Last fall, I taught a course on ethnicity and nationalism in East Asia as a special topics class in Anthropology, and now I'm excited to have received a Course Development Grant to expand it further into a class that will also address race and racial discourses in East Asia for the East Asian Studies program at Emory (with a cross-listing Anthropology). In the Fall 2014 class, my students and I learned a lot from each other about dominant, social assumptions about race and racialized identity in the contemporary world, and it was eye opening for all of us to re-pivot our own gazes and expectations to the East Asian context, to question what is often taken for granted in discussions about what constitutes race and/or ethnic difference in a society and, just as importantly, what is similar across national contexts.
Here's the current description of this new class, Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in East Asia:
This course uses an anthropological perspective on race, ethnicity, and nationalism to ask: Is there such a thing as an “Asian” race? What are the theoretical foundations of race and ethnicity, and what is a nation in this contemporary era of globalization and multiculturalism? Why is nationalism potentially dangerous in some contexts and a source of pride in others? The goal is to introduce students to contemporary society and the politics of identity in China, Japan, and South Korea through the exploration of these questions.
Through analytical writing assignments and an independent research paper, we will interrogate the sociopolitical, cultural, and conceptual meanings of race, ethnicity, and nationalism in the context of East Asia. We will read contemporary ethnographic studies of racism and ethnic differences in East Asia as well as historical and theoretical studies that provide a broader context for understanding how race and ethnicity are differently conceived in Japan, China, and the Koreas. While the focus of the course will be on the contemporary context, we will also use historical texts on definitions of racialized differences in Japan and China from the early twentieth century. By investigating ethnic identity, national belonging, racism and racialized differences, and political (dis)unity in China, Japan, and South Korea, our aim is to build a broader perspective not only on country-specific conditions but also regional similarities and current disputes. In particular, readings will address the role and impact of economic growth, consumerism, memory and trauma, and migration on changing discourses of ethnicity, race, and the nation in East Asia.