2013 AAA Meeting Highlights

By Heidi Lam (Yale University) and Yi Zhou (University of California, Davis)

SEAA-Sponsored Panels

The Society for East Asian Anthropology (SEAA) sponsored 23 panels at the 112th AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago. Of these panels, 12 explored topics across East Asia, 7 were China-related, 3 examined issues in Japan, and 1 engaged with scholars working in the U.S. Identity and knowledge production appeared in many of the panels. The panels explored these themes through the lens of mediated publics, demographic issues, historical ruptures, disasters, new modernities, the other-worldly, the environment, and alternate fantasy and social spaces. While many of the panels on China focused on the post-socialist condition as an overarching concept, the Japan panels explored the assertion of identities outside what are considered mainstream images and spaces.

Panelists in the invited session, “Precarious Time: Discussions on the Undoing of East Asia, ethnographically examined the notion of precarity through topics such as tourist development in rural China and sexual minorities in South Korea building their future from military experiences. They situated their research in a post-1990s financial crisis East Asia that “demonstrate[s] a temporality that simultaneously creates and disavows dependencies and connections.”

The other invited session, “Narrating the Nuclear: Anthropologists and Others Engage with the Atomic Era Part II: Nuclear Energy” was the second half of a double roundtable session. It similarly engaged with the issue of uncertainty, toward the representation of the dual destructive and imaginative potentials of the nuclear in the U.S. and Japan including Fukushima, Rokkasho, and Kaminoseki. The roundtable focused on the collaborative partnerships in representing the nuclear that “often must negotiate deep distrust for academic and scientific institutions within communities impacted by nuclear-associated environmental damage.”

SEAA Business Meeting and 2013 Awards

2013 Francis L.K. Hsu book prize recipients Junko Kitanaka (left) and Judith Farquhar (right) with Vanessa Fong (middle)

2013 Hsu Book Prize recipients Junko Kitanaka (left) and Judith Farquhar (right) with Vanessa Fong (middle)

At the business meeting, SEAA welcomed Li Zhang as the new president and thanked Fuji Lozada for his work during his tenure as president.

The 2013 Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize was jointly awarded to Junko Kitanaka (Keio University) for her book Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress, as well as to Judith Farquhar (University of Chicago) and Qicheng Zhang (Beijing University of Chinese Medicine) for their book Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing. Based on extensive research in psychiatric institutions in Tokyo and the surrounding region, Kitanaka’s fascinating book analyzes how depression has become a national disease and entered the Japanese lexicon through the “marriage” of biological and societal narratives in psychiatric language as well as how the emergence of psychiatry functions as a force for Japan’s social transformation. Farquhar and Zhang’s book is a marvelous product of their cross-national and cross-cultural collaboration in research and writing. Their book describes Beijing residents’ everyday practices of yangsheng, a self-cultivation through multifarious activities such as taijiquan, dancing, and medicinal cuisine, and explicates the cultural logic that channels these everyday activities of ordinary people in nurturing their lives.

Plath Media Prize recipient  Jenny Chio (left) with Fuji Lozada (right)

2013 Plath Media Prize recipient Jenny Chio (left) with Fuji Lozada (right)

The SEAA business meeting also celebrated the accomplishment of Jenny Chio (Emory University) who received the 2013 David Plath Media Award for her documentary 农家乐  Peasant Family Happiness. Chio’s film documents ethnic tourism in China and observes the negotiation between the local minorities and visiting Han tourists (Click here to see the film’s trailer).

The 2013 Theodore C. Bestor Prize for Outstanding Graduate Paper was awarded to Lesley R. Turnbull (Cornell University) for her essay entitled “In Pursuit of Islamic ‘Authenticity’: Localizing Muslim Identity on China’s Peripheries.” In this essay, Turnbull examines the self-production of Hui-Muslim identities in Kunming and delineates the complex reality of identity politics in China.

2013 Theodore C. Bestor Prize for Outstanding Graduate Paper recipient Lesley R. Turnbull (right) with Amy Borovoy (left)

2013 Bestor Prize for Outstanding Graduate Paper recipient Lesley R. Turnbull (right) with Amy Borovoy (left)

Future SEAA Goals and Tasks

SEAA set the section’s future goals and tasks at the board meeting. For the next AAA Meeting in 2014, SEAA will further facilitate transnational panels to bring together comparative and critical studies on common topics from different parts of East Asia and contribute to larger anthropological discussions. SEAA will also continue to sponsor overseas conferences in the future. The board stressed the importance of this outreach project in increasing the visibility of AAA-SEAA in the world and providing US-based scholars the chance to engage with non-US-based researchers.

Student councilor Seoyoung Park reported on the students’ yearly achievements at the board meeting and discussed how to better serve the graduate students through social media and face-to-face meetings. The number of members in the East Asian Anthropology Students Facebook group increased to 114 in 2013. SEAA will link the Facebook group, the new SEAA website, and the SEAA listserv to further nurture the dynamic interactions among the students and between students and faculty. A new mentoring workshop will also be held at the 2014 AAA Meeting to facilitate dialogue between faculty and graduate students on the students’ most pressing concerns such as career development and the balance between academic and personal life. Suggestions, ideas, and opinions will be collected before the workshop.

Seoyoung also reported on the great success of this year’s student dinner, which took place on November 21 at Amarit Thai and Pan Asian Cuisine in Chicago. Forty-six graduate students went to the dinner, making it the most highly-attended student dinner to date. The rapid growth of the community of young scholars, as well as their enthusiasm for meeting and sharing their research interests and experiences speak to the vibrancy of East Asian Anthropology.

New SEAA Website

The new SEAA website (http://www.aaanet.org/sections/seaa) was officially launched in January 2014 to improve communication among SEAA members and with other sections. Contributed articles will be shared on both the SEAA website and the section’s online column in Anthropology News. Please contact the contributing editors Heidi Lam (heidi.lam@yale.edu) and Yi Zhou (yizhou@ucdavis.edu) for more information.