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Learning to Rethink Nisei Radicalism: Diane Fujino on “Nisei Radicals”

As I sat in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) listening to three generations of Japanese American women talk about the meaning of Mitsuye Yamada’s poetry for them, I was struck by the sticking power of Mitsuye’s words. That event, held in August 2019, was the book launch for Mitsuye’s third book of poetry, Full Circle. At the time, I was finishing my book manuscript on Mitsuye Yamada and her brother, Reverend Michael Yasutake. I had begun the project twenty years earlier, out of an interest in understanding my own radical Japanese American history. I had grown up as an Eastside Sansei in a community with many Japanese Americans and regularly traveled a few miles west to visit Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. But as was the case for many of my generation, our community’s radical activist past was hidden from view. So I began a quest that, through research and activism, led me to the study of Japanese American radicalism and ‘60s figures such as Yuri Kochiyama, famously known for working with Malcolm X in Harlem; Richard Aoki, a rare Japanese American member of the Black Panther Party; and Mo Nishida, a Los Angeles Little Tokyo Leftist; and also to early Cold War activism. These were all people who, like my parents, were Nisei, the second-generation children of immigrants. (If they were not all literally the children of Japanese immigrants, they were of the same birth cohort as the Nisei).

Bill Hosokawa’s Nisei: The Quiet Americans had famously labeled the Nisei as politically passive, the most assimilationist of any generation. This was the generation that was sent, often as young adults, into the US concentration camps in World War II. They were taught to be 200% American in order to escape being seen as the enemy. In the postwar period, this generation of Japanese Americans received unprecedented and unexpected opportunities, including homeownership, jobs that matched their college educations, changed racial representations, and— for the first time—citizenship for Japanese immigrants. These changes were related to global geopolitics. As Christina Klein argues in Cold War Orientalism, the nation was invested in showing a diminishing of anti-Asian racism while promoting empire building in Asia. But as the next generation, the Sansei of the late 1960s’ Asian American Movement, developed more radical and unruly politics, they railed against what they saw as the accommodationism of their parents’ generation. “Why didn’t they protest being rounded up and locked up?,” the Asian American Movement activists accused. But I soon discovered that Japanese Americans did protest: they were draft resisters during the “Good War,” labor organizers in Hawaii, and much more.

My hunger to recover my own history of radicalism led to my research on Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake. I was already familiar with Mitsuye’s writings, years ago having read her two essays, “Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disaster” and “Asian Pacific Women and Feminism” in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981). Mitsuye’s writings spoke to the ways Asian American women were rendered invisible and silent, describing how a moment of anger on her part shocked her colleagues who didn’t know that Asian American women felt oppressed. Nearly forty years after Mitsuye penned those essays, they still resonated with younger Japanese American women at the JANM book event.

Reverend Michael Yasutake, an Episcopal priest, had for even longer than his sister lived a life of unruliness, contrary to the idea of Nisei accommodationism. During World War II he was a conscientious objector of sorts and was kicked out of the University of Cincinnati in 1944 for his defiance of conventions of wartime patriotism and masculinity. During the 1960s he counseled draft resisters and, as I discovered in my research, drove hundreds of miles out of his way to visit military stockades and US penitentiaries. Then, in the 1980s, when his colleague at the YMCA College in Chicago, Carmen Valentín, was arrested as a Puerto Rican revolutionary, he gave a revolutionary prayer for Carmen and her compañeras/os who unexpectedly found themselves arrested and in jail, and his politics moved increasingly to oppose US and Japanese imperialism. He had already been a fierce supporter of political prisoners (sometimes working with Yuri Kochiyama to support specific political prisoners), but now he combined trips to visit political prisoners throughout the United States with international travels to organize creative gatherings and people’s tribunals to explore the ongoing impacts of militarism in the aftermath of World War II. Yasutake, along with Ron Fujiyoshi and others, organized Tochi wa Inochi or “Land is life” as an international conference, held in Okinawa in 1996, to bear witness to the enduring impacts of war, nuclear testing, forced sex slavery, and incarceration.

Mitsuye Yamada herself had long supported political prisoners, notably though Amnesty International, where she served on the US board of directors. But at the persistent urgings of her brother she began to counter Amnesty International’s policy against members supporting political prisoners in their own country, which was intended as a partial protection against the political persecution of its members. Mitsuye was particularly drawn to women political prisoners, most especially Marilyn Buck, a fellow poet and White radical who was convicted for helping the iconic Black Panther Assata Shakur escape prison. Mitsuye is primarily known for her moving poetry and prose, but, as my book shows, she is also a long-standing activist-organizer.

My book, Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake (University of Washington Press, forthcoming December 2020), forms part of the scholarship that counters the racialization of the Nisei as quiet Americans and of Japanese Americans as model minorities. It shows the continuing and increasingly radical activism of Nisei like Mike and Mitsuye, who did much of their political work in the 1970s to 1990s, during an ostensibly dormant period of Asian American activism. It reveals the ways Nisei worked with younger generations of Asian Americans and across divides of race, class, nation, and political ideology. It uncovers a radical lineage of Japanese American activism. And it contests the accusations of Nisei passivity and helps to explain why Nisei like Mitsuye Yamada, now 97 years old, and the late Michael Yasutake remain relevant to people across generations.

Diane C. Fujino is professor of Asian American studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books include Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama and Samurai among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance and a Paradoxical Life. Her book Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake is forthcoming.

A Message to Our Authors, Readers, and Partners

During this ongoing global crisis, we at the University of Washington Press share concern and solidarity with all those who are affected. We realize that this is a challenging time for people around the world, and we are grateful for your continued engagement. Although we are working remotely, the press is fully operational and open for business.

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Walking the Waterfront: UW Press’s Audrey Truitt on “Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces”

One beautiful aspect about Seattle is that there are truly endless ways to explore the city. There are many museums, famous monuments, tours, and restaurants to visit. However, if you are looking for something unique to do, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp offers tours of public art for each of Seattle’s many popular areas. He offers a unique way for you to learn some of Seattle’s history through its artworks. Katie Felton and I, marketing assistants of UW Press, were lucky enough to tour the waterfront for its public spaces, and we discovered some striking art.

In the beginning of our tour, we visited the memorial of Ivar Hagland. The sculpture shows Hagland in a captain’s hat and seamen’s jacket feeding seagulls french fries, which was one of his favorite pastimes. He’s a perfect companion to sit next to as you watch people pass by or enjoy a nice lunch of fish and chips from Ivar’s Fish Bar. Ivar Hagland (1905–1985) was known to be a restaurant owner and entrepreneur who advocated for the city and its people. He was very well liked by the Seattle community. After his death in 1985, many of his friends pooled together the funds to build a statue in his name because he was so beloved by them. Since 1912, this is the first memorial of a Seattle citizen placed in a public space. Richard Beyer sculpted the memorial out of aluminum and bronze and helped leave Ivar Hagland’s legacy behind.

Waterfront Fountain will not fail to leave an impression of awe on the sightseer. Made from a combination of cubic structures, with water cascading off the tall bronze artwork, it is a piece to appreciate. Waterfront Fountain is the last fountain that James Fitzgerald made for Seattle. He designed it with his wife, painter Margaret Tomkins, in October 1973. Sculptor Terry Copple and welder Art Sjodin collaborated with the couple on the piece, due to their past work with Fitzgerald. This work was given to Seattle in memory of Edward M. and Margaret J. Harrington. The Harringtons came to Seattle in 1921 and, like Ivar Hagland, had an undying love and devotion for the city.

2.3 Waterfront Fountain, James FitzGerald and Margaret Tomkins

Waterfront Fountain

As Katie and I approached one of our last artworks, we were delighted to see a colorful mosaic at the bottom of the staircase at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Called Danza del Cerchio, Seattle artist Ann Gardner created this piece using glass mosaics and ancient Byzantine techniques. The mural is 48 feet long, with bright, multicolored disks in every color of the rainbow. Ann Gardener first drafted this design on paper, then transferred it to the mosaic form. This piece put us both in a better mood by the time we left it; it is a piece that can brighten up anybody’s day.

Many people often think to go to the waterfront because there are a number of fun things to do there. However, not many notice the art that lives within the area. Katie and I were both grateful to go on this tour for that very reason. Katie has lived in Seattle for several years, and I have lived here my whole life, but neither of us had noticed this hidden world of art. It was synonymous to going on a treasure hunt—no doubt! We realized that many precious pieces of the past go unnoticed and unappreciated. Every day, people pass by these artworks—but how many recognize the piece, appreciate its presence, and know why it’s there? Most likely, not many. What James Rupp has compiled for us is a gift to explore the greater depths and personalities that reside and resided in Seattle. It gives us a way to see how artists expressed themselves through their artwork, or how and why individuals were remembered. It’s more than just seeing art, but a glimpse into why things are the way they are.

 

The tours offered by James Rupp in Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces present something unique to both the out-of-town tourist and lifetime Seattleite. If you are a tourist, you can explore the city’s art history in depth by seeing how interwoven the art is within the streets of Seattle. As an old-time Seattleite, art lovers can appreciate the hidden gems that cover the entire city in open spaces and hidden crevices. The waterfront tour takes about an hour to complete, with seven destinations along the many piers of the waterfront. However, there are many tours that you can take that span from seven to more than thirty public art pieces. Depending on your curiosity and adventure levels, you can break up the day with a short art tour while sightseeing the rest of the city, or devote an entire afternoon to exploring the art in Seattle’s public spaces.


Perfect for art and architecture lovers, as well as visitors and newcomers to the city of Seattle, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp showcases the wealth of urban art to be freely enjoyed by all.

The Changes that Led to Taiwan’s “Global Moment”: Ryan Dunch and Ashley Esarey on “Taiwan in Dynamic Transition”

The Covid-19 death toll in the United States exceeds 148,000; in Taiwan this statistic is seven. Taiwan has done a better job of fighting the pandemic than South Korea, Japan, or New Zealand. Taiwan adjusted the teaching protocol for schools but never closed them. Restaurants lost business but largely remained open. Taiwan’s economy has continued to grow, as other nations face the sinking prospect of a recession.

Taiwan is having its global moment, but few can tell the tale of how this island country arrived where it is. This is unfortunate but unsurprising: Taiwan is seldom mentioned in global media reports beyond articles about its disputed sovereignty, or histrionic outbursts from Chinese diplomats seeking to bar Taiwan from observer status in the World Health Organization and other international bodies.

During five decades of Japanese colonial rule (1895–1945), Taiwan began to experience what we call the “twin transformations” of nation building and democratization. Nation building commenced during Japanese rule, when Taiwanese were united by their common culture yet marginalized as second-class citizens in their homeland. Democratization, including early forays into local electoral politics under Japan, gradually introduced new rights and freedoms for Taiwanese to campaign in local and national elections.

Nation building and democratization became interrelated concerns as Taiwan emerged in the 1980s from four decades of one-party rule under martial law. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, founded in 1986 in defiance of a ban on opposition parties, would eventually become one of two main political parties that have alternated in power since the first direct presidential election in 1996. Nation building and democratization changed the way Taiwanese saw their society, leading to overwhelming support for democratic life and broad recognition that their nation was Taiwan, not China.

One important reason for Taiwan’s resilience during the current pandemic is that Taiwan’s twin transformations did not occur in isolation. They proceeded alongside a public hunger for broader reforms in a range of related areas, including women’s rights, freedom of speech and association, indigenous rights, environmental justice, animal rights, abolition of the death penalty, and gay marriage, to mention but a few examples.

All of these movements involved increasingly sophisticated activism amid growing trust in government as a willing and capable partner in reshaping the country’s course. This was in part due to the pivotal leadership of recently deceased President Lee Teng-hui, who pardoned political prisoners and worked to forge consensus over reforms that converted a political system designed to rule China in the 1940s into a democratic system suited to govern Taiwan.

Over time, Taiwanese society experienced what might be called a “normalization” of non-violent contestation that touched nearly every corner of society. Consider, for example, the 2014 occupation of parliament by students opposing a Taiwan-China free trade pact. The movement won widespread public support, prompted the tabling of the agreement, and elevated the fortunes of the Democratic Progressive Party, which had supported the demonstration. In Hong Kong, by comparison, pro-democracy demonstrators have been treated as criminals, traitors, and repressed by the police. Taiwanese “Sunflower activists” were cleared of criminal charges after occupying the national legislature for over three weeks. In her May 2020 inaugural address, President Tsai Ing-wen underscored the role of Taiwan’s “mobilization culture”: She noted that “people’s dissatisfaction provides motivation for reform” and that Taiwan’s ability to overcome its many challenges wasn’t because of “one or two heroes” but because of “nameless heroes” who together “turned the great wheel of history.”

Ironically, such views of Taiwanese society seem entirely foreign in China. Politicians and military figures in Beijing ignore Tsai Ing-wen’s soaring approval ratings and belittle her political record: they have accused her government of “unilaterally” destabilizing relations by failing to express commitment to unification; urged Taiwanese to refrain from commenting on national security legislation for Hong Kong; and warned that Taiwan independence is “a road of death.”

Our book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization traces how this remarkable country emerged as a resilient democratic nation, despite the absence of widespread agreement on sovereignty or democratic norms after World War II and within a political system designed to govern a different place (China). The contributors to the volume, many of them Taiwan-based academics, consider several dimensions of Taiwan’s experience of nation building and democratization, including constitutional reform, grassroots elections and social movements, and defense spending and national security.

Speaking to her compatriots at her inauguration in 2020, President Tsai argued that Taiwan’s story “pertains to everyone and requires everyone.” Taiwan in Dynamic Transition helps readers to understand the background to Taiwan’s extraordinary success during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the future security of Taiwan is uncertain, not due to internal failings but the threat of a Chinese invasion. During these uncertain and dangerous times, perhaps Tsai’s words are also true for all who respect freedom and human dignity and wish to see them flourish?


Ryan Dunch is professor of history at the University of Alberta. Ashley Esarey is assistant professor of political science at the University of Alberta. Their book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization is available now.

The Future of Diversifying Publishing: Reflections from Hanni Jalil, the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow

Academic publishing is a fascinating world, as my time as the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow at the University of Washington Press has shown me. During my fellowship, I have met and worked with intellectually curious and critical individuals committed to collaborative work, to producing scholarship and knowledge as a public good, and to opening doors to diverse voices in publishing and in the academy. But what should commitment to diversity really look like in an industry that is still 76 % White? When we look at editorial departments, the numbers are less encouraging: a recent survey on diversity in publishing revealed that Black/Afro-American/ Afro-Caribbean colleagues in these departments make up only 1% of all editorial positions. Folks that identify as Latinx/Latino/Mexican make up only 2%, and Native Americans or First Nations colleagues represent less than 1% of all editorial jobs.

The Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship, spearheaded by Larin McLaughlin, editor in chief at the University of Washington Press and this year’s AUPresses Constituency Award winner, is a pipeline program designed to address this problem, with a particular emphasis on diversifying acquisitions departments at participating presses and beyond. “Fixing” the diversity problem in publishing necessitates more than increasing representation of BIPOC people across the industry. We should also reflect about diversity in terms of representation for our LGTBQ+ colleagues as well as in terms of neurodiversity and ability. However, here, I want to focus on the need to provide spaces and retention practices that encourage BIPOC folks to enter, stay, and thrive in the publishing industry.

Undoubtedly, those of us who have participated in this fellowship have benefited from this opportunity. During the fourteen months I worked at the press, I learned about the acquisitions process through formal and informal mentoring opportunities and conversations with my colleagues Mike Baccam, Lorri Hagman, Neecole Bostick, Andrew Berzanskis, and Larin McLaughlin. I have also had the privilege of sharing this experience with an incredible cohort of fellows past and present, whose support and mentorship has been invaluable. Because of the UW Press’s incredibly collaborative spirit, I also had the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in editorial design and production, marketing, and in rights and contracts.

I’m leaving the fellowship with experiences and lessons that will continue to shape my professional journey, so in my mind there is no question that the Mellon Fellowship is a significant resource and intervention to challenge the industry’s inequities and an amazing opportunity. But what will happen when the program ends? What happens at presses where there are no analogous programs? We need more than programs like this fellowship to fix problems that are structural and for which there are no easy solutions. Coming up with ways to solve the lack of diversity in publishing requires an industry-wide commitment to radically transform the visible and invisible structures that make academic publishing a predominantly white industry. In this post, I would like to focus on three types of barriers to inclusion, which the industry must face head-on. The first, the need to reimagine our outreach and hiring practices across departments; the second, the need to build meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks who enter publishing; and the third, the need to establish pay equity across the industry.

The first barrier speaks to the question of how to make diversity not a platitude or afterthought but a central goal in our outreach and hiring practices. Make this an intention and purpose in all of your efforts. What would happen if we gave the candidate’s engagement with and commitment to diversity the same weight we give the rest of their professional experience? Think about the transformative potential of these considerations and make them central to your outreach and hiring practices.

The second barrier speaks to the value of fostering meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks in publishing. Mentorship can make a difference as an effective retention strategy. Consider how your BIPOC colleagues feel about entering and working in an industry where the majority of folks who work in it are white. Here are some possible fears: Will I be tokenized? Will I face micro-aggressions? Will I be encouraged to speak-up? Will my opinion and viewpoints matter? The most effective pedagogies are those where educators think about and design their courses not with the average student in mind (thinking in terms of “average” is a fraught concept, anyway), but in ways that unlock individual potential, while acknowledging that the diversity of our life experiences is a constituent part of how we learn. Meaningful and engaged mentorship is similar to the role of instructors and facilitators in that it requires intentionality and cultural responsiveness. Make establishing a mentoring relationship intentional, provide guidance, be proactive about meeting the needs of your mentee, and, lastly, open spaces for your mentee to approach you with uncomfortable or hard conversations.

Lastly, think about the urgency of establishing pay equity across the industry, particularly for folks in entry-level positions. Retention strategies require us to think about our colleagues’ material realities. Should we be asking our colleagues in entry-level positions to sacrifice their financial stability and well-being in order to stay in publishing? Most of us would agree the answer is no. Let us go a step further: because publishing is an apprenticeship-based industry, where moving from entry-level positions to mid-career or managerial positions takes a considerable investment of time, are there expected sacrifices ultimately matched in compensation, possibilities of advancement, and job security? Can BIPOC people or folks who come from low-income families, folks who are first-generation students, who have familial responsibilities, or who do not have networks of financial support really assume this sacrifice? Now think about the ways that oppression and exclusions intersect and overlap, and ask yourself if promoting pay equity and paying higher livable wages is not also a necessary component of the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

We all have privileges, some more than others, but if publishing is serious about overcoming the historical and structural barriers that keep the industry predominantly white, we need to take action. While implementing diversity initiatives like the Mellon Fellowship is a step in the right direction, it must be one of many steps on the path to transformative change.


Hanni Jalil migrated with her siblings to the United States from Cali-Colombia; she is the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow. This fall, she will join California State University Channel Islands as an assistant professor of Latin American history.

What keeps us calm during the chaos: Nozomi Naoi on “Yumeji Modern” and finding the “moon-viewing” moment

In such uncertain times, it is important to remember the things that keep us human, keep us who we are, and allow us to persevere.

My book, Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century Japan, has a chapter on the artistic reception and visualization of the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 (Chapter 5). As tempting as it is to focus on the disaster and suffering, I want to introduce one newspaper illustration and accompanying text that focuses on a moment of serenity, beauty, and humanity amidst the chaos and wreckage.

The modern Japanese artist and main subject of the book, Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), wrote and illustrated a newspaper series called Tōkyō sainan gashin (“Sketches of the Tokyo Disaster”), which was published daily in the newspaper Miyako shinbun. Comprising both texts and images, Yumeji’s series records his reactions to the catastrophe and its aftermath and participate in a collective making of memory in modern Japanese history. His visual and literary observations showcase feelings of empathy and shock, as well as disappointment due to the inaction on the part the Japanese government in helping its citizens. Tokyo Disaster began its serialized, daily release merely thirteen days after the earthquake struck, running from September 14 to October 4, and the series presented some of the earliest responses to reach the public.

Out of the twenty-one issues in the series, one stood out: the twelfth issue from September 25, Chūshū no meigetsu (Moon-viewing; fig. 5.09, p. 161). It is a tranquil night scene with a mother and her two children, seen from behind, sitting in a field and looking up at the moon. It is a poignant scene and all the more so with Yumeji’s sensitive portrayal of the woman, as his interest in the female image made him popular with his iconic “Yumeji-style beauty.” The romanticized natural setting and the figures communicate a beautiful moment even within a series that dwells on the theme of destruction.

Moon-viewing

The text recounts how people had to spend many nights in the open due to a lack of shelter and then describes the mother:

I saw a woman pulling pampas grass in the field at Aoyama. I passed by casually, then realized that tonight was “moon-viewing” (chūshū no meigetsu). Some do not forget the offerings to the full moon even in such destitute times when people are living in shacks. Tonight there must be people gazing at the bright moon from the eaves of the galvanized iron roofs, grateful for their survival . . . (pp. 160-161)

Moon-viewing festivities celebrated the beauty of the autumnal moon and prayed for an abundant harvest. The appreciation of mother nature, which had just struck against humanity is nonetheless breathtaking. By homing in on the attempts of one woman to preserve the tradition of moon-viewing for her children despite the tragedy, the image and text also reflect Yumeji’s focus on the experience of the individual in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.

The desire for people to recreate and preserve normalcy even during a time of trauma touched Yumeji.

Serialization also allowed Yumeji’s reactions to the earthquake to reach a broad audience every day for three weeks, and the series became a platform that expanded and built upon itself, enabling a kind of memoristic journey that the artist and his audience experienced together.

The series finds its source in Yumeji’s artistic beginnings as an illustrator for socialist bulletins during the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and demonstrates on a more personal level his concern for the place of the common people, of the voiceless within a climate of mounting government oppression and militarism. In addition, his keen observation and focus on the figure and its interiority was germane to his development in the portrayal of the female figure, one that evolved from his prolific production of bijinga (beautiful women) imagery, mostly for publications targeting a female audience.

Tokyo Disaster is an important series in the examination of the artist Yumeji and his role in the early twentieth-century mediascape. But it also holds a more personal meaning.

While doing research for this book in Japan, the Tōhoku Earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, followed by countless aftershocks and a massive tsunami. It was in the aftermath of this event and during Japan’s collective efforts to restore, reconcile, and narrate this disaster that led me to Yumeji’s responses to the Great Kantō Earthquake, the greatest natural disaster during his lifetime. This experience permitted me to approach this series with a better understanding of and insight into Yumeji’s heartfelt reactions to the 1923 earthquake, and I decided to devote my last chapter of the book on this series and include the entire series translation in the appendix. I completed the translations and analysis of this series with the 2011 disaster in mind, which even years later affects the many people who are still unable to return to their homes.

In our current circumstance in 2020, I now feel that the many reactions and critiques seen in this series are ever more relevant, and I hope that in our times today each and every one of us is able to find our own “moon-viewing” moment.


Nozomi Naoi is assistant professor of humanities (art history) at Yale-NUS College and author of Yumeji Modern.

 

 

 

 

 

Hyung-A Kim on “Korean Skilled Workers”

The Korean case of national development is an outstanding one. South Korea rose from one of the poorest countries in the world to the twelfth largest economy in terms of gross domestic product with innovative technology (innotech) development, which ranks globally in the top three countries. Although not entirely without its flaws and idiosyncrasies, Korea has indeed succeeded in a dual industrial and democratic revolution together with innotech development within just six decades since the mid-1960s, surviving several traumatic global financial crises, including the Asian financial crises in 1997 and 2008.

Some of Korea’s large family-owned conglomerates, or chaebŏls, in particular, have become the world’s preeminent manufacturing brands. Samsung Electronics’ smartphones, Hyundai Motors’ automobiles, Hyundai Heavy Industries’ shipbuilding, LG’s electronic home appliances, and various Korean telecommunication brands, not to mention K-pop and cosmetics, all boast global reputations and associated market power. Chaebŏls thus quite rightly feature in developmental literature on Korea.

Unlike the prominent chaebŏls, Korea’s highly disciplined and technologically savvy skilled workers are little known, other than for their union militancy that has branded them a “labor aristocracy” and an object of social criticism for their collective “selfishness.” Affiliated with the radical Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, king of unions in the country, the Korean skilled workers’ unions have in fact become one of the most powerful forces. They, in the eyes of the Korean public, pursue only power and vested-interests in the name of “progress” in Korea’s highly polarized society today.

Herein lies a new narrative that I tell in Korean Skilled Workers: Toward a Labor Aristocracy, a story that recounts not only their critical contribution to South Korea’s rapid development but also their controversial roles in Korea’s democratic working class movement and its current economic status in the world.

My book is the first comprehensive study of Korea’s first generation of skilled workers in the heavy and chemical industries (HCI) sector, tracing the intriguing transformation of the skilled workers’ collective image and character, which have dramatically changed over more than four decades since the early 1970s. This story involves their socio-political trajectory of dramatic transformation, tracking how they initially became patriotic and obedient “industrial warriors” of the Korean state-led HCI program since the 1970s, and then changed into self-proclaimed “Goliat warriors” during South Korea’s democratic transition from 1987 to the early 1990s.

During this period, the first generation of Korean skilled workers in the HCI sector represented the democratic labor union movement and the solidarity movement of the Korean working class in their partnership with radical university students and intellectuals. The book then shows how they finally became a “labor aristocracy” by consolidating their collective status in Korea’s dual labor market as regular workers at large HCI firms. Since the 2000s, they have become a distinct class of a labor aristocracy in Korean society.

In this book I have challenged hitherto prevalent approaches to the study of the Korean case of development by analyzing the lived experience of Korea’s first generation of skilled workers, speaking directly to several dozens of skilled workers and many prominent leaders of the various skilled workers’ labor movements and unions, and corporate CEOs, among others, including academics, journalists, and labor experts. I analyzed newly declassified sources from Korea’s presidential and national archives, among other internal documents, as well as data on Korean workers’ views on the role of unions taken from surveys conducted in 1978, 1987, and 2005. I also conducted in-depth interviews during 2014 and 2015 to obtain up-to-date information on the individual situations and perspectives of HCI workers. This book alerts us to the need to rethink the conventional understanding of the East Asian model of development espoused by elite development theory (EDT) traditions.

This book is a must-read in coming to understand not only how necessary skilled workers are to enabling a nation’s development, but also how they as a newly emerged “labor aristocracy” need to move beyond collective selfishness, especially in this global era of labor market polarization between precarious workers and highly-paid regular workers in many developing and advanced countries throughout the world.


Hyung-A Kim is associate professor of Korean history and politics at the Australian National University. She is author of Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961–1979. Her new book Korean Skilled Workers: Toward a Labor Aristocracy is available now.

Jill La Pointe on the Art—and Preservation—of Lushootseed Storytelling

Adapted from Jill La Pointe’s foreword to Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound by Vi Hilbert, Jill La Pointe, Thom Hess

When Haboo was first published 35 years ago, the dramatic art of traditional storytelling in many of our Native American communities was fading as younger generations became more adapted to mainstream culture and values. Recognizing the impact of cultural change taking place in their communities, my grandmother—like so many other elders—sought to gather and preserve as much traditional information and wisdom as possible. Every elder who contributed to this magnificent collection of cultural stories did so in hopes that someday future generations will once again appreciate the ancient art of storytelling. 

Although much has changed over the years, there remains one unfortunate constant. Despite all the technological advancements since the first publication of Haboo, our communities continue to lose many of their beloved elders. As each year passes, we are left with fewer and fewer among us who can still recite the ancient stories and even fewer who can retell the stories in our traditional Lushootseed language.

Confronting this reality remains as critical to the survival of Coast Salish culture and language today as it was 35 years ago. The wisdom and teachings found in Haboo continue to offer a pedagogical resource that highlights a way of being in the world that we have strayed from, and they remain as relevant today as they have been for generations. 

Growing up, my brother Jay and I heard our grandmother Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert tell many of the stories included here over and over again. Staying true to who she was, she never explained the meaning or revealed the overall lessons hidden in the stories, but rather she instructed us to think about each story and ask ourselves, “What is the story trying to tell me?”

It wasn’t until years later that I gained a deep appreciation for the traditional art of storytelling, as I heard Grandma repeat to audiences everywhere, young and old, that “Lushootseed never insults the intelligence of a listener by explaining the story,” allowing them the same dignity her elders allowed her, to find their own interpretation and understanding.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT Literary Hub.


Jill tsisqʷux̌ʷał La Pointe is director of Lushootseed Research and granddaughter of Vi taqʷšəblu Hilbert.

While Making Other Plans: Ellen Waterston on “Walking the High Desert”

 

In 2012 the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) pieced together a 750-mile trail that starts at the Oregon Badlands Wilderness outside of Bend and continues to the southeastern Oregon canyonlands that flank the Owyhee River. I moved from New England to the high desert of central Oregon four decades ago. Though I now live in Bend, my love of this hardscrabble outback still informs me every day. So it’s no surprise that this new trail spoke to me, lured me back into the desert. No longer actively ranching, I decided I’d walk sections of the trail to bring attention to the ONDA’s Oregon Desert Trail especially as it underscored public and private land use issues. I would make a point of evenly and fairly presenting the conflicting points of view about repurposing open areas of public land. I prided myself that in so many ways I already knew the players: ranchers; Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife employees; schoolteachers in rural schoolhouses; merchants in remote outposts; American Indians on reservations in the high desert; law enforcement officials who, some years back, were kind enough to wave me on, despite my excessive speed, as I made my way along desolate Highway 20 back to the ranch with a station wagon full of fussy infants and sacks of groceries.

In 2015, I began researching and writing this A to Z examination of land use issues in the high desert. But the January 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters by an armed group of far-right extremists changed all that. Life and writing projects are what happen while you are busy making other plans. The occupation was an invitation I couldn’t refuse to broaden the scope of the book, to examine how each section of the trail, in its own unique way, underscored issues that weren’t only regional but also national, if not international, seen through the optic of the high desert—issues such as water resources, climate change, protection of environmental habitat, recreational demands on open spaces, the rural-urban divide, economic inequities, and racism in the rural West.

Writing this book has led me to love the desert even more and to deeply apprehend how fragile it is socially and environmentally. With so many new people moving into this high and dry region, just as I did before them—there needs to be a commensurate commitment to care for it. I hope this book inspires people to engage in important conversations not only about the high desert but also about how these broader and seemingly unresolvable issues manifest where each of us live. As I encountered those issues, I confess I didn’t see any chance for resolution, but by the end of the book… well, I won’t be a spoiler.

 


Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, four poetry collections, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon.

Announcing the 2020-2021 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellows

The University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, Cornell University Press, the Ohio State University Press, University of Chicago Press, Northwestern University Press, and the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) today announce the recipients of the 2020-2021 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowships.

These fellowships are generously funded by a four-year, $1,205,000 grant awarded to the University of Washington Press from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the continued development and expansion of the pipeline program designed to diversify academic publishing by offering apprenticeships in acquisitions departments. This second grant builds on the success of the initial 2016 grant from the Mellon Foundation, which funded the first cross-press initiative of its kind in the United States to address the marked lack of diversity in the academic publishing industry.

Please join us in welcoming the 2020-2021 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellows:

Jason Alley joins the University of Washington Press after having served as a visiting assistant professor at Beloit College. Originally from greater Los Angeles, he received his BA in film from the University of California, Berkeley and his MA and PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He brings several years of nonprofit work experience to the table, including stints at Project Inform, a HIV treatment education and advocacy organization, and the Pacific Film Archive, a cinematheque and research center based at the University of California, Berkeley. A fervent believer in good writing across a range of nonfiction genres, Jason’s scholarly interests include anthropology, American studies, visual culture, and feminist and queer studies.

Erika Barrios joins the MIT Press from Northwestern University, where she just completed her BA in English literature. At Northwestern, she worked as a research assistant to digitize the journal Mandorla: Nueva Escritura de las Américas for Open Door Archive. She graduates as an alumna of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, having written her honors thesis on the use of language technology in contemporary US Latinx poetry. Her research interests include twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry and poetics, digital humanities, hemispheric American literature, and literary responses to neoliberalism.

Rebecca Brutus joins the University of Chicago Press after graduating in May from Ithaca College, where she majored in writing and minored in theater studies and women’s and gender studies. At Ithaca she served as senior nonfiction editor of the literary magazine Stillwater and as a tutor in the Writing Center. She worked for the Ithaca College Library and as a writing and social media intern at Buffalo Street Books. She was also involved with ZAP, a student-run volunteer program that organized panels to educate the campus community about diversity-related issues. Her enthusiasm for university press publishing was cemented during an internship in the marketing department at Cornell University Press.

Joe Fitzgibbon joins the Ohio State University Press with a professional background in academic copyediting and proofreading of both books and journals. He received his BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and MA from the College of William & Mary, where he wrote a thesis on the federalization of US immigration policy in the antebellum period. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, and spends his free time reading and managing the Wisconsin Sting sled hockey team.

Allegra Martschenko joins Cornell University Press after working as a sales intern at Princeton University Press. She has also worked in the world of children’s book publishing, managing social media for a small press. She is a recent graduate of Princeton University’s School of Architecture, with minors in urban studies and creative writing. Her interests include speculative fiction (especially the work of Laini Taylor), video games, and painting.

Iván Pérez-Zayas joins Northwestern University Press after working as a college professor and journalist. He received his BA in public communications and MA in English literature from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. He has published book and film reviews and co-edited a book of short stories and poems by young Puerto Rican writers, including some of his own work. In 2018, Editorial Disonante published his first poetry chapbook, Para restarse. He is currently writing a dissertation on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Latin American comics, especially those that depict the everyday lives of their characters and explore issues of race, gender and sexuality, to complete his PhD in Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University.