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New from the UH Press


The Uprooted: Race, Children, and Imperialism in French Indochina, 1890-1980
Christina Elizabeth Firpo

For over a century French officials in Indochina systematically uprooted métis children—those born of Southeast Asian mothers and white, African, or Indian fathers—from their homes. In many cases, and for a wide range of reasons—death, divorce, the end of a romance, a return to France, or because the birth was the result of rape—the father had left the child in the mother’s care. Although the program succeeded in rescuing homeless children from life on the streets, for those in their mothers’ care it was disastrous. Citing an 1889 French law and claiming that raising children in the Southeast Asian cultural milieu was tantamount to abandonment, colonial officials sought permanent, “protective” custody of the children, placing them in state-run orphanages or educational institutions to be transformed into “little Frenchmen.”

The Uprooted offers an in-depth investigation of the colony’s child-removal program: the motivations behind it, reception of it, and resistance to it. Métis children, Eurasians in particular, were seen as a threat on multiple fronts—colonial security, white French dominance, and the colonial gender order. Officials feared that abandoned métis might become paupers or prostitutes, thereby undermining white prestige. Métis were considered particularly vulnerable to the lure of anticolonialist movements—their ambiguous racial identity and outsider status, it was thought, might lead them to rebellion. Métischildren who could pass for white also played a key role in French plans to augment their own declining numbers and reproduce the French race, nation, and, after World War II, empire.

French child welfare organizations continued to work in Vietnam well beyond independence, until 1975. The story of the métis children they sought to help highlights the importance—and vulnerability—of indigenous mothers and children to the colonial project. Part of a larger historical trend, the Indochina case shows striking parallels to that of Australia’s “Stolen Generation” and the Indian and First Nations boarding schools in the United States and Canada. This poignant and little known story will be of interest to scholars of French and Southeast Asian studies, colonialism, gender studies, and the historiography of the family.

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Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration
Ronit Ricci

Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration explores the phenomenon of exile within and from colonial Asia between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries from several disciplinary perspectives: anthropology, gender studies, literature, history, and Asian, Australian, and Pacific studies. Chapters cover myriad contexts from Colombo to Cape Town, from New Caledonia to New South Wales, from Burma to Banda; French, British, and Dutch policies toward, and practices of banishment; various categories of people whose lives were touched or shaped by exile in the colonial period, among them royalty, slaves, convicts, rebels, soldiers and officials; the condition of exile and the ways it was remembered, reconfigured, and commemorated after the fact. Rather than confining themselves to the European colonial archives, the authors, whenever possible, put special emphasis on the use of indigenous primary sources hitherto little explored.

In addition to presenting fascinating, little known, and diverse case studies of exile in colonial Asia, the volume collectively offers a broad, contextualized, comparative perspective on a theme that links the narratives of diverse peoples and locales, invites imaginative methodological innovation in exploring multiple archives, and expands our theoretical frontiers in thinking about the interconnected histories of penal deportation, labor migration, political exile, colonial expansion, and individual destinies.

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Cultural Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Asia
Tiantian Zheng

In globalizing Asia, sexual mores and gender roles are in constant flux. How have economic shifts and social changes altered and reconfigured the cultural meanings of gender and sexuality in the region? How have the changing political economy and social milieu influenced and shaped the inner workings and micro-politics of family structure, gender relationships, intimate romance, transactional sex, and sexual behaviors?This volume offers up-to-date, grounded, critical analysis of the complex intersections of gender, sexuality, and political economy across a diverse array of Asian societies: China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan. Based on intense ethnographic fieldwork, the chapters disentangle the ways in which gendered and sexual experiences are impinged upon by state policies, economic realities, cultural ideologies, and social hierarchies. Whether highlighting intimate relationships between elite businessmen and their mistresses in China; nightclub performances by Thai men in Bangkok; single women’s views of romance, motherhood, and marriage in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo; or male same-sex relationships in Pakistan—each chapter centers around the stories of the gendered subjects themselves and how they are shaped by outside forces. Taken together they provide a provocative entrée into the cultural politics of gender and sexuality in Asia.

By foregrounding cross-cultural ethnographic research, this volume sheds light on how configurations of gender and sexuality are constituted, negotiated, contested, transformed, and at times, perpetuated and reproduced in private, intimate experiences. It will be of particular interest to students and scholars in anthropology, sociology, political science, and women’s and LGBTQ studies.

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Inventing the Performing Arts: Modernity and Tradition in Colonial Indonesia
Matthew Isaac Cohen


Indonesia, with its mix of ethnic cultures, cosmopolitan ethos, and strong national ideology, offers a useful lens for examining the intertwining of tradition and modernity in globalized Asia. In Inventing the Performing Arts, Matthew Isaac Cohen explores the profound change in diverse arts practices from the nineteenth century until 1949. He demonstrates that modern modes of transportation and communication not only brought the Dutch colony of Indonesia into the world economy, but also stimulated the emergence of new art forms and modern attitudes to art, disembedded and remoored traditions, and hybridized foreign and local.

In the nineteenth century, access to novel forms of entertainment, such as the circus, and newspapers, which offered a new language of representation and criticism, wrought fundamental changes in theatrical, musical, and choreographic practices. Musical drama disseminated print literature to largely illiterate audiences starting in the 1870s, and spoken drama in the 1920s became a vehicle for exploring social issues. Twentieth-century institutions—including night fairs, the recording industry, schools, itinerant theatre, churches, cabarets, round-the-world cruises, and amusement parks—generated new ways of making, consuming, and comprehending the performing arts. Concerned over the loss of tradition and “Eastern” values, elites codified folk arts, established cultural preservation associations, and experimented in modern stagings of ancient stories. Urban nationalists excavated the past and amalgamated ethnic cultures in dramatic productions that imagined the Indonesian nation. The Japanese occupation (1942–1945) was brief but significant in cultural impact: plays, songs, and dances promoting anti-imperialism, Asian values, and wartime austerity measures were created by Indonesian intellectuals and artists in collaboration with Japanese and Korean civilian and military personnel. Artists were registered, playscripts censored, training programs developed, and a cultural center established.

Based on more than two decades of archival study in Indonesia, Europe, and the United States, this richly detailed, meticulously researched book demonstrates that traditional and modern artistic forms were created and conceived, that is “invented,” in tandem. Intended as a general historical introduction to the performing arts in Indonesia, it will be of great interest to students and scholars of Indonesian performance, Asian traditions and modernities, global arts and culture, and local heritage.

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