Monthly Archives: March 2007

Korean Immigrant Nationalism lecture at University of Washington

Please join Korean American Historical Society in welcoming

Richard S. Kim, PhD.
“Diasporic Dilemmas: Korean Immigrant Nationalism and Transnational State-Building, 1903-1945”

A lecture on efforts undertaken by the Koreans in the United States to free their homeland from Japanese colonialism.

This event also marks a new start for KAHS in terms of leadership and organization.

Thursday, April 12 at 7:00 PM
University of Washington
Simpson Center for the Humanities,
Communications Bldg. Room 226

Richard Kim is Assistant Professor of Asian Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 2002. He also obtained a M.A. in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research and teaching interests include Asian American history, Korean American Studies, U.S. immigration history, race and ethnicity, colonialism and nationalism, globalization, transnationalism, and diaspora. Professor Kim is currently working on a book manuscript on Korean immigrant nationalism and diasporic politics as well as a volume on Asian Americans in rural America. (

Korean American Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, maintaining, and transmitting the heritage and achievements of Koreans living in the United States and abroad. For more information, see

Book Review _ The Illusion of Cultural Identity

Published by (January, 2007)

Jean-Francois Bayart. The Illusion of Cultural Identity. Translated by Steven Rendall, Janet Roitman, Cynthia Schoch and Jonathan Derrick. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. xiii + 303 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. No price listed (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-03961-9.

Reviewed for H-SAfrica by Thomas Blaser, Department of Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand.

The End of Culture?

Jean-Francois Bayart has written an erudite and entertaining journey around the world in politics and culture that is pertinent to the contemporary politics of identity.[1] According to the author, this book summarizes the last three decades of his writings in which he was concerned with “the complex relationships between cultural representations and political practices, popular modes of political action, and the political imaginaire — in short, … ‘politics from below’ and ‘political utterance'” (p. ix). Through this research agenda, Bayart pursues two main objectives. The first intends to do away with reified notions of culture and identity, as encountered in what he calls culturalism, which are at the root of violence and war. The second is an eloquent advocacy for a social science analysis that studies the social imaginary.

Bayart suggests culture does not have an inner core and so-called cultural identity does not lead to a corresponding political identity. Rather, political identities are political, ideological, and historical constructs. This is recognized as the dominant approach to the study of culture, known as constructivism, trumping primordial and instrumental approaches. Yet if we follow the political realities illustrated here, we can see how cultural representations are easily reified and used for political mobilization. This is particularly the case with Western Islamophobia, especially after September 11 and the disastrous war on terror. Bayart’s analysis of modern Islam is a welcome antidote to the usual stereotypes encountered in Western media and academia. He also shows how little factual credibility underlines similar stereotypes about Asia, China, and Japan, and the “wonders” that Confucianism is supposed to have brought to the economic miracle of the Asian tigers.

The African continent suffered lethal consequences from a French (and Western) culturalist imaginaire. The belief in the existence of tribal identities and the explanation of politics with the particularities of African culture led to catastrophic policies fueling the Rwandan genocide. In breaking with such reifications of ethnicity, Bayart sets out to demonstrate that ethnicity is a modern phenomenon related to the colonial state. We are here very far from the myth of a perennial, traditional African culture which is at the heart of the culturalist argument and the political relativism that denies Africans access to the universal (p. 33). Instead, Bayart restores the universality of culture without celebrating the triumph of the enlightenment. Universality is for him the reinvention of difference and he remains critical of the culturalist discourse that restrains “concrete historical societies in a substantialist definition of their identity by denying them the right to borrow, to be derivative” (p. 245).

Bayart argues that culturalism commits three methodological errors. First, it assumes that culture is a corpus of representations that is stable over time when in fact culture oscillates between two forms: culture is the tradition that is transmitted and the irruptions and deviances that inflect new directions into cultures (p. 65). Second, culture is represented as a corpus that is closed in itself. Quite to the contrary, Bayart argues that culture is marked by a dialectic of permanence and change (p. 67). Third, culturalists claim that each culture demands a specific political orientation. However, Bayart makes it quite clear with his examples, drawn from politics around the world, that such “purity” has little factual basis. Rather, political cultures (as is manifest in popular culture and despite the claims of the proponents of invented traditions) incorporate foreign representations and practices (p. 68). Hence he claims that “traditional culture” does not exist–culture is “constantly being negotiated” (p. 30). As is the case with the emergence of invented traditions and imagined communities on the African continent, “colonized and colonizers often acted together, sometimes within the same institutions, the same intellectual currents, and the same beliefs, but most often with differing objectives, and almost always in the mode of a working misunderstanding” (p. 42). The nation, the tribe, and the village community is a myth, but they were the allegories around which the genesis of modernity was discussed (p. 47). The interactions between the colonizer and the colonized involved cultural operations that went beyond enclosed cultures.

The study of these cultural operations is facilitated by an analysis of political performance, as is made visible in utterance or enunciation. The reception of cultural phenomena, ideologies, and institutions contribute to the formation of these very same utterances and enunciations. In the act of enunciation, actions are reshaped because “to espouse a cultural representation is ipso facto to recreate it” (p. 110). The cultural heterogeneity of political societies appears in the variety of “discursive genres” of politics. These discursive genres not only include discourse but also gestures, music, and clothing (p. 110). Bayart encourages his colleagues to study the cultural reasons for political action, instead of analyzing political cultures (p. 121). As an example, he points to beliefs in the invisible, like witchcraft, that are African cultural practices and argues that they enable Africans to reinvent their difference in a globalizing world and thereby allow them to accede to universality (p. 131). I am not sure if beliefs in the invisible hold such a benevolent promise. While they reflect cultural particularities to be taken seriously, they can also contribute to confusion and dislocation, with detrimental effects upon the political landscape.

In the second part of the book, Bayart explains how and why studying the imaginary of society is an important contribution to political analysis. As his example above shows, the focus on the imaginary allows us to understand better the usage and function of a belief system in society and how it contributes to the creation of meaning. Equally important, his analysis of social imaginaries that is an established approach in French historical writing, with such outstanding authors as Jacques Le Goff, creates greater clarity about what is superficially labeled post-modern.[2] Too often, such approaches of the linguistic turn, making use of intertextuality, deconstruction and narratology, are criticized for seeing history only as an illusion, a fiction, or a myth.[3] But I think Bayart shows well that these ways of imagining play an important role in society. While looking at imaginaries certainly involves the study of representations, it does not mean that there is no external reality independent of our representations.[4] In many ways, interpretation and acts of imagination are tied to materiality, such as time and space compression that is a result of the industrial revolution (p. 182). Diverse practices such as hair-styles, cuisine and clothing express a political ethos. How an imaginary is related to the material is best illustrated with the passions that the wearing of the “Muslim” scarf elicited in France. Indeed, the imaginaire of clothing can leave its mark on politics in an industrial and disenchanted society (p. 200).

What then is the social imaginary? Charles Taylor defines it as “the way our contemporaries imagine the societies they inhabit.”[5] Such imagination is an integral part of society since it enables people to live together through the creation of common meanings. The imaginary has a historical dimension, and we can find in historical action and in the universe of meanings a radical imaginaire (p. 133). Passions are part of that imaginary and Bayart argues that not only Max Weber but also Spinoza, Alexis de Toqueville and Montesquieu tried to relate these to tangible realities. Weber, in particular, suggests that individuals and groups have economic interests, but they also have ideals expressed in lifestyles that reflect a particular ethoi; this is part of the imaginaire of social action which cannot be reduced to instrumentalism and rationality (p. 134). Through the imaginary, we gain insights into the “belief, the miraculous, rumour and rite” of modern society, but also how heritage and innovation are in a constant dialog (p. 137). For instances of this, we may look at the role of dreams and their influence on political decision-makers, and how they relate to religious aspects of politics (pp. 138-144), or how politics follow scenarios borrowed from other cultural genres (pp. 145-150) and the role of political rituals (pp. 151-152). In sum, the imaginary is the seat of passions, of aesthetics, and of symbolic activity (p. 163).

Bayart argues that bringing the study of politics and the study of the social imaginary together means looking at how the human subject is constituted (p. 152). By doing so, we investigate how subjectivity is produced or, in other words, subjectivation. This involves the production of modes of existences or lifestyles. Politics and the state constantly interact with processes of subjectivation, like in the sexualization of power relationships. For example, in France in the 1990s populism was related to a certain view of virility (p. 153). Often, the political passions carried by an imaginary cannot be managed–the imaginary remains autonomous (p. 160). Above all, Bayart argues, political subjectivation is marked by contradiction and ambivalence, intrinsic characters of politics (p. 165). Contrary to what culturalists would do, this ambivalence cannot be attributed to certain cultures only and it is an integral part of our analysis of politics. Imaginaries do not have a definitive political meaning. As historical phenomena, they are “amorphous nebula … ambivalent from a political point of view” (p. 229). Through their radical ambivalence, imaginary social meanings hold together, and thus hold together society — this holding together is not demonstrated and is never assumed to be demonstrable (p. 233). Without doubt, it is for these reasons that the workings of the imaginary are, at times, difficult to penetrate: how can we grasp a socio-historical phenomenon that often remains intractable and elusive? Nonetheless, Bayart reveals how a look at social imaginaries may provide new perspectives on old problems.


[1]. First published as L’Illusion Identitaire (Paris: Fayard, 1996).

[2]. In the earlier published Le Politique par le Bas en Afrique Noire, Bayart, Achille Mbembe, and Comi Toulabour explain lucidly the importance of “post-modern” writers such as Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau, in their approach to the study of African popular cultures and social imaginaries. Such explanations provide us with excellent insights into post-modern approaches beyond generalizations. Le Politique par le Bas en Afrique Noire: Contributions a une Problematique de la Democratie (Paris: Karthala, 1992).

[3]. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “History and National Stupidity,” New York Review of Books 53, no. 7, April 27, 2006: 14-16

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), p. 6.

Copyright (c) 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff.

Call for Articles: Special Issue of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

March 25, 2007

Call for Articles: Special Issue of Journal of American-East Asian Relations
From: Professor Dong Wang

“Christianity in China as an Issue in the History of United States-China Relations”

The Journal of American-East Asian Relations publishes cutting-edge academic articles on trans-pacific international relations with a world-wide readership in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Contributions are sought from scholars in all fields of the social sciences and humanities for a special issue of the Journal, entitled “Christianity in China as an Issue in the History of United States-China Relations.”

Characterized by some researchers as “the fastest growing wing” of the evangelical movement today, Chinese Christianity has been one of the main sources of exchange and controversy in the relationship between the United States and China. Taking stock of the rich body of literature on the history of Christianity in China, especially in the area of state-church relations, the indigenous church, and missionary enterprises, this special issue aims to further the current scholarly discussion at a new level. To this end, we are interested in original articles of up to 8,000 words which locate Christianity as an international and local issue through the historical consideration of diplomatic, political, economic, social, military, theological, religious or cultural interplay.

Centering upon mutual ties across the Pacific, essays might explore-but are not limited to-topics which address the following questions:

1. Since the first contact between the two nations in the late 18th century, how have the actions, perceptions, expectations, and representations of Christianity shaped the two-way Sino-American encounters in light of both Chinese and English-speaking perspectives?

2. How did American evangelical imports become part of the Chinese scene through resistance, involvement, accommodation, adaptation and collaboration? What were the links between American Christian enterprises and the local realities in which they were set?

3. What role did Christians and Christianity play in American and Chinese literary or political discourse at a particular historical and cultural moment?

4. How was the “China evangelical cause” promoted and marketed in America? How did Christian presence and experience in China change Christianity in the United States?

This special issue is planned for publication in summer 2008.

Inquiries and manuscripts should be sent to the Guest Editor of the special issue by December 1, 2007:

Dong Wang (Guest Editor and Associate Editor of the Journal of American-East Asian Relations)
Associate Professor of History
Executive Director of East-West Institute of International Studies
Gordon College
Wenham, MA 01984
Tel: 001-978-867-4842
E-mail Professor Wang

2007 UCLA Luce Center Conference on Korean Christianity

2007 UCLA Luce Conference on Korean Christianity
April 27, 2007
4357 Bunche Hall, UCLA

Topic: Korean Christianity between Indigenization and Globalization

09:10 Welcoming Remarks
Dr. John Duncan, Director of the UCLA Center for Korean Studies; Dr. Sung-Deuk Oak, Luce Fellow, UCLA

Session 1

09:20-10:20 Dr. Donald Clark, Trinity University in Texas
“Post-Colonial Studies and Korean Christianity”
Response by Dr. Young Lee Hertig, Azusa Pacific University and ISAAC

10:20-11:20 Dr. Rhie Deok Joo, Methodist Theological Seminary, Seoul
“The Early Revival Movements and the Indigenization of Christianity in Korea”
Response by Dr. Sung-Deuk Oak, UCLA

11:20-11:45 Discussion

11:45-1:00 Lunch

Session 2

1:00-2:00 Dr. Anselm Kyongsuk Min, Claremont Graduate University
“Korean Christianity between Tradition and Globalization: Resources, Challenges, Opportunities”
Response by Dr. Young Lee Hertig, Azusa Pacific University and ISAAC

2:00-3:00 Dr. Sung Gun Kim, Seowon University
“Korean Protestant Christianity in the Midst of Globalization”
Response by Dr. Sung-Deuk Oak, UCLA

3:00-4:00 Dr. Young-chan Ro, George Mason University
“Korean Diaspora, Christianity, and the Globalization of Korean Culture”
Response by Dr. Young Lee Hertig, Azusa Pacific University and ISAAC

4:00:-4:40 Discussion
Closing Remarks

Sung-Deuk Oak
UCLA Center for Korean studies
11371 Bunche Hall
Phone: (310)825-3284
Fax: (310)206-3555
Email Dr. Sung-Deuk Oak
Visit the website at

Symposium – Look East: Locating Asia in Asian American Studies (USC)

On April 20, 2007, the University of Southern California will host a special symposium entitled, LOOK EAST:LOCATING ASIA IN ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES.

This symposium explores the opportunity to more fully engage Asia as a site for rethinking Asian American experience and consciousness. Today’s extensive global networks and relative ease of travel have fueled the growth of a surprising reverse “brain drain” as well as the formation of transnational families, expatriate communities, and new conceptions of ethnic and national identity. Put together these trends address the significance for studying Asian Americans in Asia. At the same time, cities like Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing have become magnets for global migration, which calls for comparison between immigrants there and in America’s more familiar ethnic communities. Researchers, then, have the chance shed light on Asian America through the study of comparative immigrant enclaves, reverse migration, and other processes taking place in Asia.

This is an all-day event that will feature presentations by many distinguished faculty in Asian American Studies. The event is FREE, but space is limited, so attendees must contact Wendy Cheng ASAP to reserve a space.

April 20, 2007
Parkside International Residential College, USC
Room 1016
10 a.m. ˆ 5:15 p.m.
For parking, enter Gate 6. For campus map:


10:00 ˆ 10:30 Registration and Opening Reception

10:30 ˆ 10:45 Opening Remarks

10:45 ˆ 12:15
Roundtable 1: Reflecting on Homeland(s)
 L O N K U R A S H I G E , University of Southern California
“Japan and Japanese American Studies”
 X I A O J I A N Z H A O , University of California, Santa Barbara
“China, Chinese, and Chinese Immigrants in the Study of Chinese America”
 V I E T N G U Y E N , University of Southern California
“Not Like Going Home: On Ambivalent Returns to the Source”
 K A R E N T E I Y A M A S H I T A , University of California, Santa Cruz

12:15 ˆ 1:15 Lunch at Parkside Commons

1:15 ˆ 2:45
Roundtable 2: Transnational Identities, Work, and Politics
 M A R Y Y U D A N I C O , Cal Poly Pomona
“Gyopos in Transition: Experiences of Korean Americans living in Korea”
 R H A C E L P A R R E N A S , University of California, Davis
“Liminal, Partial, and Bare-Life Citizenship: The Racial and Economic Incorporation of Asian Temporary Labor Migrants in Asia and the United States”
 A U G U S T O E S P I R I T U , University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
“`The Philippine Problem’: A Century of Trans-Pacific Movements and Debates”

2:45 ˆ 3:00 Break

3:00 ˆ 4:15
Roundtable 3: Diasporic Cultures and Communities
 E D W A R D J . W. P A R K , Loyola Marymount University
“Predicament of Transnationality: Koreans in Beijing and Tokyo”
 T H E O D O R E S . G O N Z A L V E S , University of Hawai’i at Manoa
“Lost in Manilla”
 P H U O N G N G U Y E N , University of Southern California
“Farewell, Saigon, I will be back, I swear: The Music of Post-1975 Vietnamese Refugee Nationalism”

4:15 ˆ 5:15 Closing Session: Discussion of Asia Study Tour

5:45 ˆ 7:45 Dinner at offsite location

Space is Limited. Please register with Wendy Cheng ASAP.