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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Sasha Welland
ANTH 442
Seattle Campus

Global Asia

Explores how Asia has been constructed through transnational interactions such as imperialism, anti-colonialism, tourism, diaspora, and global capitalism. Topics include the cultural construction of similarity and difference, politics of representation, and political economy of global circulations of people and things. Prerequisite: one 200-level ANTH course. Offered: jointly with GWSS 446/JSIS A 452; W.

Class description

Using a feminist analytic, explores how Asia has been constructed through gendered, transnational interactions, including imperialism, tourism, and globalization. Topics include the cultural construction of similarity and difference, politics of representation, and political economy of global circulations. Cross-listed as ANTH 442, SISA 442, and WOMEN 446.

This course employs a feminist analytic to examine how the idea of Asia as a region has been constructed through various global, and often gendered interactions, including imperialism, anti-colonialism, travel and tourism, transnational labor and markets, and globalizing forms of popular culture. We will analyze how people experience difference, similarity, and social inequality through these interactions; the represention of cultural encounters; and the social, political, and economic effects of global circulations of people, things, ideas, social practices, and cultural representations. We will consider how “Asia” and ideas about its place in the world emerge out of claims of commonality and distinction made by different people moving throughout the region.

Our travels over the quarter will require us to articulate debates about boundary making, knowledge production, and identity formation as they take place through cross-border movements. Boundaries—their maintenance and transgression—matter because they produce social distinctions, embedded in specific contexts of power, used to categorize objects, people, practices, and even time and space. We will explore, largely through ethnographic accounts, the everyday sociocultural practices that make, maintain, and modify intersecting categories such as race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender and sexuality. Throughout this process, one of our goals will be to challenge conventional, dichotomous mappings of East versus West. We will examine “Asia” not as a geographic given but a cultural construction created through heterogeneous interactions and whose boundaries shift in response to political and economic dynamics. In order to do so, we will critically analyze the variety of social imaginaries inscribed onto the geography of Asia and consider how particular forms of travel, exchange, and circulation shape these imaginaries.

This course, which is cross-listed in Anthropology, Asian Studies, and Women Studies, poses an additional challenge to the question of boundaries as they relate to academic disciplines and their methods of constructing knowledge about Asia and about globalization. The challenge and the promise of such an interdisciplinary endeavor is to learn from each other’s expertise; to build a shared vocabulary that integrates a variety of perspectives and approaches; and in the process, to develop new, more complex ways of thinking. Students will be pushed to go beyond their disciplinary comfort zone and to try out other perspectives and forms of analysis. The course readings start with a grounding in disciplinary and theoretical approaches to the questions of Asian area studies formation and globalization, and then take us on a roughly chronological route, beginning with late nineteenth-century colonial movements and arriving at contemporary cultural encounters shaped by transnational capitalism. Many of the readings focus on China and Japan, the traditional and hegemonic mainstays of East Asian area studies, not with the intent of reifying the definitive importance of these places, but in order to examine how this centrality is continually constructed. By considering points of connection with Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and even South Africa, we will unpack celebratory claims and freighted anxieties about where Asia begins and ends. There is nothing exhaustive about the geographic purview of the readings (the quarter is simply too short). Rather, the course materials suggest a starting point for us to collectively consider what Asia is; how it came to be an identifiable place on modern maps through multiple transnational circuits; and the significance of articulating Global together with Asia. Students with expertise in other related locales are encouraged to introduce further examples and materials that will push our thinking about how we define regions.

Student learning goals

To understand how shifting ideas of Asia and its place in the world have been constructed through a variety of global interactions; and to understand the gendered dimensions of these interactions.

To examine what globalization, in terms of historical and contemporary movements and cultural encounters, means to different social actors in Asia.

To analyze how boundaries--in terms of intersecting categories such as race, ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, and sexuality--are made, maintained, and modified through everyday, sociocultural practices and how these boundaries support particular power relations.

To engage in a deep and sustained interdisciplinary conversation that will challenge all of our ways of approaching the question of what Global Asia means.

To develop creative, innovative academic work, including a class-produced compendium of keywords related to Global Asia, that will expand ways of understanding the historical and contemporary implications of Asia’s role in processes of globalization.

General method of instruction

This is a seminar course, with mini-lectures by the instructor at the beginning of each class meeting, to be followed by in-depth, seminar-style discussion. Guiding questions are listed throughout the syllabus to suggest where our class discussions will begin.

Recommended preparation


Class assignments and grading

Class Participation: Active participation in each class session is a requirement of this course. As a result, missing more than two classes will seriously harm evaluation of your performance. Your class participation grade is based on your preparation for and contribution to in-class activities and discussion, and is judged not by the quantity of your comments but by their quality. This means that the more time you spend reading and thinking about the issues in the readings, the better your grade will be.

Short Reflection Papers: Two short reflection papers (2-3 pages each) at the beginning of the quarter will serve to immerse you in the themes and questions of the course. Handouts with prompts for each short paper will be distributed one week in advance. These papers will be graded as follows: 40 points (distinguished); 30 points (good); 20 points (fair); 10 (turned-in, but poor effort).

Midterm Paper: You will write a short essay (5 pages) in response to questions that will be distributed one week in advance.

Keyword Entry: You will craft a keyword entry (1-2 pages) for our class-produced Global Asia Illustrated Compendium of Keywords, a cumulative collection of the vocabulary we have been building in relation to course concepts, questions, and debates. Keywords are sites of conflict and disagreement, so your entry should reflect two or more different understandings of the world-making term whose histories, usages, and political trajectories you choose to chart. You will be encouraged to be as creative, erudite, pithy, or eccentric as you like in your keyword choice, and to include diagrams, pictures, quotations, or stories that help illuminate the sociocultural life of your keyword. You should pick a keyword related to the topic you want to research and explore further in your final paper; in this way, your entry will provide you with a roadmap of sorts for the final paper. A handout with prompts and examples for this assignment will be distributed and discussed in class. You will submit a first draft of your entry, receive feedback from your classmates, and then submit a final, revised entry to complete the full assignment. Both your draft and revision will be graded as follows: 40 points (distinguished); 30 points (good); 20 points (fair); 10 (turned-in, but poor effort). An on-line submission system, linked to the course website, is under development so that you can post your entries electronically, making the full compendium viewable to everyone in the class.

Final Paper: A final 10-page paper is required. As suggested above, the keyword entry assignment will help you identify a topic and set of questions that you want to research and explore further in this paper. You may choose to research and critically examine a specific aspect of Global Asia, to investigate critical theoretical issues through course and related readings, or to analyze a particular historical or anthropological cultural encounter, but you will be expected to make full use of course concepts and readings in your analysis. I will be available to work with students on paper outlines and ideas through Weeks 8 and 9. During Week 10 students will give short in-class presentations on how they are expanding their keyword entries into research projects to receive further feedback from other students. You cannot pass the class if you do not complete the final paper.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Course website
Last Update by Sasha Welland
Date: 03/30/2008