As part of the Université Paris Cité’s commitment to global engagement, creativity and critical knowledge and research, the Paris Graduate School of East Asian Studies is organizing a series of lectures by international scholars for the 2023-2024 academic year.

The series highlights the wide-ranging intellectual interests and innovations of prominent scholars in the humanities and social sciences, with a focus on the East Asia and flows of ideas, people, institutions, and texts across linguistic and national borders.

Lectures 2023-2024

Slow forms of infrastructural violence: the complexities of Vietnamese state plans and ethnic minority livelihoods in Vietnam’s mountainous northern borderlands

Sarah Turner (McGill University)

Moderation : Marie Gibert-Flutre

In Vietnam’s northern borderlands, ethnic minority farmers carefully navigate the Vietnamese state’s efforts to exert control and integrate these mountainous areas into ‘modernization’ projects. In particular, the state aims to reshape local rural livelihoods and resources through numerous infrastructure programs. While scholars have studied visible infrastructure projects like dams and highways elsewhere in the Southeast Asian Massif, I focus on less-documented state-driven endeavors: hybrid seed systems, market upgrades, and tourism infrastructure expansion. Drawing on critical infrastructural literature, I examine the impact of these state programs on ethnic minority livelihoods. While the state appears successful in ‘modernizing’ the region in many ways, I highlight how ethnic minority farmers adapt, subtly resisting state initiatives when they are not in tune with local livelihood needs. I argue for increased attention to how such state projects are perpetuating slow infrastructural violence in the Massif.

Sarah Turner is a Professor in the Department of Geography, McGill University, Canada. Her research focuses on the ways by which individuals who find themselves somehow marginalised, be it economically, politically, or ethnically, make a living in rural and urban Asia. Her current projects include a focus on ethnic minority livelihoods in the Sino-Vietnamese borderlands, including farmer everyday politics when faced with inappropriate agrarian programmes and infrastructure projects. She also studies informal economy livelihoods and resistance tactics in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has co-authored Frontier livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese borderlands with C. Bonnin and J. Michaud (University of Washington Press, 2015), and is an editor of Geoforum.   

Literature and Religion in Late Imperial China

Noga Ganany (University of Cambridge)

Moderation : Junliang Pan

In Ming and Qing belles-lettres and performance arts, the boundaries between entertainment, art, ritual and reverence were often blurred. On stage, gods and immortals regaled spectators – and the deities themselves – with adventures of transcendence and retribution. In the world of publishing, novels incorporated Buddhist sutras and Daoist manuals for cultivation, erotic stories were printed alongside didactic morality tracts, and hagiographic narratives sported practical instructions for the worship of their protagonists. This interplay not only complicates our understanding of reading and spectatorship during the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also highlights the need for a new theoretical model in our field to approach this recurring conflation, reciprocity, and mutual influence between writing and worship in late imperial China. During this talk, I will focus on several representative examples from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to demonstrate the range of this interconnectedness between the literary and religious realms in late imperial China and argue that they should be treated as nodes on a shared cultural continuum.

Noga Ganany is Assistant Professor in the Study of Late Imperial China at University of Cambridge. Before receiving her PhD. from Columbia University (2018), Noga studied in Israel, France, China, and Japan. Her research focuses on the interplay between literature and religion in late-imperial China, primarily during the Ming and Qing dynasties. She is also interested in the history of the book, travel and pilgrimage, popular culture, and religious practice. Her first book, tentatively titled Origin Narratives: Hagiographic Literature and Religious Practice in Late Ming Book Culture, examines a subgenre of commercially-published books celebrating the lives of heroes, gods, and immortals.



Testimony vs. Propaganda: Love and Kamishibai in Japan’s Colonial Empire

Sharalyn Orbaugh (University of British Columbia)

Moderation : Marianne Simon-Oikawa     

Between 1932 and 1945 the Japanese government used a propaganda form known as kamishibai (paper theatre) to encourage support for its imperialism and militarism both on the home front and in the colonies and occupied territories: China, Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan. Many historians emphasize the frequent use of <hate> as a motivator in World War Two propaganda, but this presentation will examine the surprising use of <love> as a tool of persuasion in kamishibai stories and images. To conclude, the propaganda messages found in kamishibai will be compared to historical testimony, in which Japanese people and colonial subjects describe their opinions toward Japan and its war.

Sharalyn Orbaugh is Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Popular Culture, and Head of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her research focuses on the political and social functions of popular culture media such as manga, anime, and kamishibai.





The Programme to Improve Rice Production in Colonial Korea: Inspections, Regulations, and the Creation of a Commodity 

Holly Stephens (University of Edinburgh)

Moderation : Florence Galmiche and Justine Guichard

Introduced in 1920, the Programme to Increase Rice Production (朝鮮産米増殖企劃) is well known as a representative agricultural policy of the colonial government, with the goal to increase the export of Korean rice to Japan. Accordingly, much research into colonial rice policies has focused on the impact of the PIRP, both in the expansion of rural debt that financed elaborate irrigation projects as well as the declining domestic consumption of rice even as exports to Japan increased. However, colonial attempts to “improve” (改良) rice production have received less attention, even as they worked in parallel with projects to increase rice cultivation and its export.

This talk examines colonial attempts to improve Korean rice production as a complement to existing understandings of colonial rice policies. In some cases, “improvement” overlapped with the goal of increasing rice production, as in the promotion of high-yielding seed varieties. Nonetheless, a focus on improvement also brings into view additional consequences of Japanese efforts to develop Korean rice as a commodity for export. Through a focus on grain inspections (米穀検査), which were mandated for rice exports from 1915, this talk explores the development of the grain-processing industry in colonial Korea, the bifurcation of a colonial market for rice as a commercial good, and the implications of improvement policies for Korean farmers.

Holly Stephens is a historian of Korea and Japan, with research interests that include economic history, agriculture, empire, everyday life, village organizations, and the emergence of the modern state. Her current monograph project—Empire by Association: The Re-Organization of the Rural Economy in Modern Korea—examines the changes to Korean agriculture from the late nineteenth century through the colonial period amidst immense political upheaval. Using previously unexamined farmers’ diaries, the project traces the formation and operation of new agricultural organizations that linked Korean farmers to regional and global markets, as new ideas about the state’s role in the economy and the adoption of scientific farming methods combined to transform agricultural production.

To Rebel is Justified: Red Guard Art and the Mass Production of Images

Juliane Noth (Freie Universität Berlin)

Moderation : Alice Bianchi

During the early years of the Cultural Revolution, much of the artworks and visual materials produced by Red Guards and rebels was produced speedily, anonymously, and often collectively. These images have so far been only cursorily treated in studies of PRC art, arguably because of their (often) amateur quality, the narrow scope of their subject matter (mostly Mao portraits and a limited number of slogans) and their obvious propagandistic function. This relative disregard of early Cultural Revolution visual culture in scholarship stands in stark contrast to its strong, varied and well-studied reception in contemporary art. Indeed, Red Guard and rebel arts may well be described as serial, performative, and as deploying display modes that are similar to installation art. In this paper, I argue that it was the intersections between subject matter, formats, modes of production and distribution, as well as forms of display that encourage such a posteriori readings. I will discuss how the organization of the Red Guards and rebel groups and the mass mobilization led to the production and reproduction of images and texts on a massive scale, in which the narrow thematic scope of the works led to a foregrounding of their formal properties.

Juliane Noth is Professor of East Asian Art History at Freie Universität Berlin and Researcher at the China Academy of Art. The focus of her research is on twentieth-century Chinese art, on how it was redefined with regard to historical practices as well as global entanglements, and on its institutional frameworks. Her latest monograph is Transmedial Landscapes and Modern Chinese Painting (Harvard Asia Center 2022). Currently she is working on two research projects: “Artistic Practices during the Cultural Revolution: Actors, Media, Institutions” and “Art Academies in China: Global Histories and Institutional Practices”.

East Asia’s Postwar Battle over History and Memory – the Hidden Legacy of War Crimes Tribunals

Barak Kushner (University of Cambridge)

Moderation : Ken Daimaru

The war crimes tribunals in East Asia formed and cemented national divides that persist into the present day. In 1946 the Allies convened the Tokyo Trial to prosecute Japanese wartime atrocities and Japan’s empire. At its conclusion one of the judges voiced dissent, claiming that the justice found at Tokyo was only « the sham employment of a legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge. »

I argue that war crimes tribunals allow for the history of the defeated to be heard. In contemporary East Asia a fierce battle between memory and history has consolidated political camps across this debate. The Tokyo Trial courtroom, as well as the thousands of other war crimes tribunals opened in about fifty venues across Asia, were legal stages where prosecution and defense curated facts and evidence to craft their story about World War Two. These narratives and counter narratives form the basis of postwar memory concerning Japan’s imperial aims across the region. The archival record and the interpretation of court testimony together shape a competing set of histories for public consumption. This talk offers compelling evidence that despite the passage of seven decades since the end of the war, East Asia is more divided than united by history.

Barak Kushner is Professor of East Asian History and currently Co-Chair of the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has edited several volumes and written three monographs: Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice (Harvard University Press, 2015), winner of the American Historical Association’s 2016 John K. Fairbank Prize; Slurp! A culinary and social history of ramen – Japan’s favorite noodle soup (Brill, 2012), awarded the 2013 Sophie Coe Prize for Food History; and The Thought War – Japanese Imperial Propaganda (Hawaii 2006). His next book is forthcoming from Cornell University Press and titled, The Geography of Injustice: East Asia’s Battle between Memory and History.



Transnational Mobility, Kinship and Aspiration for the Good Life in Rural Central Vietnam

Nguyen Minh (Bielefeld University)

Moderation : Marie Gibert-Flutre

This paper examines the connection between kinship, transnational mobility and aspiration through an ethnographic study conducted in rural central Vietnam, where many villagers engage in transnational migration to Europe. My ethnography indicates that practices of kinship are at the heart of the expanding transnational economic network built up by people from the region in recent decades in pursuit of their aspiration for the good life. Transnational mobility, with all its precarious conditions, becomes more viable as a pathway to a better life, sometimes also wealth accumulation, thanks to the workings of kinship as an aspirational project and as infrastructure of transnational economic activities. These in turn consolidate the social and economic significance of kinship in the region and more generally. Kinship and mobility are as such mutually reproducing in ways that facilitate people’s pursuit of the good life. Meanwhile, both kinship and aspiration are problematic social arenas whose imperatives, shaped by state and market discourses of entrepreneurism and self-responsibility, put enormous pressures on transnational migrants and their families to be economically successful against all odds.

Minh T.N. Nguyen is Professor of Social Anthropology at Bielefeld University. Her research focuses on labour and work, care and welfare, migration and mobility in Vietnam, China and Southeast Asia and more generally in the Global South. She is the author of Vietnam’s Socialist Servants: Domesticity, Gender, Class and Identity (Routledge, 2014) and Waste and Wealth: An Ethnography of Labour, Value and Morality in a Vietnamese Recycling Economy (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Gender Equality or Traditional Culture: Legal Cases Afterwards the Abolishment of the Household Head System in Korea

Jong-Chol AN (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)

It is widely known that Korean society is tense between gender equality and the “Confucian” tradition of patrilineal heritage. After a long tug-of-war-among Korean social forces, the hojuje or Household Head system notorious for discrimination against women was abolished [Korean Constitutional Court (KCC), 2004Hun-Ga5, etc., (consolidated), February 3, 2005]. This presentation concerns the Korean Court’s decisions on women and chongjung or lineage clans. Around the time of the landmark hojuje case, the Korean Supreme Court (KSC) decided that a woman was entitled to enjoy chongjung membership. (KSC, 2002Da1178). However, these cases in the 2000s left a fundamental question of the “Confucian tradition” or customary law in Korea unanswered. 

Thus, this paper deals with a case on a woman household head’s remaining property (KCC, 2012Hŏnba396, 2014Hŏnba394, April 28, 2016) in which the property came to belong to her remaining family, not to a married daughter. The decision was about the role of customary law even before enacting the Civil Code (1958). Thus, this case triggered an unanswered question about the character and jurisdiction of customary law related to gender and tradition in Korean society. KCC’s majority opinion seems to adopt an eclectic position that customary law cannot stand against a civil code and that a regular court can decide whether customs exist and become null. Thus, KCC adopted a passive role in customary law, although custom also plays a role in law. This lecture will also introduce several other relevant cases, showing the contour of Constitutional jurisprudence and the position of customary law in Korea.  

Jong-Chol An is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and North African Studies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venezia. He is a historian specializing in Korean foreign relations and law and society. He is working on a manuscript related to the origins of the Korean judiciary. Publication: “Historical Development of Judicial Independence in South Korea: Focus on Colonial and Post-Colonial Period,” in Sojin Lim and Niki J.P. Alsford eds., Routledge Handbook of Contemporary South Korea (Routledge, 2021), pp. 26-41; “Making Mission Compatible with Democracy: James Earnest Fisher and His Activities as a Missionary and a US Government Official in Korea, 1945-1948,” Korea Journal 60/4 (Winter 2020): 115-142.

Date and time
On Thursday per month from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m


Salle Léon Vandermeersch (481C, 4th floor, building C, 5 rue Thomas Mann, 75013, Paris)


Lien Zoom
Lectures 2022-2023; 2021-2022
Link :

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