Cross-Currents e-Journal (No. 26)

ISSN
2158-9674
Editors' Note

Articles

Carl Kubler, University of Chicago
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In the years following the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), Chinese conceptions of children and childhood underwent a massive transformation. In particular, Communist educators in Northeast China and other parts of the country placed a new labor-oriented ideal of childhood at the center of the nation’s modernizing project. This article focuses on two issues related to this “remaking” of Chinese childhood in the mid-twentieth century. First, how did lower-elementary reading primers and other textbooks help create for children the idea of a Chinese nation, of which they were part and with which they were expected to identify above and beyond the domestic spheres of their natal families? Second, how did such textbooks teach children to think of themselves as laboring contributors to national causes? Following the physical and emotional devastation of war, Communist textbooks reordered the social world of children not by resubjugating them under traditional Confucian hierarchies but by elevating them to the position of national co-subject. Moreover, productive labor—framed through agriculture, industry, and military service—became one of the primary criteria for children’s inclusion into the nation. Through narrative, linguistic, and visual means, midcentury textbooks increasingly brought children into the fold of an imagined national community and, simultaneously, extended to society’s youngest members the importance of productivity as the primary condition of their inclusion.

Keywords: Modern China, children, childhood, literacy, imagined communities, Guoyu, textbooks, labor, visuality, materiality, identity formation

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Kevin Michael Smith, University of California, Davis
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This article frames the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama’s 2017 exhibition on Japanese modernism during the simultaneously vibrant and tumultuous 1930s through the lens of Japan’s uneven capitalist development and wartime mobilization. The author suggests that the exhibition’s unique international scope, rich selection of figurative and abstract modernist works, and emphasis on the year 1937 as a nexus through which the decade’s competing tendencies can be reevaluated readily disclose the constitutive, dialectical relationships between historical difference, total war, and modernist form in imperial Japan and its colonies. The exhibition’s featured works and curator Asaki Yuka’s direction together emphasized the inseparability of Japanese modernism from the encroaching conditions of world war during the late 1930s, thereby contributing to a growing body of scholarship and series of exhibitions challenging the received oppositions between autonomous modernism, proletarian realism, and wartime propaganda. After introductory remarks on the reassessment of 1930s-era Japanese avant-garde aesthetics, the article provides a series of close readings of significant paintings included in the exhibition, including Murai Masanari’s 1937 Urban, Matsumoto Shunsuke’s 1935 Building, and Uchida Iwao’s 1937 Port. These formal readings explore how the year 1937 marked a pivotal “branch point” for Japanese society, not only in terms of the confluence of various artistic trends but also in terms of the fierce opposition between socialism and fascism that bifurcated potentialities for Japan’s future.

 

Keywords: modernism, imperial Japan, total war, fascism, uneven development, avant-garde, proletarian arts, 1930s, museum exhibitions

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Review Essays, Notes & Bibliographies

Shana J. Brown, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa
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These three books shed light on how much there is to celebrate in the trajectory from the Western-dominated photography of the mid-nineteenth century to the much more diffuse, diverse, and democratized photography of the twentieth. Not all photographers, or photographs, are benign. Just because an image is more similar to a selfie than an ethnographic type does not eliminate the potential for abuse. But few technologies have tied the world together so closely in our ability to imagine ourselves in affirming ways, as well as to preserve and complement others. Despite very dark chapters in the technology’s past, sometimes we take pictures because we like what we see...

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Kyu Hyun Kim, University of California, Davis
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Hori’s analyses and interpretations of the key visual/filmic texts are absolutely riveting and powerfully stimulating, compelling us to seek out the media works in question and reevaluate their meanings with our own eyes. Coates’s sweeping readings are also extremely impressive in their propensity to bring together interdisciplinary insights from sometimes surprising sources, raising some difficult questions about how we have hitherto treated with complacency (and substantively ignored) the centrality of women in postwar Japanese cinema. With these new publications, these two scholars have made significant contributions to advancing our understanding of wartime and immediate postwar Japanese culture. Their books should be considered must-reads for any serious student of twentieth-century Japanese cinema and popular culture...

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Laura C. Nelson, University of California, Berkeley
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Taken together, and particularly situated in the context of related studies of science and medicine in Korea and the East Asian region, Naming the Local and Curative Violence illustrate the productive power of ideas of health and wellness in the formation of Korean culture, society, and institutions. Medicine and medical care obviously are central elements of biopolitics, but the reach and complexity of their effects are often overlooked. Given the massive social and financial investments in health, it is no wonder that looking at South Korea through these lenses illuminates whole aspects of Korean society with new light...

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Max D. Woodworth, Ohio State University
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Two new books have recently contributed to the body of research focused on Chinese urbanism in the early twentieth century: William Schaefer’s Shadow Modernism: Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925–1937 and Weijie Song’s Mapping Modern Beijing: Space, Emotion, Literary Topography. As their titles suggest, both books are directly concerned with one of China’s great cities, each of which has received lavish attention from scholars in the past. But the approaches of these books do not fit in the genre of urban biographies; instead, Schaefer and Song treat their subject cities as social-spatial artifacts generated through a host of material and symbolic presences articulated in an array of visual and literary cultural productions, a fair portion of which has been overlooked in the existing literature. As such, each author’s respective city takes shape as a space through which to advance intricate and highly original arguments about images, representation, text, culture, space, history, and, of course, the city...

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