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Comparative Intellectual Histories of Early Modern Asia

The Master Class on “Comparative Intellectual Histories of the Early Modern World” was held at the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden in May-June, 2006. The idea of a master class – assembling a team of scholars to discuss recent advances in a field with doctoral and postdoctoral students – is the brain child of IIAS’s former director, Wim Stokhof, and I express my thanks to him for his vision and energy in making this intellectual experiment possible.

Underworlds & Borderlands

A housewife in Kolkata buys bhindi (okra) from her neighbourhood vegetable seller for her child’s dinner. In doing so, she may have participated in an illegal activity. Depending on how far back we want to go, the chain of illegality can be said to have begun with the Bangladeshi farmer who planted the vegetable six months earlier. Or it may be more sensible to start with the social ‘commodity chain’ of women who transport bundles of vegetables by foot and ferry in the early hours of every morning across the hundreds of legal and unmarked border-crossing points from Bangladesh into India. Crossing without papers or passports, they sometimes bribe border guards to let them pass. This is when the first ‘crime’ takes place.

International Law?

2006 marks the 60th anniversary of what, in its time, was declared ‘the biggest trial in recorded history’. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East – which tried Japanese military and civilian leaders for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ‘crimes against peace’ – surpassed the Nuremberg trial in duration (two and a half years), in the number of accused (28), in the number of presiding judges (11), and in the length of its judgment (over 1,200 pages). But compared to Nuremberg, which is widely seen as a watershed moment in international law, Tokyo remains obscure.

The Art of Seduction

The changing art of seduction: ritual courtship, performing prostitutes, erotic entertainment.

Cultures of confinement

A global history of the prison

The Asia-Pacific War Sixty Years On

Nations in the looking-glass: the war in changing retrospect, 1945-2005

China’s new pride / Publishing in Asian Studies

During 2003 and 2004 the talk of the town in Beijing’s political, media and diplomatic circles was the ‘peaceful rise of China’ to superpower status. China’s leadership, led by president Hu Jintao, had presented a new vision: China’s rise would be different from those of Germany and Japan, whose arrival on the world stage triggered two world wars. Riding the wave of globalization, China would rise through long-term economic growth, trade and investment, regional cooperation and integration, all guided by deft and peaceful diplomacy.

Maritime piracy

Maritime piracy has become a focal point of media attention. Together with governments and military experts, the media tends to link maritime piracy with international terrorism as an ongoing threat in the post-Cold War era. In particular the Strait of Malacca, the strategic sea-lane linking the oil fields of the Middle East and the production economies of East Asia and beyond, is portrayed as a future battlefield.

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