Learning Places

The Afterlives of Area Studies

Learning Places

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: Published: November 2002

Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, Pedagogy and Higher Education

Under globalization, the project of area studies and its relationship to the fields of cultural, ethnic, and gender studies has grown more complex and more in need of the rigorous reexamination that this volume and its distinguished contributors undertake. In the aftermath of World War II, area studies were created in large part to supply information on potential enemies of the United States. The essays in Learning Places argue, however, that the post–Cold War era has seen these programs largely degenerate into little more than public relations firms for the areas they research.
A tremendous amount of money flows—particularly within the sphere of East Asian studies, the contributors claim—from foreign agencies and governments to U.S. universities to underwrite courses on their histories and societies. In the process, this volume argues, such funds have gone beyond support to the wholesale subsidization of students in graduate programs, threatening the very integrity of research agendas. Native authority has been elevated to a position of primacy; Asian-born academics are presumed to be definitive commentators in Asian studies, for example. Area studies, the contributors believe, has outlived the original reason for its construction. The essays in this volume examine particular topics such as the development of cultural studies and hyphenated studies (such as African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American) in the context of the failure of area studies, the corporatization of the contemporary university, the prehistory of postcolonial discourse, and the problematic impact of unformulated political goals on international activism.
Learning Places points to the necessity, the difficulty, and the possibility in higher education of breaking free from an entrenched Cold War narrative and making the study of a specific area part of the agenda of education generally. The book will appeal to all whose research has a local component, as well as to those interested in the future course of higher education generally.

Contributors. Paul A. Bové, Rey Chow, Bruce Cummings, James A. Fujii, Harry Harootunian, Masao Miyoshi, Tetsuo Najita, Richard H. Okada, Benita Parry, Moss Roberts, Bernard S. Silberman, Stefan Tanaka, Rob Wilson, Sylvia Yanagisako, Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto


“I hope that not only the insiders, but also those who presume themselves outside ‘Area Studies’ will get acquainted with these essays and recognize that more practical efforts have to be done for so-called “Interdisciplinary Studies,” a buzzword for the humanities nowadays.” — Shu Kuge , Comparative Literature Studies

"[A] fascinating foray into a much-neglected subject." — Jamie Morgan , China Review International

"[G]iven its power to provoke reflection and thought, it would be very difficult not to recommend Learning Places to anyone interested in the oast, oresent and future of 'area studies' in America." — Hyung Gu Lynn, Pacific Affairs

"[T]houghtful and valuable. . . . This book deserves careful and wide reading. I am glad to have read it and will continue to assign it to students." — Andrew Gordon , Journal of Japanese Studies

“Area studies is in crisis, seemingly rendered marginal and anachronistic in a globalizing world. Yet, paradoxically, knowledge of histories, geographies, cultures, ecologies, and geopolitical tensions has become crucial if the public is to understand the dangers as well as the promises of globalization. Miyoshi and Harootunian here assemble a talented group of scholars to probe deeply into this contradiction. They convincingly argue that area studies needs to be completely revamped if not dissolved into new knowledge structures within the academy if it is to fulfill its mission. This challenges all of us to rethink disciplinary allegiances and past ways of knowing in critical as well as constructive ways.” — David Harvey, author of Spaces of Hope and Spaces of Capital

“Bringing together an unusually wide range of concerns, Learning Places offers a theoretical account of Asian area studies and a moral and political critique of past and recurrent practices of epistemic violence. The political urgency of this type of work makes this a timely collection. This important book opens up a series of debates that must be had between the new humanities, area studies, and the disciplines.” — Michael Dutton, editor of Streetlife China


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

At the time of his death in 2009, Masao Miyoshi was Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Harry Harootunian is Professor of East Asian Studies at New York University.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: The “Afterlife” of Area Studies

Ivory Tower in Escrow / Masao Miyoshi

Ando Shoeki - “The Forgotten Thinker” in Japanese History / Tetsuo Najita

Objectivism and the Eradication of Critique in Japanese History / Stefan Tanaka

Theory, Area Studies, Cultural Studies: Issues of Pedagogy in Multiculturalism / Rey Chow

Signs of Our Times: A Discussion of Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture / Benita Parry

Postcoloniality’s Unconscious / Area Studies’ Desire / H. D. Harootunian

Asian Exclusion Acts / Sylvia Yanagisako

Areas, Disciplines, and Ethnicity / Richard H. Okada

Can American Studies Be Area Studies? / Paul A. Bové

Imagining “Asia-Pacific” Today: Forgetting Colonialism in the Magical Free Markets of the American Pacific / Rob Wilson

Boundary Displacement: The State, the Foundations, and Area Studies during and after the Cold War / Bruce Cumings

The Disappearance of Modern Japan: Japan and Social Science / Bernard S. Silberman

Bad Karma in Asia / Moss Roberts

From Politics to Culture: Modern Japanese Literary Studies in the Age of Cultural Studies / James A. Fujii

Questions of Japanese Cinema: Disciplinary Boundaries and the Invention of the Scholarly Object / Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto



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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2840-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2826-1
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