Asian Studies Program

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Dr. Kristi Govella and Dr. Crystal Pryor address COVID-19 and Japanese Politics: EWC Webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines around the world in 2020
and complicated an already tangled web of political, economic, and
security dynamics in the Asian region. The webinar addressed recent
developments in Japan’s domestic affairs as well as its external
diplomacy, including questions such as: How has COVID-19 affected
Japanese politics and the outlook for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Have
there been significant shifts in Japanese foreign economic and
security policy during the pandemic, or do we see more continuity than

The Asian Studies Program’s Dr. Kristi Govella addressed these issues in conversation with Dr. Crystal Pryor, Director of Non-Proliferation, Technology, and Fellowships at Pacific Forum.

The July 1 webinar, hosted by the East-West Center and co-sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies, is available to view here:

Prof. Eric Harwit Speaks on Tech and US-China Relations

Professor Eric Harwit, whose research focuses on China and technology, recently participated in panel discussions with South Korea’s Arirang News, addressing the relationship between the US and China. These episodes address recent moves to ban Chinese tech, and the current situation of US-China relations.

Should Chinese tech like Huawei, WeChat, and TikTok be banned? (July 15, 2020)

Are US-China relations at the lowest point in modern history? (July 23, 2020)

President’s Statement Against Racism

UH President David Lassner issued the following statement on June 1:

Aloha to all our UH students, faculty and staff:

We can not ignore the events that have rocked the United States in the past week, with impacts that continue to reverberate. We have seen the senseless killing of George Floyd by some of those entrusted to serve and protect us. We are seeing our systems of justice failing African-Americans. We are seeing moving memorials to the victims and we are seeing beautiful peaceful protests. Sadly, we also bear witness to destructive manifestations of anger and despair.

While these events may seem to some to be far away from our shores, they have a deep impact on our UH ʻohana and in particular our African-American community. African-Americans have centuries of history in Hawaiʻi and are a vital part of our university. Now is a time to stand in solidarity with our African-American colleagues and friends.

The sheer magnitude of the reaction we are seeing to the killing of George Floyd is about much more than his death. As one member of our ʻohana shared: “It is police brutality. It is about running in a neighborhood and being killed. It is about a white woman calling the police on a black man because he asked her to leash her dog. This is about a faculty member calling the police on an African-American student because he would not change his seat. This is about a black woman napping in her residence hall common area and security being called because she looked like she didn’t belong. This is about two black men sitting in Starbucks and the police being called. This is about Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. And this is about the personal terror of every African-American parent when their sons are out in the world. This is about living black in America.”

My parents believed the education of their children in the 1960s should include participation in rallies and marches promoting peace and civil rights. Now, 50 years later, their lessons still resonate. So let me share a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1967, when our nation was also roiled:

“Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay.”

We can and must create a climate of aloha for all within the University of Hawaiʻi. We are fortunate to live in a place where we can learn from such time-tested wisdom, and I urge all of us to be attentive to the importance of extending kindness, compassion and understanding to all, especially in difficult times like these. And those who feel the need for a little extra assistance should not hesitate to reach out for help from a friend, a colleague and/or an appropriate campus support office.

I ask you all to stand with me against racism and discrimination. We must all be willing to speak up against corrosive “isms” wherever we see them. We are fortunate that in Hawai‘i and at UH there have been and continue to be so many leaders and initiatives that teach us how to do this important work. And I fully recognize that we all, including me, still have a long road ahead.

None of us alone can reverse the impacts of the history of mistreatment and discrimination that we see playing out before our eyes today. But we can each make a beginning by acknowledging for ourselves the continuing impact of that history and vowing to work to reduce it on our watch. An equitable system of public higher education can and must be one of the most powerful forces for positive change, and we can do so much for justice, equality and humanity if we work together. 

David Lassner
UH President

The Asian Studies Program Mission Statement can be found here.

Video: Congratulations Graduates!

The Asian Studies Program warmly congratulates our Spring 2020 graduating cohorts of BA and MA students. In lieu of commencement, we offer this video with messages provided by students and faculty.

Mahalo to everyone who submitted messages, photos, and video to make this video possible!

Graduates, we wish you all the very best and hope you stay in touch!

Graduating with BA, Spring 2020

Aaron Fernandez
Jacob Gardner
Jordan Kanemitsu
Lara Klaus
Hannah Poffenberger Twomey
Luke Taylor

Graduating with MA, Spring 2020

Asia Dobbs
Tyler Esch
Melissa Kim
Xintao Lu
Jeannie Magdua
Bianca Rajan
Xinli Zhang
Andrew Zyra

New Findings from Lower Mekong Archaeological Project (LOMAP)

The Lower Mekong Archaeological Project (LOMAP), co-directed by Miriam Stark, Professor of Anthropology at UH Manoa and Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and H.E. Chuch Phoeurn, Secretary of State, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Kingdom of Cambodia, published their latest findings about Angkor Borei.

LOMAP was initiated in 1996, and this international collaborative archaeological project brings together scholars from several countries to investigate the early historic period of southern Cambodia. The project undertakes fieldwork in conjunction with field training for Cambodian students. Work to date has concentrated on archaeological sites in the Angkor Borei region (Takeo province, Cambodia) and at the site of Angkor Borei itself. Interestingly, the Khmer name “Angkor Borei” means “Ancient City”; short distance south of the town lies the hill of Phnom Da, on which the ancient Khmers built religious structures at different points in the past.

The newest research from Angkor Borei, to which Miriam Stark is a contributing author, sheds light on resource utilization and regional interaction:

Abstract: “Angkor Borei is a protohistoric (ca. 500 BCE − 500 CE) site in southern Cambodia (Takeo Province), on the western edge of the Mekong Delta. Cambodia’s protohistoric period, concurrent with the Iron Age elsewhere in mainland Southeast Asia, is a period characterised by major socio-political transformation: early state formation, incorporation into the South China Sea network, and urbanisation. First occupied in the mid-first millennium BCE, Angkor Borei became the delta’s largest regional centre during the Funan period (c. 1st-6th century CE). This study builds on previous skeletal chemistry research, increasing the sample set by additional 15 individuals, to refine our understanding of the residential behaviour and exploitation strategies of the Angkor Borei mortuary sample. Using strontium, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen isotope measurements from tooth enamel and bone, and incorporating bioavailable baseline strontium isotope data, we find that the majority of individuals have a childhood 87Sr/86Sr signature consistent with locally acquired food resources. For those individuals with outlier 87Sr/86Sr values, utilisation of the broader regional environment is suggested without the need to infer long distance migration. The evidence for population stability at Angkor Borei during this dynamic period of increasing regional societal complexity indicates that the catalysts for change are manifold. Many factors are likely to have contributed to the genesis of early state society including social differentiation, cultural exchange, mercantile activity, residential mobility, and settlement growth, rather than one ‘external’ prime causative factor.”

“Recording the Past of “Peoples Without History”: Southeast Asia’s sea nomads” by Barbara Andaya

A new publication from Barbara Andaya reviews the historical work on Southeast Asia’s sea peoples, stressing the importance of interdisciplinary work to recover indigenous pasts.

Download the article from Asian Review Vol. 32 No. 1, January-June 2019.

Abstract: This essay has been developed from the conviction that scholars of all disciplines, particularly from Southeast Asia, must work together to prioritize the task of recording the traditions of “marginalized peoples” before practices, beliefs and memories disappear completely. Although anthropologists dominate contemporary studies, historians have much to offer, especially in dealing with the relationship between such groups and the state. Here I provide a background to historical work on sea peoples, tracking the evolution of the now accepted view that, traditionally, they were respected by land-based states and that this relationship was mutually beneficial. However, the demise of reciprocity combined with state pressure for the adoption of a sedentary existence led to a decline in regard for the maritime skills of sea peoples and the services they once provided. In seeking to resurrect a past that emphasizes indigenous agency, there is a need to break out of disciplinary confines and develop methodologies and approaches that more effectively link the past with the present.

New Book: Women Warriors in Southeast Asia

The Asian Studies Program is proud to announce the publication of Women Warriors in Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2020), edited by former Director of the Center for Philippine Studies, Vina Lanzona (Associate Professor of History, UH Manoa), and Frederik Rettig, with a concluding chapter by Barbara Andaya (Professor of Asian Studies, UH Manoa).

The book is part of the series Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia.

From Routledge:

“This book brings together a wide range of case studies to explore the experiences and significance of women warriors in Southeast Asian history from ancient to contemporary times.

Using a number of sources, including royal chronicles, diaries, memoirs and interviews, the book discusses why women warriors were active in a domain traditionally preserved for men, and how they arguably transgressed peacetime gender boundaries as agents of violence. From multidisciplinary perspectives, the chapters assess what drove women to take on a variety of roles, namely palace guards, guerrillas and war leaders, and to what extent their experiences were different to those of men. The reader is taken on an almost 1,500-year long journey through a crossroads region well-known for the diversity of its peoples and cultures, but also their ability to creatively graft foreign ideas onto existing ones. The book also explores the re-integration of women into post-conflict Southeast Asian societies, including the impact (or lack thereof) of newly established international norms, and the frequent turn towards pre-conflict gender roles in these societies.

Written by an international team of scholars, this book will be of interest to academics working on Southeast Asian Studies, Gender Studies, low-intensity conflicts and revolutions, and War, Conflict, and Peace Studies.”

Among the contributions are Lanzona and Rettig’s introduction, and Lanzona’s chapter “Love and sex in times of war and revolution: women warriors in Vietnam and the Philippines.”

Barbara Andaya, Professor of Asian Studies, provided the concluding chapter, “Rethinking the historical place of ‘warrior women’ in Southeast Asia.”

Fulbright US Student and US Scholar Programs 2020-2021: Now Open for Applications

The Fulbright US Student and US Scholar Programs are now open for applications.

The Asian Studies Program encourages our students to study abroad, and a Fulbright US Student fellowship is a fantastic way to engage in research plus cultural exchange. Fulbright US Scholar programs have supported multiple Asian Studies faculty members and affiliates doing research in Asian countries. Find out more in the videos below:

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