked. You stuck it out for so many years, what made it finally unbearable? She thought about it for several seconds, passing her finger back and forth over the apricot. When she finally did speak, it was not about the veil, or the violations of private life, or any of the daily degradations I had lived and expected to hear about. I couldn't stand arguing with them anymore, she said, the Sister Fatimehs and Sister Zeinabs at the girls' schools.

Mitra had two daughters, both teenagers. They would come home from school, having learned nothing useful, but with an earful of reprimands. "I would go down there every day, and ask them why my daughters were being treated like this. And they, these uneducated, unforgiving women, would stare down their noses at me, like, who was I to be asking questions about my daughters' education."

Every life in Iran came with its unique set of battles, most of which, like Mitra's, were unknown to me. I had never tried to raise children under the Islamic Republic, so that particular challenge did not even occur to me. I couldn't imagine what it would be like sending my daughters off to school each day, to be indoctrinated against me, their heads filled with an ideology that I would then need to unteach them at home. To be told that I, their mother, was anti-revolutionary, Westernized, immoral. Had I a choice, I realized, I might not have stayed to fight. Not if it meant sacrificing my daughters. The way I had learned to conceive of the Iranian nation, of devotion to homeland, was, after many months, still abstract. If I had children here, being pried from me and claimed for the revolution, if I had to go through a divorce under a system that stripped me of all my rights, then perhaps these notions of patriotism and loyalty would sound hollow.

Mitra's cheek gently fell against a cushion, and her exhalations became regular. In the quietness of the moment, as twilight settled on the willow trees outside the window, I felt some of the guilt of belonging to the diaspora, to the tribe who left, recede. Through living here, through seeing all the complexity that went into people's decisions to stay or leave, I was learning not to judge so harshly myself or others over such an intensely personal choice.

I respected Mitra for boxing up a privileged life, saying goodbye to all of her extended family, and starting from scratch in another hemisphere. Leaving was not an act of treason or disloyalty but of self-preservation. I had always believed that we outside were compromised for leaving Iran behind. That belief had colored my life, filled it with remorse for a decision that had not been mine. But for Mitra, and thousands of mothers like her, it would have been more compromising not to leave. Sacrificing a middle-aged life was one thing. Sacrificing two fresh daughters entirely another.
Well, this problem is hardly peculiar to Iran. It worries the education-focused parents of every society with a dysfunctional, oppressive public school system, and that seems to be most societies. Those with the means can opt to send their kids to private schools or move to a place with better public schools, even if it means emigrating. But very few parents have that option.

30 January 2009

What the PLA Learned in Korea

From A History of the Modern Chinese Army, by Xiaobing Li (U. Press of Kentucky, 2007), pp. 105-106, 110-112 (footnote references omitted):
From the conclusion of the fifth campaign until the end of the war, the [Chinese People's Volunteer Force] adopted more cautious and realistic strategies, including maintaining a relatively stable front line; increasing CPVF air force, artillery, and tank units; and beefing up logistical support. Indeed, the CPVF increasingly became a mirror image of its American counterpart in its prosecution of the war. The Korean War thus began China's military modernization and professionalization in terms of command, organization, technology, and training. In this respect, the United States turned out to be a "useful adversary" in the Korean War. For instance, Chinese forces began to learn to execute joint operations. The first such effort took place in the last phase of the war, on November 30, 1951, when the Chinese forces launched an amphibious attack, supported by aircrafts, onto Dahoo Island, off North Korea's coast. Though the CPVF lost five of nine bombers during the joint attack, the landing succeeded.

The Chinese army had previously fought in wars against the Japanese and Nationalist armies, but it knew little about American, British, Canadian, and other technologically equipped Western forces. Korea became a combat laboratory that offered Chinese officers and soldiers essential combat training. Starting in the fall of 1952, the PLA began to rotate Chinese troops into Korea to give them modern warfare experience fighting American forces as well as to relieve the CPVF troops already in Korea. As the result of this process, more Chinese troops were sent to Korea, including five Chinese air force divisions operating under the CPVF command. In all, about 73 percent of the Chinese infantry troops were rotated into Korea (25 of 34 armies, or 79 of 109 infantry divisions). More than 52 percent of the Chinese air force divisions, 55 percent of the tank units, 67 percent of the artillery divisions, and 100 percent of the railroad engineering divisions were sent to Korea.

By the end of the war, the CPVF emphasized the role of technology and firepower and respected its technologically superior opponents. To narrow the technology gap, China purchased weapons and equipment from the Soviet Union to arm sixty infantry divisions in 1951–54. Thereafter, Chinese weaponry was standardized. The Soviets also shared technology for the production of rifles, machine guns, and artillery pieces. Additionally, Chinese and North Korean armies received foreign aid from Eastern European countries, including Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. Romania provided forty-one railcars of war materials for the North Korean and Chinese troops in April 1951, including two railcars of hospital equipment and ten railcars of medicine for a one-hundred-bed hospital. Romania also sent twenty-two medical persons to China that month....

Between 1950 and 1953, more than 2.3 million Chinese troops participated in the Korean War. In addition, twelve air force divisions participated in the war, including 672 pilots and 59,000 ground service personnel. China also sent to Korea 600,000 civilian laborers to work in logistical supply, support services, and railroad and highway construction. In all, 3.1 million Chinese "volunteers" took part in the Korean War. Although the PRC government did not declare war on any foreign country, this was the largest foreign war in Chinese military history.

From October 19, 1950, to July 27, 1953, confronted by U.S. air and naval superiority, the CPVF suffered heavy casualties, including Mao's son, a Russian translator at the CPVF headquarters, who died in an air raid. Chinese soldiers who served in the Korean War faced a greater chance of being killed or wounded than those in WWII and those in the Chinese civil war. According to Chinese military records, Chinese casualties in the Korean War break down as follows: 152,000 dead, 383,000 wounded, 450,000 hospitalized, 21,300 captured, and 4,000 missing in action, totaling 1,010,300 casualties. Among the 21,300 Chinese POWs, 7,110 were repatriated to China in three groups in September and October 1953 (the armistice was signed in July). The other Chinese prisoners went to the ROC on Taiwan.

The PRC spent a total of about 10 billion yuan (about $3.3 billion) during the war. The Chinese government transported into Korea a total of 5.6 million tons of goods and supplies during the intervention. Between 1950 and 1953, China's military spending represented 41 percent, 43 percent, 33 percent, and 34 percent of its total governmental annual budget. The Korean War was the first time Chinese armed forces engaged in large-scale military operations outside China, and they faced one of the best militaries in the world. The Korean War was the only meaningful reference point for sustained PLA contingency operations beyond China's border. Chinese generals recall their fighting in the Korean War as a heroic rescue operation and an extension of their own struggle against imperialism. Chinese history books portray China as a "beneficent victor" in the Korean War. Peter Hays Gries observes that "to many Chinese, Korea marks the end of the 'Century of Humiliation' and the birth of 'New China'." Still, after the Korean War, Chinese generals were convinced that the Chinese military was a regional force, not a global one, and that it would fight limited wars in terms of both theaters of war and geopolitical objectives. This would force the PLA to consider the relevance of China's traditional approach.

After the Chinese-American confrontation in Korea, China's position in the Cold War was no longer peripheral to the two opposing superpowers but was, in many key senses, central. In retrospect, China's early Cold War experience—as exemplified in its participation in the Korean War—not only contributed significantly to shaping the specific course of the Cold War in Asia but, what is more important, helped create conditions for the war to remain cold in the 1950s and 1960s.

28 January 2009

Flogging the Vote in Tehran, 2001

From Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (Public Affairs, 2005), pp. 126-129:
Since the middle of the summer of 2001, Tehran had witnessed a baffling revival in the practice of public flogging, a form of punishment prescribed by Islamic sharia (criminal law) but abandoned by the Islamic Republic for over two decades. In the parks and squares of the capital, young people found guilty of petty social offenses like drinking alcohol, attending parties, and selling pornography were being rounded up every few days and lashed before crowds in busy squares.

The Tehran police released a statement meant to explain: "Regarding the spread of decadent Western culture in the society, police have seriously risen up against the propagators of corruption." The corruption described included: shop owners selling pets such as dogs and monkeys; clothes bearing pictures of Western movie and rock stars; coffee shops serving women dressed immodestly and wearing heavy makeup; malls playing "illegal" music; and shops that displayed women's underwear or nude mannequins in their windows.

The head of the judiciary declared "an all-out fight against social vices" and said "the people" had thanked the judiciary for carrying out the punishments. Both the police and the judiciary were run by hard-liners, while the Interior Ministry, which was loyal to President Khatami, publicly opposed the floggings. The standoff illustrated how the Islamic Republic worked, or more aptly, did not work: one powerful semi-official body implementing a policy that another sphere of government opposed and tried to obstruct.

Privately, reformists said Islamic criminal law, with its seventh-century origins and arcane punishments such as stoning and lashings, should be abolished. But discarding Islamic law would definitively secularize Iran. What sort of Islamic Republic, after all, could be run without Islamic legal codes? How else could Shiite clerics justify their divine right to govern without religious law?

The hard-liners were anticipating the upcoming presidential election and feared massive voter turnout, which would bolster Khatami—the bee in their turban—with a second popular mandate to carry forward reform. Somewhere in some dusty, dirty-carpeted room in Qom, some wily hard-liner understood the psychology of electoral politics. Television attack ads—or in this case, public floggings—disgusted voters enough to keep them at home. Khatami's opponents staged such spectacles to discourage fence sitters, already unsure whether to support a maimed-duck president, from voting.

In the weeks that followed, the lashings sparked an open debate about the role Islamic law should play in modern society—a crucial and thorny question many Muslim societies are facing today. On many important issues in Islamic law—like stoning as punishment for adultery, or the killing of apostates, or a woman's blood money equaling half a man's—the Koran is largely silent. Historical records of the Prophet Mohammad's teachings, called hadith, offer some guidance, but because they are open to interpretation, the calculations depend on the philosophical and moral worldview of clerics. A skillful cleric can convincingly argue that a given punishment, like stoning, should be abolished, or upheld. Purely in theological terms, it can be argued either way.

The progressive clerics in the reform movement searched for a way out of the impasse. They argued that since Islam is silent about 95 percent of the matters people face in daily life, people should be free to determine their own behavior, adjusting to the changing times. But the hard-liners interpreted this domain of the 95 percent as their own, a chance to shape society in their own image, by prescribing rules by fatwa. This debate, obscure as it may sound, was the basis for the political battle over the Islamic Republic's soul, if not the role of Islam itself in modern life: In the realm of the Koran's silence, are people free, or subject to the fatwa of clerics?

While the debate was significant—unique in a region that as a rule stifled candid talk on sensitive religious issues—it couldn't have mattered less to ordinary Iranians. They were light years ahead of such conversations (the need for secularism being as obvious to them as the blue of the sky), and it only irritated them to watch the country's rulers engage in esoteric theological bickering.

Young people were busy launching weblogs (by 2003, Iran ranked number three in the world in number of weblogs); intellectuals were writing innovative, sparkling satire, graphic designers were creating websites for the West. Their interest was turning intensely outward, to the world of ideas outside, and they didn't have the patience for this conversation among men of religion.

Although the reform movement had a far more intimate sense of people's actual desires than the conservative clergy, its leaders were still disconnected. They made the same miscalculation that the conservatives had, and it was ultimately this that cost them people's support. They assumed people would always back them, simply because there was no better alternative. In a competition between violent, fundamentalist ayatollahs, and religious-minded moderates, surely the Iranian people would choose the latter. For a couple of years this logic held, but as the regime stayed the same, and as it became more and more apparent that official change would be slow and undetectable, the distinction between religious conservatives and religious moderates (both functionaries of a dinosaur regime) ceased to matter at all.

They're all the same, complained student activists who had once passionately delineated their difference. In the end, reformists and conservatives had more in common politically with each other than with ordinary Iranians. The gulf between a mullah and an Iranian civilian was far wider than between a mullah and a reformist.

That much became clear when I began reading the daily newspapers in earnest. Each day I had to skim at least ten, because the political cliques that lined the spectrum from hard-Iine to reformist each had their own mouthpiece. They included the Super-fundamentalist But Non-Violent Clerics of Qom; the Pragmatic Anti-U.S., Pro-Europe Technocrat Hard-liners; the Fascist Anti-Western Hard-liners Prone to Assassinations; the Classical Anti-Western, Pacifist Clerics; and the Society of Combative Clerics, not to be confused with the Society of Clerical Combatants.

These factions had risen up together through the ranks of the Revolution, studied together at the feet of the Ayatollah Khomeini, ordered executions and then dined on chelo-kabob. They were the architects of this system, and now they were bickering over its structure and its spoils. "Reformist" and "conservative" were the labels they used when fighting amongst themselves—and though they fought each other like cats, they still considered themselves khodi (insiders) and everyone else gheir-khodi (outsiders).

26 January 2009

Navigating America by Area Code

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles blogger Jennifer 8. Lee notes the key role of telephone area codes in helping Chinese immigrants who can barely read English find their way to smaller cities served by the Chinatown bus services.
That is because many Fujianese restaurant workers are not educated and thus don’t really read and write English. Given that. How do you divide the United States? Not through towns and states. You do it through numbers — hence the area codes. As I wrote in a piece in 2005, job listings in Chinatown employment agencies are often done by area code.
Here's a snippet from that earlier article, which is well worth reading.
For workers who cannot read the names of their destinations in English, area codes serve as the restaurants' main geographical identifiers. The workers do not see America as a series of cities or even states, but as a collection of area codes, almost all with dozens upon dozens of Chinese restaurants looking for help. Maps in every Chinese agency break down the country by area code, with recently introduced area codes scribbled in by hand.

For many restaurant workers, the number of hours by bus is a critical measure of how far they are from the American center of their universe, East Broadway in Chinatown. Almost all travel by bus, because many do not speak English or have identification, so they cannot travel by plane. A network of Chinese bus companies has sprung up to shuttle the restaurant workers from Chinatown to the rest of the country. Some have started to draw non-Chinese riders, specifically the "Chinatown buses" that run between New York and Boston or Washington. One bus-company sign advertises the destination and the fare: "Minnesota (612, 551, 952, 763) $150; Wisconsin (920, 715, 608, 414) $120."
via Culture-making

25 January 2009

A Millennium of Reconfiguring Chinese Armies

From A History of the Modern Chinese Army, by Xiaobing Li (U. Press of Kentucky, 2007), pp. 18-20 (footnote references omitted):
To secure China's central position in Asia, Han emperors maintained a large army of more than one million men. The conscription system, however, did not meet the extraordinary demands of frequent wars, even though the emperors had extended the age range of service to between twenty and sixty-five. The later Han emperors began to include criminals and paid recruits in the army. These measures failed to stop the decline of the dynasty. Its efforts to create an Asian powerhouse drained its resources and provided no significant economic return.

Chinese historians describe their past as a series of "dynastic cycles" because successive dynasties repeated this story. After the collapse of the Han Dynasty, China had two long periods of division and civil wars (the Three Kingdoms Period, 220-80, and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, 317-582). During the Sui Dynasty (581-618), although the emperors reunified the country, they squandered an enormous amount of manpower and financial resources in building palaces for their own comfort and vanity. They attempted to reconquer Korea three times, and several million peasants were drafted as soldiers and laborers for the military expeditions. As a result, the peasants were exhausted and the Sui treasury was nearly empty. The burdens on the peasants had become unbearable. They began new uprisings, which dealt severe blows to the Sui regime. While the flame of peasant uprisings was burning across the country, local landlords were allowed to recruit troops of their own and occupy various parts of China. They safeguarded and then extended their power and influence. In 617, the aristocrat Li Yuan and his son Li Shimin started a revolt and quickly occupied Chang'an, the Sui capital. The following year, the Sui emperor was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, and his death marked the end of the Sui Dynasty. Li assumed the imperial title at Chang'an and called his new regime the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which became one of the most glorious dynasties and made China central to Asian affairs once again.

Tang emperors needed a self-sustaining army to prevent military spending from bankrupting the dynasty. To secure manpower and economic resources for military needs, Tang rulers carried on the fubing system, a peasant-soldier reserve system established by the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-535; established in north China by Turks), as the main source for new recruitments. There were 634 junfu (command headquarters) across the country. Each selected soldiers from among the local peasants who had received land through the land equalization system (juntianzhi). In 624, to increase the source of tax revenue, the Tang ruler adopted this land system and a tripartite tax system. Under the new system, a peasant above the age of eighteen received a small piece of land, of which one-fifth could be sold or left to his children. The other four-fifths must be returned to the government upon his retirement or death. The new land policy slowed the concentration of land in the hands of big landlords and redistributed it among the peasants. The men in the fubing system were peasants in peacetime and reported to the local headquarters to serve in wartime. Locally, the two-tier system of provinces and counties prevailed except in border and strategic areas, which were administered by garrison commands. The chief executive of each command was responsible for military as well as civil affairs as a military governor-general. The local power of military governors-general increased throughout the Tang Dynasty.

To stop the decentralization, after Tang, the Song Dynasty (960-1279) divided the fubing into the central or urban army (panbing) and the local or village militia (xiangbing). The first Song emperor, Zhao Kuangyin (Chao K'uang-yin; reigned 960-76), former commander of the imperial guards, took several measures to prevent the reemergence of separatist local regimes so as to concentrate all power in the central government. The central government took over the authority hitherto belonging to the military governors-general, and only civil officials could be appointed heads of military and administrative affairs at the local level. This civil-military relationship became another part of the Chinese military tradition. Robin Higham and David A. Graff point out that, during the Song Dynasty, "civil bureaucrats and military officers were often rivals for influence at court, and the civil officials attempted to assert their dominance over the military sphere in various ways and generally had the upper hand. Civil officials with no practical military training or experience of command at the lower levels were sometimes sent out to direct military campaigns." Neiberg considers the domination of the civilian bureaucracy in military affairs as one of the reasons that the Song Army had one of the worst military records of any Chinese dynasty. In 1279, the Mongols destroyed the Chinese army and ended the Song Dynasty.

Attitudes toward Religion in China

From Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), p. 127:
The single most important tie that binds the Uighur to one another and forms the foundation on which the Uighur have developed their sense of national identity and shared consciousness is their belief in Islam. All of the Uighur I interviewed, regardless of their individual religious practices, adamantly and proudly maintained that they were Muslim. Even those Uighur who admitted that they drank alcohol, didn't fast during Ramadan, and never attended services at a mosque, nonetheless maintained that in their hearts they were religious. This profession of faith in Islam was the one universal characteristic shared by all of the Uighur I met during the course of this study.

The Chinese constitution contains a guarantee of freedom of religion for ethnic minorities. However, the Chinese Communist Party, aware of the role that the Catholic Church played in undermining Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, is suspicious of organized religious activity. Prior studies have reported that Uighur religious activities have been widely suppressed and criminalized; however, during the course of my research, I observed no evidence of the criminalization of Uighur religious activities. While the Chinese government requires all Islamic organizations and places of worship to register with the Religious Affairs Bureau, services in the mosques that I observed (all of which were officially registered) occurred without any noticeable governmental interference.

Uighur were generally reluctant to speak about religion, usually saying that it was a private matter. However, while only a few of them were openly critical of the government's policies concerning religion, many of them were uncomfortable with the way religion was viewed by the Han. Uighur feel that Han look down on them, as one explained, "because they are too ignorant to understand the benefits of religion." According to another, "The people of China—the Han—are taught that religious belief is ignorance. And now, more than before, that Muslims are terrorists. Being a minority, being religious, especially Muslim, doesn't improve your situation in China. It only makes things more difficult."
The mandarins in Western societies seem to share those same Han attitudes toward religious belief and religious people.

24 January 2009

An Elite Birthday Party in Tehran

From Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (Public Affairs, 2005), pp. 81-83:
Other than the steady stream of cars that silently pulled up to the Kermanis' front door, there was no indication of the scene transpiring inside the darkened house. For their daughter Leila's seventeenth birthday, the Kermanis were throwing a "mixed party," which meant both boys and girls would attend and dance together to Western music, both activities officially banned by the regime.

Inside, the atmosphere was more Japanese hostess bar than a teenager's birthday party: a disco ball flashed against the walls, as erotically dressed girls and bored-looking young men prowled about self-consciously, oppressed by the pressure to have wild, illicit fun. Staging and attending such an event involved such elaborate subterfuge that nothing less would do. Leila worked the room in a white halter top that glowed in the flashing strobe light, trying unsuccessfully to lighten the edgy mood.

Everyone scanned the room furtively, carefully blase, holding distracted conversations. The heels were high, the skirts short, and the corners dark. In shadowy corners, shots were taken, hash was smoked. A Toni Braxton song came on, filling the makeshift dance floor with couples swaying in close embrace—an intimacy out of place in an Iranian family home, especially with Mrs. Kermani yards away in the kitchen, clucking orders to the maid preparing birthday cake. Toni Braxton went over well. So well that the song, "Unbreak My Heart," was played three more times, and each time, the embraces got a little tighter.

I, spinster chaperone, sat in the kitchen with Mrs. Kermani, who cast forlorn, helpless glances at the spectacle in her living room. I don't know what's wrong with these kids, she sighed. Poor Mrs. Kermani. Five years ago, she had fretted over raising a daughter in a grim, socially oppressive society. Now, she seemed aware that social permissiveness carried its own knot of worries—strained sexual relations, drinking and drugs, a new range of emotional pitfalls. When I was a teenager, we would dance all night, she mused, fiddling with the stack of dessert forks. They're dancing, just slow dancing, I said. She gave me the Iranian parental your-generation-is-weird look, and I gave her the your-generation-made-the-revolution look.

Around midnight, Mrs. Kermani began finding quiet rooms where worried parents could be pacified on the phone. While she called taxis, the girls scrambled to pull pants under their miniskirts. The cloakroom was strewn with slipdresses, for coming, and veils and roopoosh, for going. Leila looked exhausted; she didn't sparkle or preen, as she might have, given that she was beautiful and young, that it was her birthday, and that she had just presided over the most glamorous party of the season. As she shut the door, a girl in five-inch heels traipsing toward a waiting car turned her head back, and cried "Happy moharram!" in a tinny voice.

Three years ago, parties such as this were unthinkable. President Khatami's election made them commonplace. Elite Tehranis threw parties where waiters in starched white shirts circulated cocktails in gleaming crystal. Less status-conscious Iranians gathered as frequently, though they drank homemade vodka instead and were comfortable sitting on cushions. Everyone celebrated this newfound freedom in whatever way made sense to their lives. Trendy teenagers hung disco balls over their parties. Shiny, exposed, pedicured toes. Political arguments in the backseats of taxis. Young families picnicking with music in the Alborz foothills. Small freedoms, admittedly, that appeared inconsequential from the outside, but here they were felt deeply. They were the difference between suffocating, and breathing very, very heavily.

As Kimia and I drove home that night, careening down the wide expressway that connected north Tehran to downtown, I wondered how many more of such parties I could stand. All the laconic airs, the premeditated exposure of so much flesh. It hadn't been a birthday party so much as a pushing and shoving match with the Islamic Republic; a cultural rebellion waged indoors against the regime's rigid codes of behavior. Those codes banned young men and women from interacting casually together, attending soccer matches, studying at the library.

When they were finally permitted a few free hours in each other's company, they scarcely knew what to do, or how to behave. They had never developed a sense of what normal behavior between the sexes looked like; not only were they lacking a template, they found the prospect of normality unsatisfying. Instead, they sought to contrast the oppressive morality outside with amplified decadence behind closed doors, staking out their personal lives as the one realm in which they could define their individuality, and exercise their free will. The realm where the system tried to intrude, but ultimately could not control. The Islamic Republic does not control me; see it in the layers of makeup I apply to my face, the tightness of my jeans, the wantonness of my sex life, the Ecstasy I drop.

22 January 2009

Slave Diasporas Within Africa

From "Horrid Journeying: Narratives of Enslavement and the Global African Diaspora," by Pier M. Larson in Journal of World History 19: 438-440, 463-464 (Project MUSE edition, footnote references removed):
According to published estimates, roughly the same number of sub-Saharan Africans—some eleven to twelve million—were coercively moved across the Sahara and into the Indian Ocean and were sent as captives into the Atlantic between about 650 and 1900. But many captives never departed sub-Saharan Africa, as historians of Africa have long demonstrated. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the volume of sub-Saharan Africa’s external slave trades reached their apogee, as many or more slaves were newly captured and retained within the continent as were sent beyond sub-Saharan Africa into external exile. The combined volume of sub-Saharan Africa’s several external slave trades, estimated at over twenty million between 650 and 1900, also serves as a rough order of magnitude for the number of new slaves captured and retained within sub-Saharan Africa.

“A large number of slaves, probably a majority, were kept within Africa even during the peak years of the Atlantic trade,” Martin Klein has written in his history of slavery in West Africa. For sub-Saharan Africa’s trade across the Sahara, Ralph Austen, its foremost estimator, has noted that “it is harder to count slaves settled in the areas of transit, although these probably exceeded (as they did on the Indian Ocean coast) the number who traveled farther.” In his study of the demography of enslavement, Patrick Manning found that “The slave population in Africa was roughly equal in size to the New World slave population from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. ... After about 1850, there were more slaves in Africa than in the New World.” Herbert Klein has written that the number of slaves held in Africa during the early eighteenth century was on the order of three to five million. The domestic impact of the ending of the transatlantic slave trade was so great that “by 1850 there were more slaves in Africa than there were in America—probably now numbering close to 10 million.”

These may be understatements. Lovejoy, for example, has estimated the slave population of the western and central Sudan in about 1900 at between three and four million, not counting slaves held in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as in the Sokoto caliphate of northern Nigeria, once among the largest slaveholding states in the world, where some two million were bound in captivity in about 1890. On the East African islands of Zanzibar and Pemba alone, more than 100,000 persons were claimed as slaves in the late nineteenth century, nearly half as many as in all of mainland North America in 1750 or similar to the number in the single US state of Arkansas—fifty-four times their combined size—in 1860. Even in the early nineteenth century, probably more African slaves were held in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world. Africa south of the Sahara was a source of slaves and constituted a major destination for new captives....

The African diaspora as concept must be expanded, geographically recentered, and reworked to reflect the experiences of all Africans in dispersion from their homes, or it will remain a parochial tool. Making room in the African diaspora for the diverse experiences of Africa’s forced migrants conscious of their displacement and yearning for specific homes will require scholars to think and work in new and fresh ways, to employ new data, to expand beyond familiar American locations and languages, and to adopt an explicitly global-comparative approach that does not eliminate Africa from the African diaspora. This will require transforming many current assumptions about the demography and consciousness of African communities in dispersion to appreciate how Mississippi, Martinique, Senegal, Tunisia, Hausaland, southern Somalia, the Swahili coast, the Hijaz, Oman, Baluchistan, Gujarat, and the Mascarene islands each provide unique examples of African communities and self-conceptions abroad.

19 January 2009

A Uighur Dance Hall in Urumqi

From Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), pp. 56-57:
In Urumqi, Han bands often learn Uighur songs and perform at Uighur bars. Most of these are Uighur-owned and Uighur-operated and have an almost entirely Uighur staff and clientele, although there are usually a few token Han waiters and customers. The musicians performing Uighur songs at these bars, however, are almost always Han.

There is also a disco in Urumqi that has a Uighur clientele but whose owner is Han. The staff is all male and almost entirely Han. However this does not dissuade Uighur from coming—and coming in droves—every night of the week. Between 11:30 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., the disco is packed.

The DJ is a Uighur woman, and all announcements are made in the Uighur language. She plays Uighur popular music, with a few Russian and Indian songs mixed in. I never heard any Han songs played. Toward the end of the night, an occasional American pop song is played—Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. After every fourth or fifth song, the dance floor clears, and a Uighur dance team—sometimes two men and two women, sometimes three women, all dressed in traditional Uighur outfits—performs traditional dances. Although the music is traditional, a computerized dance beat is almost always mixed beneath it. And even though the Uighur women hold candles during some of the dances, modern strobe lights still flash to illuminate and intensify the performance.

The disco's clientele on any given night is entirely Uighur. Most of the patrons are in their mid- to late twenties, although there are some older people and a few families who bring their teenage children. Some of the older women wear head scarves and long sleeves, although most female patrons, regardless of age, dress in jeans or skirts. The women in this disco do not dress as revealingly—or formally, for that matter—as Han women typically do in Han discos.

Most of the dancing, despite the modern music, has an air of traditionalism. Uighur spread their arms like wings and circle each other with pride. During slow songs, men and women dance together. Women also dance with other women, and sometimes men dance with men. The women who wear head scarves usually dance with other women. Occasionally they dance with men, probably their husbands. However, when these women dance with a man, they dance without touching.

According to the disco's owner, "Han don't usually come here because they don't like Uighur music. Maybe they think it's interesting at first, but they prefer modern Han music. I opened this place because I had been in other Uighur discos and knew they could make money. Uighur don't mind who runs their disco, they just want a place to go play."

Japan's Women vs. Children Left Behind in China

From Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan, Mariko Asanoi Tamanoi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 91-92 (Japanese kanji added):
Today the Japanese state and media woman call [women abandoned in Manchuria at war's end] chūgoku zanryū fujin [中国残留婦人](Japanese women left behind in China) and distinguish them from chūgoku zanryū koji [中国残留孤児] (Japanese orphans left behind in China) in terms of age and gender. The latter were born of Japanese parents, mostly agrarian colonists, in either Japan or Manchuria, and were younger than thirteen at the time of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. In the wake of Japan's capitulation, their parents entrusted them to Chinese families, either because they were too sick to take care of their children or because the latter had little hope of survival. Children who were orphaned or accidentally separated from their families were also adopted by Chinese families. Today, owing to the tender age of these children at the time they were separated from their relatives, they are unsure of their mimoto, their "roots" [身元]. Since the mid-1970s, such children have been urged by the Japanese state to prove their identities as Japanese in the system of nation-states. Only those who have successfully proved their Japanese nationality have been officially allowed to return to Japan permanently.

In contrast, chūgoku zanryū fujin is a gendered category, referring to women who were over the age of thirteen when separated from their families. By 1945, most Japanese men older than thirteen had already been mobilized into the Youth Brigade or military. Hence, whether they were married or not, the women in this category had been left to take care of themselves and all the children. In the turmoil after Japan's capitulation, some of these women chose to marry Chinese citizens for their own survival, and they stayed in China. These women are different from the children who were left behind in one important way: because they were older, they firmly remember their roots as well as the Japanese language. Precisely for this reason, the Japanese state deemed these women old enough to make choices when they were left on their own. Thus until 1993, the state did not permit them to return permanently to Japan; they were regarded as belonging to China as the spouses of Chinese citizens.

The set of terminology is confusing largely because the difference between the women and the children was artificially created by the Japanese state and media. In addition, the categories excluded Japanese men older than thirteen who left in China as of 1945. In 1994, the Japanese state admitted this confusion. Through the Repatriation Support Law (Kikoku shienhō [帰国支援法]), the state eliminated the differences between the two categories and combined them under the umbrella term of chūgoku zanryū hōjin [中国残留邦人] (Japanese left behind in China). Nevertheless, this term too has generated confusion; as a result, the state and media continue to use the two earlier terms today.

18 January 2009

Japan's Minority Contender for P.M. in 2001

On the eve of inaugurating a new and different president of the U.S., the New York Times engages in a bit of national oneupmanship by way of dusting off a profile from eight years ago of a Japanese politician who never made it to the top post because of his status as a member of an outcast minority.
For Japan, the crowning of Hiromu Nonaka as its top leader would have been as significant as America’s election of its first black president.

Despite being the descendant of a feudal class of outcasts, who are known as buraku and still face social discrimination, Mr. Nonaka had dexterously occupied top posts in Japan’s governing party and served as the government’s No. 2 official. The next logical step, by 2001, was to become prime minister....

The topic of the buraku remains Japan’s biggest taboo, rarely entering private conversations and virtually ignored by the media.

The buraku — ethnically indistinguishable from other Japanese — are descendants of Japanese who, according to Buddhist beliefs, performed tasks considered unclean. Slaughterers, undertakers, executioners and town guards, they were called eta, which means defiled mass, or hinin, nonhuman. Forced to wear telltale clothing, they were segregated into their own neighborhoods.

The oldest buraku neighborhoods are believed to be here in Kyoto, the ancient capital, and date back a millennium. That those neighborhoods survive to this day and that the outcasts’ descendants are still subject to prejudice speak to Japan’s obsession with its past and its inability to overcome it.

Yet nearly identical groups of outcasts remain in a few other places in Asia, like Tibet and Nepal, with the same Buddhist background; they have disappeared only in South Korea, not because prejudice vanished, but because decades of colonialism, war and division made it impossible to identify the outcasts there.

In Japan, every person has a family register that is kept in local town halls and that, with some extrapolation, reveals ancestral birthplaces. Families and companies widely checked birthplaces to ferret out buraku among potential hires or marriage partners until a generation ago. The practice has greatly declined, though, especially among the young.

The buraku were officially liberated in 1871, just a few years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. But as the buraku’s living standards and education levels remained far below national averages, the Japanese government, under pressure from buraku liberation groups, passed a special law to improve conditions for the buraku in 1969. By the time the law expired in 2002, Japan had reportedly spent about $175 billion on affirmative action programs for the buraku.
via Japundit

My father's first missionary posting after two years (1950-52) of language school in Tokyo was to serve as chaplain at Seinan Jo Gakuin, a Southern Baptist girl's school in Kokura, Japan, a grimy industrial city that was the original target of the atomic bomb that was redirected to Nagasaki because of too much cloud cover over Kokura that fateful day. My brother and I attended the new kindergarten (founded in 1952) that served mostly school employees. It was not until decades later that my father happened to mention the second preschool, a bit closer to our home, that served children from the burakumin housing complex just up the road from our house on what was then a rather barren hillside. Kokura was one of Japan's principal coal-mining regions and many of the mineworkers were burakumin and Koreans, along with POWs during the war years. The current Japanese premier is a direct descendant of the owners of the Aso Mining Co., which at one time controlled a large number of coal mines in Kyushu.

Our house was a metal prefab that wonderfully amplified the noise of rain, but was hard to heat during the winter. There was a coal bin underneath to feed the furnace, and at one point we discovered that a homeless urchin had been sleeping there. We two oldest boys spent a lot of time with our maid, a country girl who spoke no English and would threaten to give us to the rag picker (very likely burakumin) if we didn't behave. Our mother bore two more sons while we were there, the first of them born at home with the help of a midwife. It was mom's easiest delivery, she later told us.

When we began going to kindergarten, down one hill and up the next, mom would watch us from the sun porch, waiting for us to reappear on the far side of a hidden part of the road. My father tells me that at kindergarten I often served as translator for my more gregarious younger brother.

17 January 2009

Posssessive vs. Attributive Genitives in Numbami

Genitival modifiers in Numbami, an Austronesian language of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, may either precede or follow their head nouns. This word order difference has consistent semantic correlates. For convenience, I will refer to the Modifier + Head genitive order as the "possessive" genitive. This contrasts with the "attributive" genitive, which has Head + Modifier order.


There are two types of genitives with Modifier + Head order. One is simply a noun-noun compound without any intervening markers of a genitive relationship. Such compounds express whole-part relationships. The modifier indicates the type of larger entity of which the principal entity (that denoted by the head noun) is a part. This modifier is descriptive rather than referential. There are no restrictions on the referentiality of the compound as a whole. It can be nonspecific—that is, it can denote some not-yet-uniquely-identifiable member(s) or quantity of the set it describes. It can be generic—that is, it can refer to any and all members (or the entire quantity) of the set it describes. Or it can be specific—that is, it can refer to some individually identifiable subset of the set it names. Because the term "generic" is sometimes used in both the nonspecific and the generic sense (as just defined), it will be convenient to use different terminology in the discussion that follows. The term "attributive" (or "nonreferential") will substitute for "nonspecific" and the term "referential" will take the place of both "generic" and "specific". Examples of whole-part genitives in Numbami follow.

Whole-part Genitives
    wuwu lau 'betel pepper leaf'
    wuwu ano 'betel pepper fruit (catkin)'
    nima kuku 'finger' (lit. 'hand digit')
    nima daba 'thumb' (lit. 'hand head')
    nima duga 'elbow' (lit. 'arm joint')
    nima gidu 'wrist' (lit. 'arm nape')
    tina daba 'headwater'
    tina gidu 'river mouth'
    kapala lalo 'inside of house, indoors'
    kapala zamoka 'veranda of house'
    Awayagi dume 'back (windward) side of Awayagi Island'
    Buzina bubusu 'Buzina (Salamaua) point'

In contrast to the modifiers in whole-part genitives, those in possessive genitives must be referential. The reference of the head noun is also restricted. It must be referential.

Possessive Genitives
    wuwu na lau 'the leaves of the betel pepper plant; particular betel pepper plant's leaf'
    kapala na lalo 'the insides of house: particular house's inside'
    kakawa na kapala 'the houses made for chickens; particular chicken's house'
    kaila ndi kapala 'the houses built by inlanders; house(s) belonging to a specific group of inlanders'
    Siasi ndi gutu 'the Siassi Islands; islands belonging to a particular group of Siassi people'
    bumewe ndi nomba 'the things or concerns peculiar to whites; thing(s) belonging to a particular group of whites'
    bumewe ndi bani 'the food typically eaten by whites; food belonging to a particular group of whites'

The possessive genitive is the only type in which the modifiers may be pronominal. The internal structure of the majority of genitive pronouns parallels that of the genitive nominals. The independent pronoun appears in the same position as other nominals.

Pronouns — Pronominal genitives
woya — na-ŋgi kapala 'my house'
aiya — a-na-mi kapala 'your (sg) house'
e — e-na kapala 'his/her/its house'
i — i-na-mi kapala 'our (excl) house'
aita — aita-ndi kapala 'our (incl) house'
amu — amu-ndi kapala 'your (pl) house'
ai — ai-ndi kapala 'their house'

The preposed genitive is also the only way to express a possessive relationship between personal possessors and inalienable possessions. Remnants of former suffixed possessives show up in the middle of a few body-part and kin-term compounds, however. Only the kin-term infixes show agreement with the preposed pronouns, and then only with the singular pronouns.

Inalienable Possession
    ena taŋa-n-owa (lau) 'his/her/its (outer) ear'
    anami nisi-n-owa (awa) 'your nose (nostril)'
    naŋgi tai-n-owa (bibi) 'my buttocks (rectum)'
    ena gode(-n-ewe) 'his/her (female) cross-cousin'
    anami gode(-m-ewe) 'your (female) cross-cousin'
    naŋgi gode(-ŋg-ewe) 'my (female) cross-cousin'

Noun-noun possessive constructions are distinguished from noun-noun (whole-part) compounds by morphology as well as by semantics. Singular possessors are indicated by na and plural possessors by ndi. One of these two morphemes intervenes between the preposed referential genitive modifier and the head noun.


There are two types of simple attributive constructions with Head + Modifier order. Noun-adjective constructions are one type. In Numbami they contain no markers of a genitive relationship. The adjectives themselves are attributive rather than referential, and the construction as a whole may be either attributive or referential.

Noun-Adjective Attributives
    wuwu wiya 'good betel pepper'
    wuwu maya 'bad betel pepper'
    tina wawana 'hot water; tea'
    tina luluwila 'cold water, ice water'
    niwila masoso 'dry coconut, copra'
    niwila teliŋa 'liquid coconut, drinking coconut'
    kole goiya 'big man, prominent man'
    kole bodama 'ordinary man, worthless man'
    usana pisipisi 'drizzling rain'
    usana wami 'downpour'
    kapala kae 'little house; toilet'
    kapala kaikaila 'poor quality house' (kaila 'inlander')

While adjectives carry no morphological indication of an attributive or genitive relationship, attributive nominals are marked as genitive. They are followed by either na or ndi. Singular na is far more frequent. Plural ndi is only used when the attributive nominal denotes a type of people with whom the referent of the head noun is characteristically associated. Attributive nominals never refer to a particular subset within the set they name. Instead, they only restrict reference to a subset of the prototype set denoted by the head noun. The construction as a whole may be referential or attributive, but the modifying nominal is nonreferential.

Attributive Genitives
    wuwu weni na 'forest (wild) betel pepper'
    wuwu dadaŋa na 'outside (domesticated) betel pepper'
    wuwu Buzina ndi 'type of betel pepper associated with the Buzina people at Salamaua'
    wuwu Zena ndi 'type of betel pepper associated with the Zena people at the mouth of the Waria river'
    kulakula kundu na 'sago work'
    kulakula uma na 'garden work'
    lawa teteu na 'village people'
    lawa da na 'people of the spear (= police)'
    walabeŋa tamtamoŋa na 'fish poison, native means of stunning fish'
    walabeŋa bumewe na 'dynamite, explosives, European means of stunning fish'

The attributive genitive seems very close in meaning to the possessive genitive when the reference of the construction as a whole is generic (as earlier defined). Both bani bumewe ndi 'European food' and bumewe ndi bani 'the Europeans' food (the food of Europeans as a "genus"), can refer to the same set of food. But the difference is this: The attributive nominal helps identify the referent by subtyping the head noun according to its association with another type of entity. The possessive nominal helps identify the referent by associating the head noun with another referent. Possessive genitives, in fact, are as much a means of referring to possessors as they are of referring to possessions. The following example illustrates.

Kundu, ena lau wa kapole, ena wambala tiyamama
sago its leaf and leafstalk its cargo all
nomba sesemi. Sese ena bolo luwa.
thing one&same but its skin two
'Sago, its leaf and stalk, all its content is the same. But its husk is of two kinds.'

The semantics of the attributive genitive, on the other hand, make it suitable for other functions. Since it identifies entities by subclassifying them, it is useful in distinguishing homophonous or polysemous words and in creating new classes of entities.
    awila buwa na 'betel lime (betel awila)'
    awila iya na 'fishhook (fish awila)'
    waŋga aidudu na 'airplane (treetop canoe)'
    waŋga tailalo na 'submarine (undersea canoe)

Neologisms and periphrastic translations of foreign terms are frequently attributive genitives. The head noun denotes a familiar general prototype and the genitive identifies some familiar domain with which the new entity is associated. The attributive genitive construction thus characterizes the novel entity by creating a novel association between familiar entities. This is the point at which genitive constructions shade into relative constructions.

16 January 2009

Manshū Jizō for Japanese Orphans & Their Chinese Parents

From Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan, Mariko Asanoi Tamanoi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 113-114 (inline reference citations omitted):
In 1998, I was introduced to Kōji, a repatriate from Manchuria and a volunteer who assists [Japanese] orphans [left behind in 1945] and their [Chinese] families [who adopted them]. When I visited him at his home in downtown Tokyo, he showed me some fifty tiny figurines of Jizō, placed neatly in a box. Jizō, one of the most important Buddhist deities in Japan, is believed to comfort the souls of dead children while simultaneously comforting their mourning parents. Jizō statues are found throughout Japan, and the deity is "perhaps the most ubiquitous, popular, and widely loved in Japanese religion." Kōji makes these little figurines. He starts by collecting tiny stones on the beach or by the roadside. Using his artistic skills, he smoothes the surface of each stone, paints a child's face on it, and transforms the stone into Jizō. Each Jizō represents an immigrant child who died in Manchuria, as well as the sorrow of the child's parents. According to Kōji, however, each Jizō also represents an immigrant child who has survived in China, as well as the devotion of the child's Chinese adoptive parents. While the postwar Japanese state regarded orphans as "the dead" for quite some time, Kōji resurrected them in tiny stones and made the compassion of their adoptive parents known to the Japanese public. Kōji also took me to a gallery near his home. Located in the posh Roppongi district of Tokyo, the small gallery attracted many young women and men. There he displayed his figurines—called Manshū Jizō (Manchurian Jizō)—and sold them to gallery visitors. The money he made from the sale of these statues, Kōji said, would go into a fund to support another project: a stone monument to be built in China to express gratitude to the Chinese adoptive parents of the Japanese orphans. Indeed, by the time I met Kōji, the project was already well under way; a well-known artist, himself a repatriate from Manchuria, was already building a monument of a Chinese couple and their adopted son, a child of the Japanese agrarian colonists.

In 1999, Kōji and his group finally completed this grand project. When I read the newspaper report of this event, it surprised me greatly that they had built the monument in Liutiaogou, the very site of the Japanese invasion into Manchuria on September 18, 1931. In addition, they held the ceremony celebrating the completion of this monument inside the September-Eighteenth Museum, which is known for its displays condemning Japan's imperialism. The monument, then, embodies more than the suffering of the orphans. It embodies the pain of their adoptive parents and, by extension, the pain of the people in China who suffered not only from the departure of their adopted children to Japan but also from the Japanese invasion in the age of empire. Representing the orphans, Fumio spoke at the ceremony to an audience of about two hundred, including his eighty-four-year-old adoptive father. He is reported to have said the following: "After the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, my adoptive father saw me off to Japan while crying. ... My adoptive parents made me eat steamed rice every other day while they ate corn and kaoliang." Fumio now lives in Japan as a Japanese citizen and yet has never forgotten the adoptive parents he left behind in China.

Kōji and his friends, who erected the monument and organized the ceremony in Liutiaogou, represent the parental generation of Japanese colonists. I later learned that Kōji, along with Satoshi, was one of the key figures who helped the orphans stage their protest march in downtown Tokyo. These volunteers, who themselves experienced tremendous hardships during the journeys of repatriation, are now keenly aware that the suffering of the orphans belongs not only to the past but to the present and the future as well. They are also aware that to understand their concerns and worries, they must go back to the past, and that is why they traveled to Liutiaogou. By so doing, they went far beyond Japan's national space to understand not only the fates of the orphans and their adoptive parents but also their own involvement in Japanese imperialism. Are the children of orphans, being Japanese-Chinese, no longer Japanese? Is it necessary for the Japanese public to distinguish orphans and their families from Chinese "economic refugees"? I will leave these questions unanswered for now, but note that the wisdom of people such as Kōji gives us the hope that people, regardless of nationality, can learn the value of humanism from a past that they once shared in some ways.

15 January 2009

Hatsu Basho, 2009

They're off and shoving! Five days into the Starting Tournament of 2009 in Tokyo, four rikishi remain undefeated: the two Mongolian yokozuna, Asashoryu and Hakuho; the newly promoted sekiwake, Baruto from Estonia; and the rising maegashira Tochiozan from Kochi, Japan, home of the famous Tosa wrestling dogs (which are featured on his ceremonial apron).

Two ozeki, the Japanese veteran Chiyotaikai and the Bulgarian heartthrob Kotooshu, are only one loss behind. But the other two ozeki only have one win each so far: Japanese veteran Kotomitsuki and the lithe Mongolian crowd favorite Harumafuji, who changed his ring name (from Ama) after nearly winning the November tournament and earning promotion to the second highest rank. The latter two risk demotion if they don't finish with more wins than losses.

UPDATE, Day 8: Tochiozan is still keeping pace with the two yokozuna at 8-0, with Baruto and Kotooshu right behind them at 7-1. Harumafuji has improved to 3-5, but still has to win 5 of his 7 remaining bouts to finish with a winning record.

UPDATE, Day 14: Harumafuji, now 8-6, has somehow managed to get the 8 wins he needs to keep his new rank of ozeki, but Kotomitsuki dropped out after falling to 2-10. Everyone except the two yokozuna have fallen off the pace. Unless Asashoryu (14-0) loses on the last day, he will coast to victory, with Hakuho (13-1) just one loss behind. Nice recovery by Asa, who hadn't been wrestling very well before the tournament.

UPDATE, Day 15: Hakuho handed Asashoryu his first loss when they faced each other on the final day, leaving both tied at 14-1 and forcing a playoff, which Asashoryu then won, for his 23rd tournament title at the highest level.

13 January 2009

Hui vs. Uighur Mosque Architecture

From Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), pp. 49-50
Most mosques throughout China's northwest, and almost all mosques in Xinjiang, are constructed in a traditional Afghani or Arabian style. From an architectural standpoint, Hui mosques in Yunnan and the Great Mosque in Xi'an, where Hui constitute a large portion of the population, could be mistaken for Buddhist or Taoist temples, as could the Niu Jie Mosque in Beijing. Uighur in Urumqi are proud of the way their mosques look, that is, they feel their mosques look Islamic in comparison to Hui mosques built in the style of traditional Chinese temples....

The Niu Jie Mosque is Beijing's most famous mosque and the one most frequented by the city's Muslim population. The Niu Jie Mosque is built in the Chinese style. There are no domes or minarets. The roofs slope up at the eaves in the traditional style of the Ming dynasty. Originally built in the ninth century, the mosque's current architecture is a reflection of enlargements and refurbishments made throughout the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. There are a number of relics and artifacts inside, many of which are Han and have no relation to Islam. According to one of the mosque's groundskeepers, an older Han woman, the mosque was completely renovated in 1979.
The photo below shows the entrance to the Great Mosque in Xian, China, which I visited in 1988.
Great Mosque courtyard, Xian, China

11 January 2009

Reporting from a Land of Lecherous Clerics

From Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (Public Affairs, 2005), pp. 100-101:
My father had taught me that clerics were lazy; more specifically, that they were unsuited to run a country because their work kept them in seminaries, sipping tea in robes, and that sort of languid profession did not lend itself to the more challenging task of administering a government. Convinced their worst sin was sloth, I had not assumed they were equally lecherous. One really could not have a proper conversation with a cleric. They were absurd. A one-hour interview with a mullah inevitably cycled like so:

First fifteen minutes: Gaze averted, stares at own feet, wall, space, anywhere but two-foot radius around opposing female.

Second fifteen minutes: Slowly casts glances in direction of head and talking voice.

Third fifteen minutes: Makes eye contact and conducts normal conversation.

Last fifteen minutes: Begins making googooly eyes, smiling in impious fashion, and requesting one's mobile phone number.

I didn't understand why they did this with me, since they are supposed to favor round women and fair women, and I was neither. Some actually complained about this, with mock concern for my health ("Miss Moaveni, have you been ill? You've lost so much weight. ... Don't you like Iranian food?"). How they could detect a body underneath the billowing tent I wore, let alone its fluctuations, was beyond me. I asked Khaleh Farzi, who explained that clerics had x-ray vision. That was why they didn't mind keeping women veiled.

It was only over time, after repeated exposure to womanizing clerics, clerics who stole from the state and built financial empires, who ordered assassinations like gangsters, who gave Friday sermons attacking poodles, that I came to understand the virulence of my father and my uncle's hate for the Iranian clergy. Perhaps their flaws were no greater than those of ordinary mortals, but ordinary mortals did not claim divine right to rule, ineptly, over seventy million people. As the gravity of the Islamic Republic's hypocrisy revealed itself, I came to the slow, shocking realization that Iranian society was sick. Not in a facetious, sloganny way, exaggerating the extent of culture wars and social tensions, but truly sick. The Iran I had found was spiritually and psychologically wrecked, and it was appalling.
I doubt a thoroughly secular state would be much better if it suffered under the political hegemony of, say, its professors of literature or philosophy (or linguistics, to pick on my own field).

10 January 2009

Japan's Genre of Uprooted Colonist Memoirs

From Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan, Mariko Asanoi Tamanoi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 53, 59-60 (inline reference citations omitted):
In Japanese, the verb "to repatriate" (hikiage-ru) has multiple meanings; among these are to pull up, raise, refloat, pullout (of a place), and (close a business and) return home. ['Pull up stakes' seems the best English equivalent to me—J.] As a noun, "repatriate/s" (hikiage-sha) becomes not only historically but also morally charged in postwar Japan. Repatriates are those who emigrated to Japan's overseas territories in the age of empire but were forced to (close their businesses and) return home after Japan's capitulation in the Asia-Pacific War. Once in Japan, however, they were often seen as social misfits, largely because the dominant perception of them dramatically changed over the divide of August 15, 1945. Before then, they were imin (emigrants) who were hailed as the vanguards of imperialism in official discourses. After Japan's defeat, they were hikiage-sha, who were greeted with pity, suspicion, and callousness by their compatriots who had never left Japan proper. Here, the oral narrative of Aki ... is helpful: "When we returned home [to Fujimi in 1946], our neighbors were very cold to us Manchurian daughters. I truly worried that I might become an old mistress." An arranged marriage for Aki would fail largely because she was "a returnee from Manchuria" who might carry "foreign sexual diseases." In the end, she married a "Manchurian boy" whom I could not meet since he died a few years before the beginning of my fieldwork. After all, kaitaku imin (agrarian emigrants) were not supposed to return, for they had left Japan to rehabilitate the rural economy at home. With Japan's capitulation, they lost land and houses in Manchuria that the state had taken away from Chinese farmers. Hence they had no recourse but to return to Japan, the only country on earth that was obliged to take them. Yet in the immediate postwar period, when resources were so meager, the people of their mother villages, who had sent them off enthusiastically, were reluctant to welcome the repatriates back to their home....

Although the first memoir written by a returnee from Manchuria appeared as early as 1949 (and was reprinted in 1976), the upsurge in this genre came decades later, from the late 1960s to the 1990s, with several published in the early years of the twenty-first century. This means that the majority of authors waited for more than two decades before publishing their memoirs—in order, possibly, to keep a certain distance from the past. What characterizes the memoirs is that most authors rely only on their personal memories, as well as the memories of their fellow settlers that they (over)heard while fleeing from Manchuria. In addition, they cite each other's memoirs, rather than primary or secondary sources on Japanese imperial history. After all, hikiage-mono are the authors' eyewitness reports and they force the reader to believe in the authenticity of their personal memories.

For all these reasons, the genre is called hikiage-mono rather than hikiage-bungaku, "repatriate literature." Though a generic term for "genre," mono is primarily used for classifying popular cultural productions such as movies, comedy shows, and songs. In other words, the term indicates the genre's lower position in the hierarchy of cultural production: it is neither "literature" (bungaku) nor "history." Indeed, most repatriate memoirs have small readerships, as the authors, being amateurs, submitted their works to small, local publishing houses. Many of the works are not even for sale. Others are not books at all but short essays printed in magazines published by organizations of former colonists and soldiers, as well as alumni organizations of the Japanese schools built in Manchuria. In fact, I bought most of the works that I examined in secondhand bookstores in Japan since the collections at university libraries are rather limited. It is for this reason, I believe, that Japanese as well as Anglophone scholars have hardly paid attention to them.

09 January 2009

Keeping the Persian Faith in California Exile

From Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni (Public Affairs, 2005), p. 23:
Iranians, by and large, are subtle about their piety, and identify more closely with Persian tradition than with Islam. Faith is a personal matter, commanding of respect, but it does not infuse our culture in the totalizing way I have witnessed in certain Arab countries, among many Sunni Muslims. Westernized, educated Iranians are fully secular—they eat pork, don't pray, ignore Ramadan—and so it had never occurred to the exile community to start up a mosque. Hiking groups, discos, political soirees, definitely, but a mosque would have been in bad taste; the revolution had made Islam the domain of the fundamentalists. But Maman was one day struck by worry that I'd grow up ignorant of Islam, and decided some formal religious training was in order. Every four years she seemed to choose a new religious avenue to explore, convinced our lives were lacking in spirituality, and since we had already done Buddhism and Hinduism, and briefly toyed with Mormonism, it was Islam's turn.

That was the summer she enrolled us in a Sunni mosque. It was called the San Jose Islamic Association, but it was really an enclave of superpious, Sunni Pakistanis who had dedicated their experience in America to avoiding their experience in America. A shabby pink Victorian housed both the mosque and the Islamic Association; bearded men led the sermon, and the women in the back, dressed in salwar kameez, dashed off at the final "allah akbar" to heat up the naan. The sermons were boring, and the Pakistanis were cliquey, but the afternoon morality class was the worst.

Brother Rajabali (or some such pious name), a dark, spindly man whose unenviable job it was to make the harsh Sunni morality applicable to our lives in California, had dedicated the afternoon's lesson to sex, and how its only purpose was procreation. Maman nodded gravely, the Bosnian girls scribbled notes to one another, and I sat wondering whether all Sunnis were so narrow-minded. Eventually, I convinced a coalition of relatives the mosque was run by fundamentalist, radical Sunnis who were trying to brainwash me. My grandmother interceded, afraid I would be turned away from Islam forever, and we never set foot again into the sad old Victorian with its angry believers. They still send us their monthly newsletter, full of ads for halal meat grocers we never frequent.

Wordcatcher Tales: Brown brown, Poda poda, Upline

Among the more interesting words of Sierra Leone Krio that I learned from reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), were the following.
I took turns at the guarding posts around the village, smoking marijuana and sniffing brown brown, cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which was always spread out on the table, and of course taking more of the white capsules, as I had become addicted to them. [p. 121]

Where was I from? What was it like growing up upline? Upline is a Krio word mostly used in Freetown to refer to the backwardness of the inner country, its inhabitants, and their mannerisms. [p. 184]

The call for prayer from the central mosque echoed throughout the city, poda podas crowded the streets, their apprentices hanging on the open passenger doors and calling out the names of their destinations: "Lumley, Lumley" or "Congo Town ...". [p. 190]
Most reviewers gush over the book, as a story that needs to be told, no matter how embellished it may have been.

08 January 2009

What It Means to Be 'Chinese Uighur'

rom Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), p. 17:
While discussing the importance of learning Mandarin with a twenty-nine-year-old unmarried Uighur man originally from Kashgar, I was introduced to the expression "Chinese Uighur." It is a derisive term referring to Uighur who have learned to speak Mandarin properly and are making every effort to assimilate into Han society. While usually relatively well off economically, these Uighur are generally looked down on by other Uighur who feel they have sold out or betrayed their identity to advance in Han society.

As the man from Kashgar explained, "I think it's harder for Uighur than for Han, because we do have to learn a second language. And, although the Chinese government encourages businesses to hire Uighur in Xinjiang, no one will hire a Uighur who can't speak good Mandarin. But now, as Xinjiang becomes more developed, it is getting easier. Uighur children learn Mandarin at such a young age that it's not so hard for them."

He laughed and said, "you know, now there are many Uighur in Urumqi whose Mandarin is better than their Uighur because they go to Han schools, where all their classes and interactions are in Mandarin. Especially those rich Uighur children who have parents who send them to live at Han schools. They spend more time speaking Mandarin than Uighur, and when they come home they forget how to speak Uighur. In fact, now more and more Urumqi Uighur, middle-class Uighur children, can't read Uighur. They can still speak it, because it's their first language, but they never learn to read. And some speak it so poorly."

He laughed again and said, "We call them 'Chinese Uighur' because they aren't real Uighur."

I asked, "What do you mean by 'real Uighur'?" "My meaning is Chinese Uighur don't read Uighur. They might not eat pork, but they don't know why. They don't keep Uighur traditions and culture alive. Many of them date Han or Hui girls. Many don't go to pray."
I wonder if there's an epithet applied to Chinese Uighur that is the equivalent of oreo, banana, coconut, or apple.

Uighur Bilingual Education Debate

From Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), pp. 18-19:
The use of Mandarin as a vehicle for instruction and the benefits of learning Mandarin versus the Chinese government policies designed to maintain Uighur culture and language were issues that frequently came up during interviews. According to one Uighur businessman who was in his midforties, "This [the Uighur need to learn Mandarin] is a tricky problem because, while more and more schools [in Xinjiang] are teaching in Mandarin, there are still far too many that don't. Many Uighur teachers don't speak Mandarin. This is especially true outside Urumqi. Furthermore, the Han government wants Uighur to maintain their local language, so they encourage Uighur schools to teach in Uighur." He thought for a moment and then added, "But this should be a Uighur responsibility. The Han know little of our culture. It's up to Uighur parents to teach their children our language and about our Uighur culture. But it's up to the schools to teach our children Mandarin and Han culture."

Although many Uighur parents want their children to have a proper education and to learn Mandarin—which almost always means attending a predominantly Han school—they feel that being a Uighur student in a school where Han teachers and students make up the majority population is difficult because of racist attitudes and language difficulties. Some Uighur believe that Chinese government policies encouraging instruction in Uighur, not Mandarin, are designed to limit Uighur development in Chinese society.
Speakers of minority languages the world over face similar choices.