Synopses & Reviews
For an outside audience that still sometimes sees the Chinese as the faceless masses, Wasserstrom and Shah have assembled a collection of faces and names and fascinating life stories of a range of Chinese people. The contributors are some of the best-known writers on China today, and from every layer of society and every walk of life, the Chinese characters they have portrayed give readers a privileged glimpse inside a country that is bubbling with diversity and change.” -Rob Gifford, China Editor, The Economist
and author of China Road
"What makes Chinese Characters such an enjoyable read is that it is a mosaic of engrossing portraits that allows the endless paradoxes of China to come alive in myriad enthralling ways. While the contributors obviously possess a depth of professional and scholarly knowledge about China, what distinguishes their offerings here is vivid and evocative writing that shows rather than tells. You will not only learn from this book, but enjoy it."Orville Schell, The Arthur Ross Director, The Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society, New York City
"Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Angilee Shah have assembled one of the most engaging, compelling narratives about China - past and present - that I've ever read. The contributors take us on journeys across contemporary Chinese landscapes in a wonderful range of tones and voices, mountains and cities. I can't wait to pass this on."Susan Straight, Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, UC Riverside
"One of the frustrating challenges of teaching Chinese culture classes to American college students is dispelling the myth of a homogeneous 'Chinese people', supposedly acting and reacting in unison to the events and problems in their country. It often takes students an entire semester living in China to erase this misconception. A short-cut solution to this problem is the new addition to the China 'required reading' booklist, Angilee Shah and Jeff Wasserstroms co-edited volume Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, an eye-opening collection of vignettes and case studies that conveys the great diversity of lifestyles and worldviews in this country of 1.3 billion. Following on the heels of Wasserstroms valuable macroscopic cultural handbook, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, this collection Chinese Characters zooms in for fascinating and often uncomfortable close-ups of Chinese individuals and the variegated fabric of their lives. My new list of essentials for students traveling to China for the first time: your passport, your plane ticket, and a copy of Chinese Characters."David Moser, Academic Director, CET Beijing Chinese Studies
“Funny and touching portrayals are what give this book its bite. They also help accomplish what the book sets out to do. ‘Chinese Characters sidesteps hackneyed generalizations of China as a country of either great promise or perilous menace.”
“In reading these stories of how individuals make their way in this topsy-turvy, fast-paced society, enduring hardship, creating new businesses, challenging authority, struggling to maintain their identities and trying to create better lives for their children, it's impossible not to feel impressed—and connected.”
“An astonishing anthology.”
“Whether one is interested in China or merely wishes to indulge in some well-crafted prose, Chinese Characters will not disappoint.”
“The essays cover a panoply of issues facing modern China, and the books combination of scope and intimacy is central to its achievement.”
“Chinese Characters [is] both an illuminating portrait of contemporary China . . . [and] a delight to read on literary merit alone.”
“Heartbreaking, uplifting, awe-inspiring and surprising. Its one of the best books Ive read on China and it belongs on all of your bookshelves.”
“A paragon of closely observed writing and a fascinating read.”
"Cooke is at her best scrutinising how the Gulf projects this tribal modern brand in its heritage industry."
"Cookeand#8217;s eclectic depiction of the reinvention of tribal identity makes use of the Arabic term barzakh, which she defines as the meeting -- but not commingling -- of two distinct elements, to capture the chemistry between tribal heritage and modernity."
"Fascinating . . . . Her deft interweaving of examples from film, art, literature and architecture to reinforce her conceptual ideas helps to build a diverse and thought-provoking set of arguments. . . . The book is surprisingly accessible and a fairly quick read."
For many people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia evokes images of deserts, camels, and oil, along with rich sheikh in white robes, oppressed women in black veils, and terrorists. But when Loring Danforth traveled through the country in 2012, he found a world much more complex and inspiring than he could have ever imagined.
With vivid descriptions and moving personal narratives, Danforth takes us across the Kingdom, from the headquarters of Saudi Aramco, the country s national oil company on the Persian Gulf, to the centuries-old city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast with its population of undocumented immigrants from all over the Muslim world. He presents detailed portraits of a young woman jailed for protesting the ban on women driving, a Sufi scholar encouraging Muslims and Christians to struggle together with love to know God, and an artist citing the Quran and using metal gears and chains to celebrate the diversity of the pilgrims who come to Mecca.
Crossing the Kingdompaints a lucid portrait of contemporary Saudi culture and the lives of individuals, who like us all grapple with modernity at the dawn of the twenty-first century."
An artist paints landscapes of faraway places that she cannot identify in order to find her place in the global economy. A migrant worker sorts recyclables and thinks deeply about the soul of his country, while a Taoist mystic struggles to keep his traditions alive. An entrepreneur capitalizes on a growing car culture by trying to convince people not to buy cars. And a 90-year-old woman remembers how the oldest neighborhoods of her city used to be.
These are the exciting and saddening, humorous and confusing stories of utterly ordinary people who are living through China's extraordinary transformations. The immense variety in the lives of these Chinese characters dispels any lingering sense that China has a monolithic population or is just a place where dissidents fight Communist Party loyalists and laborers create goods for millionaires.
Chinese Characters is a collection, as Pankaj Mishra writes in his foreword, "to herald a new golden age of journalism about a ceaselessly fascinating country." Contributors include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a Macarthur Fellow, the China correspondent to a major Indian newspaper, and scholars whose depth of understanding is matched only by the humanity with which they treat their subjects. Their stories together create a multi-faceted portrait of a country in motion and an introduction to some of the best writing on China today.
With contributions from:
Leslie T. Chang
Michelle Dammon Loyalka
In the 1970s, one of the most torrid and forbidding regions in the world burst on to the international stage. The discovery and subsequent exploitation of oil allowed tribal rulers of the U.A.E, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait to dream big. How could fishermen, pearl divers and pastoral nomads catch up with the rest of the modernized world? Even today, society is skeptical about the clash between the modern and the archaic in the Gulf. But could tribal and modern be intertwined rather than mutually exclusive? Exploring everything from fantasy architecture to neo-tribal sports and from Emirati dress codes to neo-Bedouin poetry contests, Tribal Modern explodes the idea that the tribal is primitive and argues instead that it is an elite, exclusive, racist, and modern instrument for branding new nations and shaping Gulf citizenship and identityand#151;an image used for projecting prestige at home and power abroad.
"miriam cooke's engrossing book is probably the best, most readable, innovative, and intelligent work on the articulation of the tribal and the modern in the Gulf region." --Taieb Belghazi,and#160;Research Group on Migration and Culture, Faculty of Letters, Rabat
and#147;cooke exquisitely captures the civilizational barzakh of the Arab Gulf statesand#151;the generative space connecting/disconnecting, mixing/separating and#147;the tribaland#8221; and and#147;the modern."and#160; She argues tribes, genealogies, and identities are newly invented yet powerful emblems of historical authenticity. Insightful, eminently readable -- a powerful analysis of modernity at its tribal heart.and#8221; --Suad Joseph, editor ofand#160;Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures
In this landmark study, now celebrating thirty years in print, Paul Rabinow takes as his focus the fieldwork that anthropologists do. How valid is the process? To what extent do the cultural data become artifacts of the interaction between anthropologist and informants? Having first published a more standard ethnographic study about Morocco, Rabinow here describes a series of encounters with his informants in that study, from a French innkeeper clinging to the vestiges of a colonial past, to the rural descendants of a seventeenth-century saint. In a new preface Rabinow considers the thirty-year life of this remarkable book and his own distinguished career.
About the Author
is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of books such as China in the 21st Century
, Global Shanghai
, and Chinas Brave New World
, and the editor of the Journal of Asian Studies
Angilee Shah is a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Mother Jones, TimeOut Singapore, Global Voices, and AsiaMedia, among other publications.
Table of Contents
1. Uneasy Cosmopolitanismand#160;and#160;and#160;
a. A Millennial Crossroad
b. Cities of Salt
2. Pure Blood and the New Nationand#160;and#160;
a. The British
b. Nationalizing Tribes
c. Tribal Marriages
d. DNA and Moneyand#160;
3. The Idea of the Tribeand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
a. Invention of Tribes
b. Tribal Classes
4. The Brandand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
a. Invention of Traditions
b. Thinking through the Barzakh
5. Building the Brandand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
a. National Museums
b. Vernacular Architecture
c. Nationalizing Vernacular Architecture
6. Heritage Engineeringand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
a. Modernizing Differently
b. Heritage Sports
c. Pearl Diving
d. Orientalist Art as Tribal History
e. The Heart of Doha
7. Performing the Nationand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
a. Tribal Dress in Gulf History
b. The Millionand#8217;s Poet
c. Neo-Bedouin Language
8. Gendering the Tribal Modernand#160;and#160;and#160;
a. Uneasy Cosmopolitanism Again
b. Pathologizing the Gender Barzakh
c. Women Writing in the Barzakh
d. The Terrible Cold