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Dr. Anna Stirr Receives Fulbright and CAORC NEH Senior Fellowships

Rally at RR Campus, Kathmandu, in December 2014, with songs calling for new constitution to be written
Leftist and centrist parties rally as performers sing progressive songs at RR Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2014, calling for new constitution to be written. Photo by Anna Stirr.

Dr. Anna Stirr is the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship and a Council of American Overseas Research Centers NEH Senior Fellowship for research in Nepal during her sabbatical year of 2018-2019. Dr. Anna Stirr

Her research project, “Performing Aspirations: Love and Revolution in Nepali Progressive Song,” is a cultural history and ethnography of Nepal’s progressive and revolutionary song movement, with particular attention to love. Though leftist artists often disdain mainstream love songs as bourgeois, love itself remains a theme in revolutionary songs and sung dramas, transformed according to  performers’ ideals and party artistic ideologies of music, lyrics, and dance. Through ethnographic fieldwork on progressive cultural groups’ performances and rehearsal process, and archival attention to artistic production and criticism since 1960, the project traces how how leftist artists have tried to create utopian ways of living and loving, through embodying and expressing revolutionary sensibilities.

More information about this project, including archival photos, translated sung dramas, and blog posts, can be found at Dr. Stirr’s personal website.

Dr. Kristi Govella gives commentary on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political challenges at home & abroad

Dr. Kristi Govella, Assistant Professor in the Asian Studies Program, recently commented in The New York Times and USA Today about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political challenges at home and abroad.

Domestically, Abe is facing the fallout of a scandal involving the highly discounted sale of land by the government to a school associated with his wife. “There has been a lot of new evidence that has come to light that there has been some kind of cover-up,” Kristi Govella, assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said of the inquiry surrounding Mr. Abe. “As time goes on, the disjuncture between what he’s saying and the facts that are coming to light with the scandals just really increases public distrust and feelings that his leadership is no longer what the country needs.”

Abe is also facing challenges abroad, as Japan seeks assurance that the US will consider its interests in the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Japan also wishes to be exempted from US tariffs on steel and aluminum, as a number of other countries have already been. Dr. Govella said that Abe arrives at Mar-a-Lago “hoping to combat perceptions that Japan has been sidelined in recent weeks and reestablish his country as an important partner of the United States.”

Read the full articles here:

USA Today, “Trump backs North-South Korea Peace Talks in Summit with Japan’s Leader at Mar-a-Lago,” April 17, 2018, by David Jackson.

The New York Times, “As Scandal-Tarred Abe Meets Trump, ‘the Situation is Getting Dangerous’,” April 16, 2018, by Motoko Rich.

Dr. Kristi Govella comments in New York Times & Australian Financial Review

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Kristi Govella commented in two news articles this weekend on the impact of the Trump administration’s recent announcements about tariffs and North Korea:

The New York Times, “Trump’s Unpredictability on Trade and North Korea Opens a Door for China,” March 10, 2018.

Australian Financial Review, “Donald Trump’s Snap Decision to Meet With Kim Jong-un,” March 11, 2018.

Dr. Kristi Govella at PAAC Global Vision Summit

Kristi Govella and PAAC participants

On Saturday, March 3, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council brought
together 189 students from 27 high schools on 5 islands for their
Global Vision Summit on Climate Change hosted at UH West Oahu. Dr. Kristi Govella, Assistant Professor in the Asian Studies Program at UH Manoa, participated as the Community Expert for the US negotiating team.

Students played the roles of delegates representing specific
nations (US, EU, China, India), negotiating blocs (other developed
nations, other developing nations), and interest groups (fossil fuel
lobbyists, climate change activists, and US cities/states). The goal
was to reach a global agreement that keeps global temperature rise
below 2 degrees Celcius. Other experts advising the nine student teams were drawn from the United Nations Development Programme, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the East-West Center, the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights, the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Tsuchiyama & Associates, and the Australian Consulate-General in Honolulu.

Kristi Govella comments on Japan’s Taro Kono in New York Times

Dr. Kristi Govella was recently interviewed in The New York Times
about Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Since Kono was appointed in August 2017, there has been much speculation about his potential as a future leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and of Japan. The article can be found here: “In Japan, a Liberal Maverick is Seeking to Lead a Conservative Party” (February 17, 2018).

Fall 2018 Graduate Admissions Deadline: February 1, 2018

The Asian Studies Program welcomes applications for Fall Semester 2018! Please note that our admissions deadline is February 1. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for scholarship funding, so please make sure all of your application materials have been uploaded at the Office of Graduate Education online application portal here. This includes UH Manoa documents and the Supplementary Documents required by the Asian Studies Program; please look at our Graduate Admissions Page for detailed requirements.

We look forward to your applications and hope to welcome you to our program next fall!

Visit the ASP table on October 27!

The Asian Studies Program (ASP) will be part of  the “What’s Next at Manoa?” graduate fair, hosted by the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH).  The goal of the event is to introduce undergraduate students to graduate program opportunities at the university.

ASP will be tabling on Friday, October 27 from 11:00AM – 2:00PM in the Campus Center Courtyard.

Dr. Young-a Park, Graduate Chair of ASP, and other members of the department will be present to meet students and to share information about courses, scholarships, and more!

Recently Released! Singing Across Divides by Dr. Anna Stirr

Dr. Anna Stirr’s book, Singing Across Divides: Music and Intimate Politics in Nepal, was recently released from Oxford University Press.

An ethnographic study of music, performance, migration, and circulation, Singing Across Divides examines how forms of love and intimacy are linked to changing conceptions of political solidarity and forms of belonging, through the lens of Nepali dohori song.

The book describes dohori: improvised, dialogic singing, in which a witty repartee of exchanges is based on poetic couplets with a fixed rhyme scheme, often backed by instrumental music and accompanying dance, performed between men and women, with a primary focus on romantic love. The book tells the story of dohori’s relationship with changing ideas of Nepal as a nation-state, and how different nationalist concepts of unity have incorporated marginality, in the intersectional arenas of caste, indigeneity, class, gender, and regional identity. Dohori gets at the heart of tensions around ethnic, caste, and gender difference, as it promotes potentially destabilizing musical and poetic interactions, love, sex, and marriage across these social divides.

In the aftermath of Nepal’s ten-year civil war, changing political realities, increased migration, and circulation of people, media and practices are redefining concepts of appropriate intimate relationships and their associated systems of exchange. Through multi-sited ethnography of performances, media production, circulation, reception, and the daily lives of performers and fans in Nepal and the UK, Singing Across Divides examines how people use dohori to challenge (and uphold) social categories, while also creating affective solidarities.

Dr. Anna Marie Stirr is a performer and scholar of Nepali folk music, and is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Solid review for book “Embedded Racism” by the Social Science Japan Journal

Adjunct Faculty Debito Arudou’s book “Embedded Racism:  Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination” (Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield 2015) was recently reviewed by the Social Science Japan Journal (SSJJ).  

The reviewer concluded:

“In an anti-globalist era of Trump and ‘Brexit’ there will be many who argue that Japan is right to severely restrict immigration and preserve as much as possible that is unique about its national character. If those who do not ‘look Japanese’ have to suffer some discrimination, then that is just the price that has to be paid. There are also many who believe that the best antidote to racism is to have a nation state where as few people as possible look out of place. Arudou’s reply to this point of view, which acts simultaneously as a challenge to Japan’s leaders, is that if this national narrative is allowed to prevail, it will not only condemn Japan’s aging population to an ever-worsening demographic crisis, it will also have a ‘suffocating and self-strangulating’ effect on society (p. 303).

“There are important academic contributions to the study of racism in Japan in this book, but it is as a must-read text on the crisis facing the shrinking Japanese population and its leaders that it really leaves its mark. Embedded Racism is highly recommended reading to anyone—whether they self-identify as Japanese or foreign or both—who is interested in Japan’s future.”

The entire review is available at https://academic.oup.com/ssjj/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ssjj/jyx012

“Embedded Racism” is available at Hamilton Library and the Richardson Law Library.