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Confluence and Conflict book cover

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Brian HurleyConfluence and Conflict: Reading Transwar Japanese Literature and Thought (Harvard East Asian Monographs 450, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2022)

Writers and intellectuals in modern Japan have long forged dialogues across the boundaries separating the spheres of literature and thought. This book explores some of their most intellectually and aesthetically provocative connections in the volatile transwar years of the 1920s to 1950s. Reading philosophical texts alongside literary writings, the study links the intellectual side of literature to the literary dimensions of thought in contexts ranging from middlebrow writing to avant-garde modernism, and from the wartime left to the postwar right.

Chapters trace these dynamics through the novelist Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s collaboration with the nativist linguist Yamada Yoshio on a modern translation of The Tale of Genji; the modernist writer Yokomitsu Riichi’s dialogue with Kyoto School philosophers around the question of “worldliness”; the Marxist poet Nakano Shigeharu’s and the philosopher Tosaka Jun’s thinking about prosaic everyday language; and the postwar rumination on liberal society that surrounded the scholar Edwin McClellan while he translated Natsume Sōseki’s classic 1914 novel Kokoro as a graduate student in the United States working with the famed economist Friedrich Hayek. Revealing unexpected intersections of literature, ideas, and politics in a global transwar context, the book concludes by turning to Murakami Haruki and the resonances of those intersections in a time closer to our own.

Betting on the Farm book cover

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Patricia Maclachlan, Betting on the Farm: Institutional Change in Japanese Agriculture (Cornell University Press, 2022)

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA), a nationwide network of farm cooperatives, is under increasing pressure to expand farmer incomes by adapting coop strategies to changing market incentives. Some coops have adapted more successfully than others. In Betting on the Farm, Patricia L. Maclachlan and Kay Shimizu attribute these differences to three sets of local variables: resource endowments and product-specific market conditions, coop leadership, and the organization of farmer-members behind new coop strategies.

Using in-depth case studies and profiles of different types of farmers, Betting on the Farm also explores the evolution of the formal and informal institutional foundations of postwar agriculture; the electoral sources of JA's influence; the interactive effects of economic liberalization and demographic pressures (an aging farm population and acute shortage of farm successors) on the propensity for change within the farm sector; and the diversification of Japan's traditional farm households and the implications for farmer ties with JA.

The Language of Political Incorporation book cover

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Amy H. Liu, The Language of Political Incorporation:  Chinese Migrants in Europe (Temple University Press, 2021)

When migrants are situated in networks that use a lingua franca, they are more likely to trust authorities and engage with locals. The strength of these networks, however, is conditional on the absence of migrant-targeting policies. To test, I look at the Chinese in Central-Eastern Europe. Evidence includes the largest Chinese survey of its kind (N>2000); interviews in five countries; text analysis of newspaper articles in Hungary; and participant observation of a police raid in Romania. I compare the findings to Muslim migrants in the region, the Chinese elsewhere, and the implications for local attitudes towards the Chinese and other out-groups.

Burmese: A Cultural Approach book cover

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Ward Keeler and Allen Lyan, Burmese: A Cultural Approach (Hong Kong University Press, 2021)

Appropriate for use by students at varying levels of competence, Burmese: A Cultural Approach provides a thorough and systematic introduction to the Burmese writing system in Part One and a series of true-to-life conversations in Part Two.

Students with some prior knowledge of the spoken language but little familiarity with the Burmese script can use Part One to solidify their grasp of the Burmese sound system as well as its orthography. Intrepid beginners could also start their study of the language by making use of Part One. Doing so would mean making a slower start at formulating phrases as compared to using a romanization system but learners would gain a firmer foundation for the later—and eventually, faster—development of their speaking and reading skills.

The conversations in Part Two are extensively annotated in order to illustrate grammatical patterns, characteristic turns of phrase, and typical habits of social interaction. True to an anthropological approach to language learning, they are intended to provide students with useful insights into how cultural understandings, not just grammar, shape what gets said in Burmese. The book is enhanced by audio files recorded by native speakers for all the written symbols, dialogues, and copious exercises in the book.