History Department
History Department

Graduate Student Spotlight: Adrian Masters and Kazushi Minami

Thu, July 12, 2018
Graduate Student Spotlight: Adrian Masters and Kazushi Minami
Adrian Masters, Ph.D., and Kazushi Minami, Doctoral Candidate

Hosted by the Institute for Historical Studies, the New Work In Progress (NWP) Series showcases History Ph.D. candidates and their research. While this year’s series has concluded, we continue to highlight graduate students on this website with a series of Q&A articles. We feature both their NWP papers and different stages of graduate student life post-comprehensive exams, including archival research, teaching, publications, conference presentation, and job placement. This article features Adrian Masters and Kazushi Minami, as well as their publications. Interview by Shery Chanis, Ph.D. Candidate, UT History Department.


Shery Chanis:
Although you work on different topics and time periods, you both are interested in what was happening on the ground in your respective transoceanic networks. Can you tell us briefly about your work? How did you become interested in your topic?

Adrian Masters: All communication needs a network. I realized this early in my research into vassals' petitions to the King regarding part-Spanish, part-Indian subjects (mestizos). Communications logistics were very unusual in the sixteenth-century Spanish Empire, and no work exists in the present to help us understand the outline of how petitioning and lawmaking changed as a result of these networks. Anyone participating in the logistics system was making imperial policies, and that even nature itself was, in a very broad sense, determining the law.

Kazushi Minami: My work explores the role of what I call "people's diplomacy"—a form of diplomacy involving non-state actors outside government—in U.S.-Chinese relations during the Cold War. I focus on businesspeople, scientists, students, tourists, athletes, and artists. This topic reflects my broad interest in the dynamic between government diplomacy and domestic society.

Chanis: Adrian, in your New Work In Progress paper, you regard sixteenth-century legal communications in the Spanish empire as material objects which is a new approach. Can you elaborate?

Masters: I [wanted to] explain both when the [postal] system worked and when it did not. Letters did not travel in a linear fashion from X New World City to the Court in Europe. Rain, shipwrecks, and other disasters could also damage petitions. So we are not dealing merely with petitions as texts; these documents are physical objects. Their success or failure depended not only on the internal rhetoric of each letter but on whether the physical letter survived. Distance and materiality were very important to the Spanish Empire, but the 1500s petitioning and lawmaking seems to be even more extreme than internal provincial communications.

Chanis: Many different groups were involved in this vast trans-Atlantic network of communication such as Spanish kings and officials, judges, colonial administrators, petitioners, and pirates. Can you tell us how complicated this network was?

Masters: The King and the Council are clearly legislators, but anyone who moves or stops a request for new laws is also a 'lawmaker.' That makes legislation a richer, more participative, and more complicated process. We have Afro-descendants finding employment as muleteers and as boatmen. Indian women cooked and arranged shelters for their husband couriers and others, so they also were making the law. These very important contributors join a network of official couriers. Only with these interlinking systems could an official or an ordinary person write the King.

However, another type of lawmaker—the law-destroyer—also played a major role. Not everyone wanted the King to receive certain reports. You have Indian groups preventing couriers from getting through, sometimes killing them. Pirates sometimes stole petitions as well. Then there was nature, the greatest law-destroyer of all. We will never know what legislative projects died at the bottom of the sea.

Chanis: Changing our topic quickly, Kazushi, can you talk about Sino-Chinese rapprochement?

minami-mansfieldMinami: When we think of Sino-American rapprochement, we tend to think of the famous picture of a handshake between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in February 1972. My research, however, focuses on domestic society in the United States and China. I show that domestic changes in both countries in the late 1960s created fundamental conditions for the success of Nixon's visit to China.

Left: Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield traveled to China in December, 1974. Photo from the Shaanxi Provincial Archive in Xi'an, China. Courtesy Kazushi Minami.

Chanis: In your paper, you discuss diplomatic policies and actions from both Washington and Beijing but your focus was on the nuances of the rapprochement on the grassroots level in both China and the US. For instance, you mentioned scholars, journalists, businessmen, and high school students in the US and factory workers and children in China. How do you define grassroots and what has been surprising to you as you analyze the actions and thoughts of these groups?

Minami: One question I frequently get is: Was there any genuine grassroots agency in Chinese diplomacy in this period? In other words, did the people outside of the Chinese state matter in Chinese diplomacy? The short answer is no. The Chinese government controlled people's diplomacy with the United States by sending detailed propaganda directives to local hosting organizations. To my surprise, however, Chinese participants in U.S.-Chinese exchange programs often defied the state to pursue their own interests. For instance, local tour guides tried to make pocket money by serving wealthy American tourists despite the government's prohibition of such "capitalistic" behaviors.

Chanis: You mentioned many important historical events including the Vietnam War, the Cultural Revolution, and President Nixon's visit to China. How do we understand these events on the ground?

Minami: There were huge gaps between the state discourse and the popular discourse on these events. For example, the official Chinese discourse on the United States was quite vitriolic during the Vietnam War, and anti-Americanism characterized Chinese culture in the late 1960s to a large extent. However, older generations of Chinese people who had experienced the Korean War saw the United States in awe as a military superpower with superior technology and opposed direct confrontation in Vietnam.

Chanis: Can you tell us about your dissertation? How does the New Work In Progress paper fit into your dissertation?

masters-decreesMasters: My dissertation looks at how the Crown produced some 110,000 royal decrees between 1492 and 1598 for the Spanish New World. I argue that the King and the Council were merely responding to the petitions of vassals from all walks of life. Indians, Afro-descendants, women, and other “marginalized” groups were lawmakers. For instance, the New World's racial laws do not come from above (a common misconception) but from petitions of elites, middling groups, and marginal peoples alike. My focus on expanding the authorship of these laws to include their petitioners necessarily encounters the problem of communications, which has been the focus of my New Work in Progress paper.

Left: A book of royal decrees in the Archivo Nacional del Ecuador (ANE) in Quito. Courtesy Adrian Masters.

Minami: The main chapters of my dissertation focus on exchange programs in the 1970s, and this paper discusses domestic changes in the United States and China in the 1960s that made these programs possible.

Chanis: What do you think is a main contribution of your dissertation?

Masters: My dissertation explains how and why the Crown issues so many royal decrees for the Spanish New World. The King and his Council were terribly passive and anyone could feasibly propose and even phrase the law. This opens up many avenues for rethinking the state, early modern knowledge, and the role of individuals in creating their societies. I think the most immediate surprise would be that Indians and Afro-descendant people created many racial laws. Individuals had a lot of power to change the laws of an entire empire, but this power eroded as Indies society matured and the King and his Council slowly built up their own fact base. 

Minami: Unlike the existing scholarship that focuses primarily on security issues, my dissertation reconsiders U.S.-Chinese relations in the second half of the Cold War as multi-faceted relationships, not limited to the realm of security that affected, and were affected by, people outside the perimeter of government diplomacy.

Chanis: Adrian, you have an article coming out in the Hispanic American Historical Review in August. Many congratulations! Can you talk about the process? How did you choose the paper topic (was it from a chapter of your dissertation project?)? How was the peer review process? Revision? How long was the entire process, from initial submission to publication? 

Masters: The process took approximately 1.5 years. The article is a very quick summary of what I thought would appeal to the public about my project—vassals creating racial laws. It was a struggle to put this article together, for many reasons. First was the fact that I had to summarize heaps of information into an extremely limited word count. Second was percolating three to four (unfinished) chapters' themes into a small article. Peer review was frustrating and a bit funny. The first reviewer felt I needed to engage more with the historiography, define my terms better, and in general provide a more 'defensive' exposition of my argument. The second reviewer thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. The article comes out in August.

Chanis: You have another exciting project coming up: you are co-authoring a monograph (tentatively titled The Radical Spanish Empire) with Professor Jorge Canizares-Esguerra by Harvard University Press. Can you tell us about the book?

Masters: Jorge deserves the credit for coming up with the idea of the book. As my dissertation developed, I realized that I had discovered a paperwork trinity that comprises the vast majority of imperial bureaucracy and documentary production: letters that produce laws (gobierno), letters that produce privileges (gracia), and court case proceedings (justicia). All of these are manuscripts, and few have been published.

The gist of our argument is that the common popular and academic view of the Spanish Empire as 'anti-modern' – a hidebound, ultra-conservative, dogmatic, anti-intellectual, top-down regime – does not hold up if you bring gobierno, gracia, and justicia into the mix. These secret ruler-ruled communications hide a vast intellectual world. You have radical political proposals in gobierno, major efforts at scientific discoveries in gracia, and sophisticated legal reasoning in justicia. The major critique of this book is that in our search for one type of Anglo-style modernity, with printed books, a public sphere, Parliamentary government, and so forth, we have erased a different but similarly productive world. A liberal one-size-fits-all model for reading the past can somehow alchemize a very intellectually and socially vibrant society, like the Indies, into a model of backwardness. We hope that readers will not only see that this is an oversimplification, but will have the tools to read New World history in a new light.

Chanis: Kazushi, you have published two journal articles. Many congratulations! Can you tell us about them? Can you walk us through the publication process from submission to publication?

My first article in Cold War History is based on my Master’s Report. It examines the impact of Chinese domestic politics on U.S.-Chinese relations in the 1970s. The second article in Diplomatic History focuses on the significance of oil in U.S.-Chinese relations in the same period. Interestingly, American oil companies tried to import oil from China amidst the energy crisis. The Diplomatic History article went through a particularly rigorous review process. I think I revised it three times before getting an acceptance notice.

Chanis: What advice would you give your fellow graduate students about publishing your work?

Masters: Start early with your articles and aim for major journals. Then get thinking about a book deal. You can always get a contract and set the clock back two years or maybe more, but what is important is to have that paper. It is a quicker and friendlier process than many assume. 

Minami: Your work does not have to be perfect before the initial submission. Let the reviewers do their work. They will help you improve your article – whether you like it or not!

In 2018-2019, the Institute for Historical Studies welcomes both Adrian and Kazushi. Adrian will be a Postdoctoral Fellow at IHS, developing his dissertation ("Creating Law in the Spanish Empire: Petitioners, Royal Decrees, and the Council of the Indies, 1524-1598") into a book manuscript. Kazushi will be a Graduate Research Assistant and Coordinator of the next New Work in Progress Series.

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