21 Works

New Lives in Anand

Sanderien Verstappen
In 2002 widespread communal violence tore apart hundreds of towns and villages in rural parts of Gujarat, India. In the aftermath, many Muslims living in Hindu-majority villages sought safety in the small town of Anand, some relocating with the financial assistance of their relatives overseas. Following such dramatic displacement and disorientation, Anand emerged as a site of opportunity and hope. For its residents and transnational visitors, Anand’s Muslim area is not just a site of...

Misreading the Bengal Delta

Camelia Dewan
Perilously close to sea level and vulnerable to floods, erosion, and cyclones, Bangladesh is one of the top recipients of development aid earmarked for climate change adaptation. Yet, to what extent do adaptation projects address local needs and concerns? Combining environmental history and ethnographic fieldwork with development professionals, rural farmers, and landless women, Misreading the Bengal Delta critiques development narratives of Bangladesh as a “climate change victim.” It examines how development actors repackage colonial-era modernizing...

The Scholar and the State

Liangyan Ge
In imperial China, intellectuals devoted years of their lives to passing rigorous examinations in order to obtain a civil service position in the state bureaucracy. This traditional employment of the literati class conferred social power and moral legitimacy, but changing social and political circumstances in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) periods forced many to seek alternative careers. Politically engaged but excluded from their traditional bureaucratic roles, creative writers authored critiques of state power in...

The Nuosu Book of Origins

Mark Bender, Wuwu Aku & Zopqu Jjivot
The Nuosu people, who were once overlords of vast tracts of farmland and forest in the uplands of southern Sichuan and neighboring provinces, are the largest division of the Yi ethnic group in southwest China. Their creation epic plots the origins of the cosmos, the sky and earth, and the living beings of land and water. This translation is a rare example in English of Indigenous ethnic literature from China. Transmitted in oral and written...

The Tibetan Nun Mingyur Peldrön

Alison Melnick Dyer
Born to a powerful family and educated at the prominent Mindröling Monastery, the Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher Mingyur Peldrön (1699–1769) leveraged her privileged status and overcame significant adversity, including exile during a civil war, to play a central role in the reconstruction of her religious community. Alison Melnick Dyer employs literary and historical analysis, centered on a biography written by the nun's disciple Gyurmé Ösel, to consider how privilege influences individual authority, how authoritative...

The Story of Han Xiangzi

Erzeng Yang & Philip Clart
In this seventeenth-century Chinese novel, Han Xiangzi, best known as one of the Eight Immortals, seeks and achieves immortality and then devotes himself to converting his materialistic, politically ambitious Confucian uncle - Han Yu, a real historical figure - to Daoism. Written in lively vernacular prose interspersed with poems and songs, the novel takes its readers across China, to the heavens, and into the underworld. Readers listen to debates among Confucians, Daoists, and Buddhists and...

Fir and Empire

Ian Miller
The disappearance of China’s naturally occurring forests is one of the most significant environmental shifts in the country’s history, one often blamed on imperial demand for lumber. China’s early modern forest history is typically viewed as a centuries-long process of environmental decline, culminating in a nineteenth-century social and ecological crisis. Pushing back against this narrative of deforestation, Ian Miller charts the rise of timber plantations between about 1000 and 1700, when natural forests were replaced...

The Objectionable Li Zhi

Rivi Handler-Spitz, Pauline Lee & Haun Saussy
Iconoclastic scholar Li Zhi (1527–1602) was a central figure in the cultural world of the late Ming dynasty. His provocative and controversial words and actions shaped print culture, literary practice, attitudes toward gender, and perspectives on Buddhism and the afterlife. Although banned, his writings were never fully suppressed, because they tapped into issues of vital significance to generations of readers. His incisive remarks, along with the emotional intensity and rhetorical power with which he delivered...

Upland Geopolitics

Michael Dwyer
In the twenty-first century, transnational land deals in the Global South have become increasingly prevalent and controversial. Widely seen as a new global land grab, transnational access to arable land in impoverished "land-rich" countries in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia highlights the link between the shifting geopolitics of economic development and problems of food security, climate change, and regional and international trade. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, Upland Geopolitics uses the case...

Three Early Mahāyāna Treatises from Gandhāra

Andrea Schlosser
The Gandhāran birch-bark scrolls preserve the earliest remains of Buddhist literature known today and provide unprecedented insights into the history of Buddhism. This volume presents three manuscripts from the Bajaur Collection (BC), a group of nineteen scrolls discovered at the end of the twentieth century and named after their findspot in northwestern Pakistan. The manuscripts, written in the Gāndhārī language and Kharoṣṭhī script, date to the second century CE. The three scrolls—BC 4, BC 6,...

Jesuits and Matriarchs

Nadine Amsler
In early modern China, Jesuit missionaries associated with the male elite of Confucian literati in order to proselytize more freely, but they had limited contact with women, whose ritual spaces were less accessible. Historians of Catholic evangelism have similarly directed their attention to the devotional practices of men, neglecting the interior spaces in Chinese households where women worshipped and undertook the transmission of Catholicism to family members and friends. Nadine Amsler’s investigation brings the domestic...

Perpetual Happiness

Shih-shan Henry Tsai
The reign of Emperor Yongle, or “Perpetual Happiness,” was one of the most dramatic and significant in Chinese history. It began with civil war and a bloody coup, saw the construction of the Forbidden City, the completion of the Grand Canal, consolidation of the imperial bureaucracy, and expansion of China’s territory into Mongolia, Manchuria, and Vietnam. Beginning with an hour-by-hour account of one day in Yongle’s court, Shih-shan Henry Tsai presents the multiple dimensions of...

Confucian Image Politics

Ying Zhang
During the Ming-Qing transition (roughly from the 1570s to the 1680s), literati-officials in China employed public forms of writing, art, and social spectacle to present positive moral images of themselves and negative images of their rivals. The rise of print culture, the dynastic change, and the proliferating approaches to Confucian moral cultivation together gave shape to this new political culture. Confucian Image Politics considers the moral images of officials—as fathers, sons, husbands, and friends—circulated in...

Footprints of War

David Biggs
When American forces arrived in Vietnam, they found themselves embedded in historic village and frontier spaces already shaped by many past conflicts. American bases and bombing targets followed spatial and political logics influenced by the footprints of past wars in central Vietnam. The militarized landscapes here, like many in the world’s historic conflict zones, continue to shape post-war land-use politics. Footprints of War traces the long history of conflict-produced spaces in Vietnam, beginning with early...

Vignettes from the Late Ming

Yang Ye
This anthology presents seventy translated and annotated short essays, or hsiao-p’in, by fourteen well-known sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Chinese writers. Hsiao-p’in, characterized by spontaneity and brevity, were a relatively informal variation on the established classical prose style in which all scholars were trained. Written primarily to amuse and entertain the reader, hsiao-p’in reflect the rise of individualism in the late Ming period and collectively provide a panorama of the colorful life of the age. Critics condemned...

Governing Water in India

Leela Fernandes
Intensifying droughts and competing pressures on water resources foreground water scarcity as an urgent concern of the global climate change crisis. In India, individual, industrial, and agricultural water demands exacerbate inequities of access and expose the failures of state governance to regulate use. State policies and institutions influenced by global models of reform produce and magnify socio-economic injustice in this "water bureaucracy." Drawing on historical records, an analysis of post-liberalization developments, and fieldwork in the...

Healing with Poisons

Yan Liu
At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. Healing with Poisons explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful substances to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. It illustrates how the Chinese concept of du—a word carrying a core meaning of “potency”—led...

A Ming Confucian's World

Rong Lu & Mark Halperin
A forgotten century marks the years between the Ming dynasty's (1368–1644) turbulent founding and its sixteenth-century age of exploration and economic transformation. In this period of social stability, retired scholar-official Lu Rong chronicled his observations of Chinese society in Miscellaneous Records from the Bean Garden (Shuyuan zaji). Openly expressing his admirations and frustrations, Lu provides a window into the quotidian that sets Bean Garden apart from other works of the biji genre of "informal notes."...

The Mandate of Heaven and the Great Ming Code

Yonglin Jiang
After overthrowing the Mongol Yuan dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), proclaimed that he had obtained the Mandate of Heaven (Tianming), enabling establishment of a spiritual orientation and social agenda for China. Zhu, emperor during the Ming's Hongwu reign period, launched a series of social programs to rebuild the empire and define Chinese cultural identity. To promote its reform programs, the Ming imperial court issued a series of legal documents, culminating...

Novel Medicine

Andrew Schonebaum
By examining the dynamic interplay between discourses of fiction and medicine, Novel Medicine demonstrates how fiction incorporated, created, and disseminated medical knowledge in China, beginning in the sixteenth century. Critical readings of fictional and medical texts provide a counterpoint to prevailing narratives that focus only on the “literati” aspects of the novel, showing that these texts were not merely read, but were used by a wide variety of readers for a range of purposes. The...

Symptoms of an Unruly Age

Rivi Handler-Spitz
Symptoms of an Unruly Age compares the writings of Li Zhi (1527–1602) and his late-Ming compatriots to texts composed by their European contemporaries, including Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Cervantes. Emphasizing aesthetic patterns that transcend national boundaries, Rivi Handler-Spitz explores these works as culturally distinct responses to similar social and economic tensions affecting early modern cultures on both ends of Eurasia. The paradoxes, ironies, and self-contradictions that pervade these works are symptomatic of the hypocrisy, social posturing,...

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