Globalization from East Asian Perspectives



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Global History Workshop: “Globalization from East Asian Perspectives”
Date: Tuesday, 15th – Thursday, 17th March 2016

Venue: Nakanoshima-Center, Osaka University
In October 2014, Osaka University, upon the initiative of its President, established the Institute for Academic Initiatives (IAI). As “Division 9” of the IAI, “global history” became one of four main research areas within this new organizational framework. The Global History Division proposes to explore, among others, “global history” from Asian perspectives through interdisciplinary research embracing a wide range of academic fields: history, international relations, economics, the arts and social sciences, and cultural studies. In addition, Osaka University can draw on a rich legacy in area studies and Asian Studies which it inherited from the previous Osaka University of Foreign Studies. The Global History Division consists of three research groups focusing on: (a) the supra-regional history of networks and interactions in ancient Central Eurasia and early modern maritime Asia; (b) the micro-history of medieval Kansai (Japan) and modern China; and (c) global economic history and the Modern World System.

The Asian History Section of the Department of World History at Osaka University has a long-standing tradition of archival research in a number of languages: Turkish, Mongol, Tibetan, Manchurian, and of course Chinese, regarding “Inner” Asia (now often called “Central Eurasia”). In the last two decades, the study of Asian maritime history, focusing on the East and South China Seas, and partly involving researchers from the Japanese History Major, has also gained in importance. Under the influence of these two leading research groups, studies of Chinese and Japanese histories, which are dominant in the historical discipline in Japan besides “Western History”, have shifted their regional investigative focus away from the conventional “East Asia” perspective (essentially China, Korea and Japan) and towards a broader and more flexible area of “Eastern Eurasia” and/or “Maritime Asia”. As a result, polygonal collaborations among scholars working on Central Eurasia, China, Japan, and maritime Asia (including Southeast Asia) are developing. Valuable methodological and analytical connections could be established between archival research and field surveys and between perspectives on global relationships and the micro-analysis of local societies. New insights were also gained from incorporating gender perspectives. Important aspects of these collaborations will be introduced during the first day of the workshop, focusing on historical periods before the collapse of the Mongol Empire. In order to stimulate a wide-ranging discussion, the workshop will not confine itself to cover a single academic specialization, such as Central Eurasia or the Sinic World. Rather, global analytical frameworks will be introduced, including Victor Lieberman’s global comparisons with “charter states” in Eurasia.

The research of the global economic history group aims at investigating the modern and contemporary international economic order of Asia, among others through the collaboration with scholars from Britain and America and with Asian scholars from Korea, China and India. Relevant research areas include the role of hegemonic states in the transformation of the international order; the comparative study of empires from the “early-modern” period to the twentieth century; and the study of the historical origins of the “East Asian miracle”.

By drawing on the expertise of these three groups of researchers, Osaka University offers perspectives on a long historical period, from ancient to contemporary times. In doing so, it hopes to be able to provide new and original insights into world and global history from Asian perspectives.



15th March (Tuesday): Early-Globalization in Eastern Eurasia and Maritime Asia: Networks, States, Commerce and Religions
9:00-12:30 Session I: the First Millennium CE

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-17:30 Session II: Early Second Millennium and the Mongol Empire

18:00-20:30 Dinner
The first day deals with Eastern Eurasia and its adjacent maritime regions in the first and early second millennium.

The first session will cover the period prior to the 10th century. Various transnational interactions, networks and migrations will be examined within their ecological settings and against the background of often multipolar international relationships. The contributions will show the existence of pluralistic systems of authority and legitimacy which differ from a Sino-centric view based on Confucianism. Moreover, this research will provide evidence for the multiethnic composition of the Chinese Empire and the Sinic World from the Southern and Northern Dynasties to the Sui-Tang Period, rather than taking the view of a monolithic empire of the Han people. Ethnic diversity was common among many peoples, including Central Eurasian nomadic and oasis peoples. The revisionist view of the Sinic World, in turn, requires a fundamental revision of the histories of the “smaller empires” in contemporary Northeast Asia (present-day Northeast China, Korea and Japan).

Regarding human networks and migration, a close analysis of the eastward expansion of the Sogdian people will be offered. The analysis will not only emphasize their famous commercial expansion but also advance an argument about their military activities in alliance with Turkish nomadic powers. In relation to religious networks, not only Buddhist but also Manichaeist networks will be examined by paying attention to the role of both diplomacy and politics. As for questions of the state and its authority, a revision of the Tang-model of state formation in Japan will be suggested. A comparison between Central Eurasian oasis and maritime Asian port cities will also be made based on ecological and social settings in order to shed light on the influences of global interactions. Fascinating evidence on written sources and their formats, such as Dunhuang and Turfan documents, Tang epitaphs, diplomatic correspondence between East Eurasian monarchs, and Japanese and Korean wooden strips, will be included in the papers on Central Eurasia, China and Japan. The contributions on maritime Asia, meanwhile, will importantly incorporate knowledge from archeology and area studies.

The second session covers the period from the 10th to the 14th century, and will be based on sources in a range of languages, including Mongol, Turkish, Arabic, Sino-Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean, in addition to evidence from archeology and field surveys. First, the political and diplomatic history of Eastern Eurasia prior to the 13th century will be examined against the background of multipolar international relationships between large empires like those of the Khitans and the Song and other, smaller ones. The analysis of diplomatic letters and ceremony promises fresh insight. Second, commercial and human networks will be examined with the case of the Muslim diaspora in the China Seas. These networks often left traces in hybrid cultural identities and international trade in which the Islands of Japan were involved. Third, the epoch-making characteristics of the Mongol Empire will be discussed. Here topics include the analysis of polycentric military, political, and social systems, and of multilingual, though highly standardized systems of communication.

The discussions will also pay due attention to the unique positions and evolution of middle-sized agrarian states in the region, such as Japan, Goryeo (Korea) and Dai Viet (Vietnam).

In conclusion, a general discussion on the “Fourteenth Century Crisis” will be organized. This discussion will cover political and socio-economic change but also incorporate hitherto neglected perspectives on gender, the family, and climatic change, among others.


16th March (Wednesday): Early-Modern Globalization and East Asia
9:00-12:00 Session III: Big Games and Small Games in Early-Modern East Asia

12:00-13:30 Lunch

13:30-16:00 Session IV: Daily Lives and the Making of Early-Modern Empires
Recent scholarship has made an effort to incorporate Asian experiences into a “global” history of economic, political, military, cultural, and social dynamics by taking a long-term perspective. Nonetheless, the exchange of views between experts of “global history” and “local” histories is still limited. Historians specializing in “the local” hardly have the ambition to present their empirical studies in the context of “global” issues. In turn, many historians of “the global” rarely venture into the archives and instead base their analysis on the in-depth research of regional specialists. This is notably the case with the historiography of the continental and maritime world of Eastern Eurasia. Even after the “California School” presented revisionist views challenging the Eurocentrism of received studies on globalism, the latter continued to adhere to an analysis along the lines of an East-West binary.

The second day of the workshop sheds light on how daily lives in this region were sustained, manipulated, and institutionalized under the rule of, or through mutual negotiation among polities of various sizes. Under the term “empire-ness”, the contributors propose a range of issues for discussion. Here, the term empire does not necessarily connote a despotic polity that is large in size, oppressive to those who ruled, and prone to military expansionism. Rather, the concept will be used heuristically, not typologically. This enables us better to understand how polities tackled the thorny task of establishing or strengthening their regime surrounded by linguistically and religiously diversified social groups.

After the fourteenth century, when the gigantic Mongol Empire abandoned its territory in China proper, the Ming Empire set out to assume the status of presiding over the social order, physical distribution, and military control in a geographically vast territory. Importantly, there is evidence for such political behavior in many polities, including Japan, Choson Korea, and Viet-nam, especially during the seventeenth century when, as a consequence, the Manchu rulers prevailed in the fierce competition with their rivals.

In short, it will be suggested that empire is an elastic (though not strict, at present) notion to describe social cohesions, somewhat different in form from those within present nation-states. At the same time, one can also address issues, such as the relationship between global hegemony and nation-building. Only in this way, can one make useful comparisons between polities, from a different perspective than that of self-contained nation-states. Empires were without exception confronted with the arcane task to “incorporate” diversified social groups and to cope with an increasingly fluidizing global environment, notably enhanced by expanding trade and the in-flow of silver bullion. Thus, the historical world in the eastern part of Eurasia is understood as an arena where daily negotiations between, and the institutionalization of diverse actors, including village headmen, tribal chiefs, officials, and even imperial households, were (and are) taking place in a nested form.

From this perspective, Session III, will focus on the “macro-sphere” of empires, namely politics, diplomacy, foreign trade, governmental finance and war-making. Session IV, turns to the “micro-level”: subjects, including the village community, agriculture, population behavior, and famine relief.
16:30-18:30 Session V: Junior Scholars Session

(subject to change, depending on the number of applications)
17th March (Thursday): Modern and Contemporary Globalization from East Asian Perspectives
9:00-12:30 Session VI: Reconsidering the Nineteenth Century:

The Reassessment of “Agricultural Development” in South and Southeast Asia in the Nineteenth Century from the Perspective of Global History

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-17:30 Session VII: Historical Origins of the “East Asian Economic Resurgence”

18:00-21:00 Farewell dinner
The final day of the workshop will focus on modern and contemporary globalization from East Asian perspectives. At the turn of the second millennium in 2000, new research trends of global history attracted attention, mainly focusing on the reevaluation of Asia’s position in the world. Two studies gave a strong impetus to the debate: Angus Maddison, The World Economy: a millennial perspective (OECD, 2001), and, in a provocative manner, Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence—China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton, 2000). The publication of these two books led to the reconsideration of the “Early-Modern period” or the “Long Eighteenth Century” based on comparisons between Europe and Asia. The panels on 17th March will discuss relevant issues. The focal shift in the world economy from the trans-Atlantic world to the Asia-Pacific also requires reconsidering the nineteenth century from Asian perspectives. These problems will be addressed in Session VI.

At the first workshop of this consortium at Princeton, the theme was the reconsideration of “the 1860s” within global history. Traditionally, the nineteenth-century has been characterized as the “European Century”, or the century of European-centered globalization. It is no coincidence that E.J. Hobsbawm wrote three influential volumes on “the Long Nineteenth Century”. The Princeton workshop was heavily influenced by two important books on the nineteenth century: C. Bayly, The Birth of Modern World 1780-1914 (Blackwell, 2004), and Juergen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (2009, English version: Princeton University Press 2014). Both books offer stimulating European interpretations on the nineteenth century, and it is a truism that Western Europe occupied a dominant position at the core of the Modern World System. Nonetheless, Asian initiatives in economic development during the second half of the nineteenth century still need to be fully explored.

This panel reconsiders the historical significance of “agricultural development” in Asia. In the second half of the nineteenth century, evidence suggests connections between increasing agricultural production in Asia, population growth, and migrations within and beyond Asia. These phenomena have usually been interpreted within the framework of European-led economic globalization or the incorporation of Asia into the world economy (Modern World System). These interpretations take the perspective of the formation of Western colonial empires and an imperialistic world order.

By contrast, recent studies of global history in Japan have emphasized evidence for Asian initiatives for economic development and the impact of indigenous agency. These studies stress the influence of the activities of Asian merchants (Indian & Chinese) and local peasants for the production of agricultural commodities, such as rice, sugar, and natural rubber, among others. The panel will explore the dynamic role played by these Asian agencies for economic “development”, especially for “agricultural development”, and their significance in transforming agrarian societies and patterns of land-holding not only in colonies such as British India, the Dutch East-Indies (Indonesia), and Northern Vietnam (French Indochina) but also in independent Siam (Thailand). In order to facilitate comparisons, and to shed light on the peculiarities of tropical regions, a case study of the Russian Far East (Northeast Asia) will also be included.



The final session (17th March in the afternoon), will explore the historical origins of the current “East Asian economic resurgence”, the “East Asian miracle”, as it was dubbed by the World Bank in 1993. The driving force behind the economic resurgence of East Asia from the early 1980s were two main factors: (a) the revival and new development of “intra-Asian trade” or inter-regional trade within Asia from the 1970s; and (b) the emergence of state-led “developmentalism” in East and Southeast Asia from the 1960s. “Developmentalism” meant that initiatives in Asia fostered industrialization through national policies, namely the state-sponsored mobilization and control of natural and human resources. These initiatives were closely connected to economic aid policies influenced by Cold War politics. Japan played a leading role in this process of economic resurgence and promoted “intra-Asian competition” for export-oriented industrialization. The role of hegemonic states, first the UK (the British Empire) and then the US, in providing “international public goods” to the world economy should be considered in this context. Arguably, many emerging developing countries in East and Southeast Asia could utilize and take advantage of the “Pax Britannica” and “Pax Americana” for their own economic development.



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