#tsumamototoyochien and Prewar Ideals

by Sabine Frühstück, author of Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan

In September 2016, the Twitter hashtag #tsukamotoyochien attracted a series of comments on Tokyo’s Tsukamoto kindergarten’s practices of educating three-to-five-year-olds according to prewar ideals. Apparently, the pupils at the kindergarten are taught to recite the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education and to bow to the wartime emperor’s photograph in the hallways; they are also routinely taken to military bases—all with the explicit aim to prepare them to “protect their nation against potential threats from other countries.” One tweet pronounced Japan’s democracy to be dying. Another expressed the concern that these children were being groomed for direct recruitment into the Japanese military. Many other comments highlighted a new urgency surrounding issues of children’s education and their relationship to the nation state, all the while commenting on how “sweet,” “innocent,” and “pitiful” these kindergarteners were.

In July 2017, China’s internet giant Tencent vowed to limit daily playing times on its smartphone hit King of Glory for young players to one or two hours to “ensure children’s healthy development.” Army chiefs declared the same game a threat to national defense. With 80 million.daily users, the game had infiltrated the daily life of soldiers and officers with disastrous effects on their physical and psychological health. More and more service members apparently preferred playing war on their mobile phones games to training for war in the field.

In the meantime, American police killed 86 people, many of them children and teenagers, brandishing guns that looked real but were not.

In our modern world, childhood, war, and play continue to intersect in unexpected ways. Often children are used to validate and legitimize war or, alternatively, sentimentalize peace. Playing War examines the intersections of children and childhood and war and the military, to both identify the insidious factors perpetuating this alliance and rethink the very foundations and underlying structures of modern militarism in Japan and beyond. Japan is not a typical modern nation state; few other nation states have shared Japan’s trajectory, traveling as it did from war after war from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth to the peace and state pacifism known since shortly after 1945. Yet, viewing this intersection of childhood and war through a Japanese lens highlights the malleability of militarism as an enduring modern concept that, paradoxically, relies on a specifically modern and stable notion of children and childhood. Playing War shows how in Japan the interfaces and linkages between childhood and war, children and soldiers were first made during the late nineteenth century and have continued ever since—albeit in dramatically shifting ways.

Sabine Frühstück is Director of the East Asia Center and professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Playing War: Childhood and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan.

Open in order to . . . . Author Anne Rademacher Explains Why She Published with Luminos

by Anne Rademacher, author of Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo

We live in an age marked by environmental vulnerability—some of it longstanding, and some completely new. In recent weeks, flooding and storm events seemed to serve as a daily reminder of environmental vulnerability: from Florida to Houston to Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean. Just a few months ago, Mumbai, the setting for Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai, experienced record-setting rainfall and catastrophic floods—just one chapter in the story of 2017’s Asian monsoon, a season marked by floods, landslides, and damaging rains that affected millions across the region and killed well over a thousand people.

The frequency and intensity of storm events is just one environmental condition that cities around the world will have to face if they are to maintain basic services like water, energy, and shelter provision—to say nothing of social well being, public health, and safety. Regardless of our location on the global map, we face the question of whether and how we can realize ecological sustainability and social resilience in the context of an uncertain, but certainly unprecedented, environmental future.

If achieving sustainable cities is a key challenge to humanity, then those who seek to design and implement its components—green buildings, open spaces and parks, cleaner energy systems, and the like—are critically important for forging needed change. We might consider certain kinds of green expertise to be essential to the planners, developers, municipal officials, activists, and architects of our future cities. What are their visions and aspirations for sustainable cities and societies? How is training in a “green” urban profession different from conventional training? And, perhaps most importantly, once one knows the tools of the green expert, what does it take to implement them?

Building Green traces the experience of environmental architects as they study to acquire the skills they need, and then try, post-training, to implement what they’ve learned. By recounting architects’ experiences, the book gives us a sense of the layers of powerful interests, institutions, and history that are fundamental aspects of any kind of urban transformation. It underlines the chasm that often exists between practitioners who are trying to make cities more environmentally sound, and the forces that hold sway over how cities are ultimately built—a key obstacle we must overcome if we are to realize a more sustainable urban future.

Why open access? At the level of a future we share in common—one marked by an uncertain and even unprecedented environment—open access allows readers worldwide to learn from one another. But equally important is the potential for open access publications to reach readers who would otherwise be unable to participate in the conversation or to learn from the experiences beyond their geographic context. In the case of Building Green, it is a chance to widely share one group’s story of forging a greener urban future in a complex and unsustainable present.

Anne Rademacher is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Anthropology at New York University. Her books include Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu, Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability, and the edited volume Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism.

Building Green is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Open in order to . . . . Author Paul Barclay Explains Why He Published with Luminos

by Paul D. Barclay, author of Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border” 1874-1895 

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo

Based on my ten years of experience as the editor of a digital archive of historical images (East Asia Image Collection), I’ve seen open-access publishing bring together researchers, archivists, and people with personal connections to our materials across vast distances. Thanks to the internet’s ubiquity, persistence, and capillary reach, library staff at the Puli Municipal Library in central Taiwan, and the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, as well as several private collectors, have found us and since become partners.

In addition, the old photographs, postcards, prints and slides on our website brought descendants of a Canadian missionary, an American Consul, and a Japanese bureau chief, all of whom lived in colonized Taiwan during the 1930s, into contact with us. These viewers, as well as the family of a prominent Taiwanese dissident, have provided our team with advice, corrections, and additional materials while we helped them learn about their family histories.

I predict that the publication of Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border” 1874-1895 (forthcoming in November) on the Luminos open access platform will engender similar types of collaborative relationships, because digitally born content is always just a click away, anywhere in the world where an internet connection exists. More importantly, however, is that the work will reach people I wish to repay for their patience and openness regarding the research for this book. Outcasts is a study of indigenous peoples in world history, viewed through the prism of several native-newcomer encounters in rural Taiwan. Its subject matter, as I’ve learned at workshops, conferences, and field trips involving the descendants of the book’s protagonists, is of great interest to Taiwan Indigenous Peoples, their Han neighbors, and Japanese citizens as well. Open access is the best vehicle for making Outcasts available to the peoples most affected by the stories related in its pages.

Unfortunately, brick-and-mortar bookstores or museum shops that stock academic books are concentrated in a few large cities, while traditional online commerce only operates within the context of a copyright, delivery, and distribution infrastructure that leaves much of the planet’s population underserved. Therefore, I think the Luminos platform has the potential to improve relationships between authors and the communities they write about and to become the occasion for more open-ended collaboration than previous publication models have allowed for.

The author (front left) with colleagues at the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, 2014

Paul D. Barclay is Professor of History at Lafayette College. He is also general editor of the East Asia Image Collection, an open-access online digital repository of historical materials.

Outcasts of Empire is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

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Open in order to . . . be read.

by Kate McDonald, author of Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo

It’s cliche to quote Dorothy Parker on writing. But I’m going to do it anyway:

“I hate writing. I love having written.”

Parker was on to something. It’s hard to find a writer who luuuuuuvs the act of writing. It’s lonely. It’s demoralizing. It’s definitely bad for your back. But, like childbirth, we soon forget the pain of labor. Having written, we flip through the pages of our new book lovingly, landing on a sentence that brings us unexpected delight. And then—from this rose-colored place of tenuous achievement—we sit down to do it all again.

But Parker also left something out. Yes, writing is awful. Yes, I love having written. But have you tried being read? Yow-zah. That’s the stuff.

For this Open Access Week, let us linger a moment on the joy that we feel when we hear that someone has read our work. We write for ourselves, to put down on paper the ideas and questions that compel us to return to the writing desk, library, and archive each day. But we also write to be read, to share our questions and our ideas, to reach out to those with like-minded intellectual compulsions so that we might, together, take the conversation in new directions.

I published my book, Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan, open access because I aimed for just that—to be read by those whose normal book-purchasing patterns keep them far from the Japanese Empire. Why? Because I want to move the history of empire and tourism out of the silos of national case studies and into the realm of global and transnational history. I want us, as a field, to be discussing not only the what of imperial tourism, but also the why.

I’m glad to have written. But, if I’m being real? The goal is to be read.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Kate McDonald is Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her book, Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan was published open access by the University of California Press in August. Placing Empire is available as a free epub at luminosa.org or as an affordable paperback at ucpress.edu and amazon.com. She’d love to hear from you.

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Afghanistan’s Islam: Much More Than the Taliban

by Nile Green, author of Afghanistan’s Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban

At UC Press, open access—the free, immediate, unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed research and scholarly work—is central to our mission. In celebration of 2017 International Open Access Week (October 23-29), we are highlighting open access publishing initiatives at UC Press, including our Collabra and Luminos publishing programs. This year’s OA Week theme “Open in order to . . . ” is an invitation to answer the question of what concrete benefits can be realized by making scholarly publications openly available. Follow the full blog series here#OAWeek #OpenInOrderTo

In the years after 9/11, perhaps no country in the world became more inextricably associated with Islam than Afghanistan. Book after book was published—about mujahidin and Taliban, Bin Laden and Tora Bora—in which Islam was ever present but never explained. After all, how did Afghanistan become a hotbed for such extreme expressions of Islam; and were things always religiously that way?

Having written a good deal about the history of Islam in the surrounding regions, I decided to fill what was evidently a big gap in our understanding. Not that there were no previous studies: many recondite articles lie scattered in learned journals from Palo Alto to Peshawar. But they leave many holes in the coverage. And what’s always been lacking is a chronological account of the development of Islam in Afghanistan, from the region’s initial conversion from Hinduism and Buddhism through the Muslim renaissance of the medieval Timurids on to the contested history of Afghan secularism and Islamism, and the scope throughout for women’s Islam. Moreover, I wanted to give due coverage to the longstanding Sufi presence in Afghanistan, as well as the fundamentalist versions of the faith that have done so much to extinguish the old ways.

Rather than attempt to write a survey single-handed, I brought together an international team of researchers with origins as diverse as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, and the United States. This was important for all kinds of reasons, perspective and balance not least. But the most important reason was to draw on a pool of varied expertise. It’s easy to write generalizations about Islam in Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s quite another matter to recognize the divergent and sometimes competing forms of Islam manifested not only in different periods but in languages as dissimilar as Arabic, Persian, Pashto, Uzbek, and Urdu.

I chose open access partly because I believe that, after fifteen years of US involvement in Afghanistan, so important a topic should face as few distribution barriers as possible. But my decision was also motivated by a desire to give access to local researchers in Afghanistan (and neighboring countries like Pakistan) who are increasingly able to read English, but who cannot afford expensive books from abroad.


Nile Green is Professor of South Asian and Islamic History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Sufism: A Global History and Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam.

Afghanistan’s Islam is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy of the book.

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Border Crossers: First Came the Americans

adapted from Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries by Yen Le Espiritu

October is Filipino-American History Month, commemorating the landing of “Luzones Indios” at what is now Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587. Today, we recognize the many valuable contributions Filipinos have made, and the important role they continue to play, as a vital part of American society.

Visit the Filipino-American National Historical Society and hashtags #FAHM and #FAHM2017 for more information on Filipino-American history throughout the month; you can also check out last year’s Filipino-American History Month post featuring Gary Okihiro’s American History Unbound.

Filipinos went to the United States because Americans went first to the Philippines. In other words, Filipino migration to the United States must be understood within the context of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines and in Asia. In 1898, in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the United States brutally took possession of the Philippines over native opposition and uprising, thereby extending its “Manifest Destiny” to Pacific Asia. The often-ignored Philippine-American War (1899–1902) resulted in the death of about a million Filipinos, the violent destruction of the nationalist forces, and the U.S. territorial annexation of the Philippines—ostensibly to prepare the archipelago for eventual independence.

The U.S. occupation infiltrated all segments of Philippine society. Politically, the colonial government structured the Philippine government after that of the United States. It was to win over the existing leadership of the Philippines and to pacify Filipino nationalists that the United States adopted the policy of Filipinization: the gradual substitution of Filipino personnel for American administrators and clerks in the colonial government. As early as 1900, Filipinos began assuming positions in the municipal, provincial, and later, in the national governments. However, Americans still controlled the strategic positions that allowed them to formulate and implement policies. Under U.S. colonial rule, the Philippine national economy changed significantly. Foremost among these changes was the further development of the agricultural export economy (begun under Spanish rule), with sugar in the lead, and the growing dependence on imports for such basic necessities as rice and textiles. By its tariff regulations and the subsequent “free trade” between the two countries, the United States fostered this export-import policy and kept the Philippines an unindustrialized export economy—a condition that depleted the country’s economic resources and propelled the eventual migration of many Filipinos.

As a civilian government replaced military rule, the cultural Americanization of the Philippine population became an integral part of the process of colonization. Convinced that education, rather than outright military suppression, was the more effective means to pacify the Filipinos, U.S. colonizers introduced a universal public education and revamped Philippine educational institutions and curricula using the American system as its model and English as the language of instruction. When the Philippine Commission took over civil governance of the Philippines, it kept English as the primary medium of instruction. Filipino historian Renato Constantino contends that through this educational policy, the colonial educational system became an instrument of assimilation or Americanization. With the use of U.S. textbooks, “young Filipinos began learning not a new language but a new culture. Education became miseducation because it began to de-Filipinize the youth, taught them to regard American culture as superior to any other, and American society as the model par excellence for Philippine society.”

Whereas U.S. invasion, annexation, and subjugation of the Philippines have left indelible moral and physical marks on the country and its people, these violent acts have been largely erased from American public memory or obscured by public myths about U.S. benevolence and the “civilizing mission” in the Philippines. But the facts of imperialism are not erasable. The enduring legacies of U.S. empire are present in the Philippine economy, its political structure, its educational system, and its cultural institutions— all of which continue to be dominated or influenced by the United States. The impact of the U.S. empire on Filipinos is also very much present in the United States—perhaps most visible in the presence of large Filipino American communities. Linking U.S. (neo)colonial subjugation of Filipinos in the Philippines to the fate of Filipinos in the United States, Oscar Campomanes insists that “the consequences of [the] inaugural moment of U.S. Philippine relations for latter-day U.S. Filipinos are manifold and extend to their politics or forms of recognition and emergence.”

Yen Le Espiritu is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of the award-winning Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries and Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees.

Behind the Curtain: A North Korean History Reading List

With the ongoing tension between the United States and North Korea, we mined our backlist for titles to help us better understand our shared history. Below, a list of recommendations:

For the General Reader

The Reluctant Communist: 
My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
Charles Robert Jenkins (Author), Jim Frederick (Author)

In January of 1965, twenty-four-year-old U.S. Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins abandoned his post in South Korea, walked across the DMZ, and surrendered to communist North Korean soldiers standing sentry along the world’s most heavily militarized border. He believed his action would get him back to the States and a short jail sentence. Instead he found himself in another sort of prison, where for forty years he suffered under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes the world has known. This fast-paced, harrowing tale, told plainly and simply by Jenkins (with journalist Jim Frederick), takes the reader behind the North Korean curtain and reveals the inner workings of its isolated society while offering a powerful testament to the human spirit.

“Jenkins’s book is oddly compelling. The blank ordinariness of his character brings out the moral and physical ugliness of life in North Korea.”—New Yorker

“However we judge Mr. Jenkins’s actions so many years ago, “The Reluctant Communist” is itself an act of redemption. This extraordinary book opens a window on a world of fathomless evil, and it tells a heartbreaking story — of a life lived in adversity and conducted with a mixture of fortitude, resignation, tenderness and regret. Clearly Charles Robert Jenkins emerged from his years of ordeal with his Americanness intact. True patriotism can come in many forms.”—Wall Street Journal

For the Scholar

Rationalizing Korea:
The Rise of the Modern State, 1894–1945
Kyung Moon Hwang (Author)

The first book to explore the institutional, ideological, and conceptual development of the modern state on the peninsula, Rationalizing Korea analyzes the state’s relationship to five social sectors, each through a distinctive interpretive theme: economy (developmentalism), religion (secularization), education (public schooling), population (registration), and public health (disease control). Kyung Moon Hwang argues that while this formative process resulted in a more commanding and systematic state, it was also highly fragmented, socially embedded, and driven by competing, often conflicting rationalizations, including those of Confucian statecraft and legitimation. Such outcomes reflected the acute experience of imperialism, nationalism, colonialism, and other sweeping forces of the era.

“[Breaks] new ground… [Hwang has] offered readers an ambitious challenge: one directed to Korean studies, but also one also carrying its implications far beyond.” —Cross-Currents

“Kyung Moon Hwang has given us a model of the disciplined historian’s view, a work that goes beyond the idea that Korean modernization was a sudden result of pressures from Japan and the West. Rather, by connecting the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he demonstrates that its seeds are to be found in habits of mind and social life under Korea’s traditional bureaucratic state.” —Donald N. Clark, Trinity University

Paul U. Unschuld awarded China Special Book Award 2017








The German sinologist, public health expert and medical historian of Charité-Universitaetsmedizin Berlin will be awarded with the China Special Book Award 2017 at the opening of the Beijing International Book Fair in Beijing on 22 August 2017.

The Special Book Award of China is a national-level reward established by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China, aiming to recognize foreign writers, translators and publishers for their long-term contributions to introducing, translating and publishing Chinese books as well as in promoting cultural exchanges. Established in 2005, its awarding ceremony is held annually in the evening of one day before Beijing International Book Fair at the Great Hall of the People.

Chinese state leaders will attend the awarding ceremony to congratulate the recipients of the award. The award winner will get a certificate of honor, a trophy and a monetary prize in recognition of his or her contributions.

About Paul U. Unschuld

Paul U. Unschuld, born 1943, was trained in pharmaceutical science, Chinese and Political Studies at Munich University and public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 1976, his academic career started at the Department of Behavioral Sciences of the School of Hygiene and Public Health of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD/USA. In 1986 he returned to Germany to become Director of the Research Institute for the History of Medicine at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich. On 1 November 2006, he was named Founding Director of the Horst-Goertz-Endowment Insitute for the History, Ethics and Theory of Chinese Life Sciences of Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin. His research focusses on the comparative history of medicine and related life sciences in China and Europe, with a focus on the history of ideas. He has published numerous articles and more than thirty monographs in various language, including annotated translations of the ancient Chinese medical classics. Among his recent publications is Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu – Ancient Classic of Needle Therapy, published by University of California Press, August 2016.

The Afterlife of the American War in Vietnam

By Mark Padoongpatt, author of the forthcoming Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America

As we celebrate Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month this year, we do so right as the United States is commemorating the 50th year anniversary of the “American War” in Vietnam. The war has had a profoundly deep, wide-ranging, and lasting impact on Asian/Pacific Islander America. It resulted in the death of millions of Vietnamese, Hmong, Laos, and Khmer people, including civilians, at the hands of U.S. soldiers and bombs. It generated displacement, trauma, political destabilization, and the migration of roughly 1.2 million Southeast Asians, many of them refugees, to the United States between 1975-2000 — a migration that (coupled with the 1965 Immigration Act) transformed the composition and demographics of Asian/Pacific Islander America and America as a whole.

The war, of course, is not a vestige of the past. As such it demands critical, relentless reflection if we want to understand the diversity and tensions among Asian/Pacific Islander Americans today as well as the workings of the postwar American empire. For one, the war extended beyond Vietnam and was a flashpoint (a bloody and violent one, no doubt) of a much longer period of U.S. Cold War intervention throughout Southeast Asia. The affects of U.S. empire and war also ran much deeper than combat, bombings, militarization, and state-sponsored dictatorships. America insinuated itself into the textures of everyday life via embassies, businesses, private organizations, educational programs, modernization projects, popular culture, tourism, and various other forms of cultural diplomacy, such as the Peace Corps, to win “hearts and minds” in pursuit of foreign policy objectives in the region. All of which shaped personal and group identities, relationships, worldviews, and cultural practices as people in Southeast Asia came to terms with American global power.

One way to understand the everyday life — and “afterlife” — of U.S. empire in Southeast Asia is through foodways. My book, Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America, traces how the informal postwar U.S. empire in Thailand turned Thai food into a central site of Thai American identity and community formation in Los Angeles. Though Thailand has the distinction of being the only Southeast Asian country to avoid formal Western colonization (a distinction Thais take immense pride in), after World War II, however, the United States, as a new global leader, maneuvered itself into the country more intrusively than ever before to combat the spread of communism, ushering in what Benedict Anderson has referred to as Thailand’s “American Era.” This neocolonial relationship established circuits of exchange between the two countries. It allowed thousands of U.S. citizens to go toThailand and “discover” the exciting new flavors and tastes of Thai food. Many, particularly white women, introduced Thai cuisine back in the United States by writing “Siamese” cookbooks and teaching cooking classes. When Thais arrived in Los Angeles, they reinvented and repackaged Thai food in various ways to meet America’s growing fascination with the cuisine. This led to Thais constructing their identities mainly through the perceived exoticness and sensuousness of Thai food.

The history of Thai food reveals that the American war in Vietnam was more than Vietnam, and that it lives on in mundane ways and unexpected places. Its legacy affects everything from the cuisines featured in restaurants and the identities of restaurateurs, cooks, and grocery store clerks to the contours of entrepreneurship and the look and feel of urban and suburban spaces. The experiences and stories that stem from it — though not reducible to a singular time, place, group, or narrative — stand as a reminder that, as Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, our relationship with America is rooted in and defined by dominance.

Mark Padoongpatt is Assistant Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

His book Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai Americapublishing this September, explores the factors that made foodways central to the Thai American experience.

APA / Heritage / Month: A Problem in Three Parts

By Sharon Luk, author of the forthcoming The Life of Paper: Letters and a Poetics of Living Beyond Captivity

for Lawson Fusao Inada

1. APA (Asian Pacific American)

“Asian Americans” and “Pacific Islanders” are two different panethnic groups, each with their own history, development, and problems… for the most part, Pacific Islanders have fought to be excluded from the Asian American category.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Jazz — each its own variety, grouped into what we commonly call “apples” for a certain kind of efficacy.

Navel, Valencia, Blood (can Tangerines fit here?) — each its own variety, grouped into what we commonly call “oranges” for perhaps comparable purposes of reference.

If someone invited me to celebrate Apples Oranges Month, I imagine my first response might be, “Do you mean Apples and Oranges?”

In this crude analogy to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (do you mean Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month?) I don’t assume that the “someone” who invited me to their celebration would hear my question. In many settings, they almost never feel a responsibility to answer or seek clarity.

What exactly is it, then, that we are being asked to celebrate?

2. APA Heritage

…the old poem
birthing itself
into the new
and murderous century.

Li-Young Lee

My heart goes out to the students in my Introduction to Asian American Studies class (and in this present discussion now, I’m excluding Pacific Islanders to honor their distinction). I told them this course could not in any way approach the depth and breadth of all the people who have, at one time or another, been included in the racial category “Asian/- American.” I told them it could not represent any, let alone all, particular ethnicities ortheir experiences. I told them it certainly could not reveal to anyone “who they are.” In this context, then: What is it that we are supposed to be learning?

I ask students to study the processes involved in creating an Asian/-American racial distinction. We examine specific instances in post-1865 U.S. history to question how this distinction has mediated developments in racial capitalism. The construction of nation-states. Empires. War. Survival. More war… I don’t know how to make any of this easy to digest (and now, a corollary issue — can this really be the goal?). The deeper we get into the twentieth century, the more confused students become. Their faces look at me as if to ask, so are Asian Americans good or bad?

Despite the profound constraints on their universe of reference, I think students’ confusions about the contradictions of “Asian American” distinction may still get at the crux of the dilemma the latter heritage presents. That is, what “truths” are to be found in such cycles of suffering?

3. APA Heritage Month

every word of every image is a step towards the end this
urgency dictates that the sentence as we know it no longer
an option grammar is obsolete stories once told in detailed
chapters have been reduced to a noun a verb the father dies the
lover leaves in search of his own ending perhaps now the
writing can finally begin

Truong Tran

What is a month supposed to measure? What story does this measurement tell? In whose words does that story come? What end do those words bring (or, try in vain to defer)?

Let’s assume that Asian American heritage cannot fit into those limits — nor Pacific Islander, nor any people’s heritage, for that matter. Then, the problem of heritage remains beyond what is celebrated in a month and its killing, the problem’s most urgent expressions coming in forms that at once accept their mortality and open out to the living.

Sharon Luk is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at University of Oregon.

Her forthcoming book The Life of Paper explores the evolution of racism and confinement in California history. Publishing this November, the book offers a wholly original and inspiring analysis of how people facing systematic social dismantling have engaged in letter correspondence to remake themselves.