Japan election: Comfortable win for the ruling coalition
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has won a decisive victory in Sunday's elections to the lower house of the Japanese parliament.
Professor Roel Sterckx to deliver distinguished lecture series at Fudan University
Barak Kushner in Nihon Keizai Shimbun
North Korea: Where is Kim Jong-un?
Kim Jong-un, North Korea's 32-year-old leader, has been absent from public view for more than 38 days, prompting a flurry of speculation about the political stability of a regime notorious for its opaqueness and secrecy.
Barak Kushner keynote talk
Dr Barak Kushner, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History, will be giving a keynote talk at an international conference in Japan concerning: "2020, What Message Can Japan Deliver to the World."
Barak Kushner radio interview on Ramen
In Japan there is only one word internationally renowned for meaning noodle soup – ramen. There are other noodle dishes but none have had the power to launch international industries, attract hundreds of millions of customers, or have dozens of comic books, songs and movies produced in loving devotion. While the world sees ramen as an icon of Japanese cuisine, it is actually is a dish that speaks volumes about the evolution of Japan and its historical relations with China. Japanese modern cuisine grew out of a mixture of adapting to new political and social pressures in the 19th century, which later restructured its own national diet as it emerged from post-WWII ruins. All the while, in the background, were the fundamental elements – ingredients and dishware that Japan had incorporated over the previous centuries from the Asian mainland. It is in this intersection between a national renovation of taste and historical forces which made the arrival of ramen possible. It began as a lower class-noodle dish and then emerged as one of the most popular “convenience dishes” to hit East Asia and the world market. Instant ramen followed in the 1950s and that further galvanized consumer delight. Looking at Japanese food history, particularly the development of ramen, helps us understand contemporary Japan and its transformation into a food-obsessed nation, far different from what its cultural origins and traditional image would suggest. In the end, a bowl of ramen noodle soup is much more than a wad of noodles served in a flavorsome broth with a variety of toppings and seasonings. Ramen is a microcosm of East Asian history, and as such a most delicious way to combine digesting a new way to grasp why people eat in Japan the way they do and learn about history with the ends of your chopsticks. Lastly, don’t be afraid to slurp – that is the sign that the dish is piping hot and ready to be eaten.
What Japan's military shift means
The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced a major new interpretation of the security provisions of the country's 1947 constitution, permitting its Self Defence Forces (SDF) to participate for the first time in collective self-defence related activities.
North Korea: the perennial crisis state?
On Friday, 30th May, 2014 Dr John Swenson-Wright, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations and Head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House, appeared at the Hay Hestival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales to talk about the developing crisis surrounding the government rhetoric and the military activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. His talk can be heard online here.
Cambridge vice-chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz attacks immigration curbs
Britain's increasingly hostile tone on migration risks creating a perception among students that it is not a welcoming country to study in, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University has said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.
Patterns of Protest in Hebrew Culture
The first Cambridge graduate conference in Modern Hebrew took place on Tuesday, 6th May, 2014. Organised by Zehavit Zaslansky, PhD Student in Middle Eastern Studies, and Dr Yaron Peleg, Kennedy Leigh Lecturer in Modern Hebrew Studies, the event "Patterns of Protest in Hebrew Culture: Memory Agents and Representation" centred on the role of protest in Hebrew culture, and included presentations by young researchers from the UK and Israel, as well as a talk by artist Michael Druks.
John Swenson-Wright on the 1980 uprising in South Korea
Dr John Swenson-Wright, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, appeared on the BBC World Service programme, The History Hour, commenting on the events of 1980 and the significance of student protest in the Republic of Korea and its impact on political change in South Korea. The programme also looked at other world events of 1980 including the assassination of Rajiv Ghandi, the first Papal visit to a synagogue, saving Russian soldiers in Chechnya, and student riots in Indonesia.
Charles Melville discusses The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Prof. Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History, was featured in the edition of In Our Time broadcast on on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, 22nd May, discussing the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with Melvyn Bragg.
Eivind Kahrs & Tony Brinkman win CUSU TEA Awards
These awards celebrate excellent teaching and student engagement. Students have the opportunity to nominate lecturers, supervisors, administrators and other staff who were exemplary teachers and mentors.
The received their awards at a ceremony held in the University Combination Room on Friday, 9th May.
The Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45
Dr Barak Kushner, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History, was among the expert guests on Melvyn Bragg's BBC Radio 4 programme "In Our Time" when it recently addressed the subject of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45.
After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia.
Cooks and ancestors: the politics of food in imperial China
Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization, gave a public lecture at the festival "La Storia in Piazza" held in the Doge's Palace in Genoa, Italy. The hour-long lecture was filmed and may be viewed on the festival website. After the introductions in Italian, Prof. Sterckx gives his talk "in the language of Shakespeare".
North Korea Train Station Explosion
Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, featured in an episode of the BBC World Service programme The History Hour dealing with an explosion, in April 2004, at a train station in North Korea. The explosion killed around 170 people and destroyed thousands of homes and, in a rare moment of openness, authorities in Pyongyang asked the United Nations for help.
Roel Sterckx - Race Equality Champion
Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization, has been appointed the University's new Race Equality Champion. He will work closely with the Equality & Diversity section within the Human Resources Division of the University's Unified Administrative Service to facilitate and promote internal research and policy-based initiatives on race equality.
Japan revises textbooks to 'boost' island claims
Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, recently gave an interview with FRANCE 24 on Japanese textbook revisions and the growing tensions this has provoked with Japan's Chinese and South Korean neighbours.
Making China Strong & the Rise of Republican Fever in the PRC
Dr Robert Weatherley, Affiliated Lecturer in Chinese Politics, has recently published a book entitled "Making China Strong: The Role of Nationalism in Chinese Thinking on Democracy and Human Rights" (Palgrave). Robert has also won the prize for best article to be published in China Information during 2013. The article is entitled "The Rise of Republican Fever in the PRC and the Implications for CCP Legitimacy" and was co-authored with Zhang Qiang.
North Korea poll: Politics or propaganda?
North Koreans have been voting for a new parliament, or Supreme People's Assembly. The elections are the first in five years, and the first to be held since Kim Jong-un came to power. Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, was a guest on a recent Al Jazeera Inside Story report.
The Cold War and its Aftermath: Japanese Foreign Policy and Security Policy under the Abe Administration
On Wednesday, 12th February, 2014 Professor Nobumasa Akiyama of Hitotsubashi University, Japan gave a talk entitled "The Cold War and its Aftermath: Japanese Foreign Policy and Security Policy under the Abe Administration". The talk was given at a seminar organised by Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, and Dr Barak Kushner, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History, as part of the Faculty's graduate course on The Cold War and its Aftermath. Also in attendance was Minister Noriyuki Shikata, Political Minister of the Embassy of Japan in the UK.
Learning to Slurp: History, Noodles and Popular Culture in Japan
Philanthropist Bita Daryabari Announces $2M Endowment of Shahnama Project & Centre
Global philanthropist and humanitarian Bita Daryabari has announced a new $2 million (US) endowment for the Shahnama Project, based in the Shahnama Centre at Pembroke College. The Project was established by Prof. Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History, and the Centre is directed by Dr Firuza Abdullaeva.
The benefaction will help fund the Project's continued research and study of the epic poem, the Shahnama or The Book of Kings by Abu'l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi, the emblematic text of Persian historical culture. With 50,000 verses, it is the longest composed poem by a single author.
Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China
The latest book by Prof. Hans van de Ven, Professor of Modern Chinese History, has now been published by Columbia University Press.
Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China is now available on Amazon as a hardcover book (price £32.28 in the UK) or as a Kindle e-book (price £24.21 in the UK).
Charles Melville gives keynote address to open Shahnama seminar
Prof. Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History, delivered the keynote address at the inaugural session of an international seminar on "Shahnama of Firdawsi" hosted by the Department of Persian, Aligarh Muslim University. A large number of delegates across the globe are participating in the three-day seminar in the Cultural Hall of Maulana Azad Library.
Prof. Melville said that the Shahnama has a very interesting life in India and several manuscripts of it are available in different Indian libraries. He also pointed out that the Aligarh Muslim University has a valuable collection of its manuscripts and the Maulana Azad Library of the University provides fantastic resources for scholars visiting it from across the globe.
Amira Bennison in Rageh Omar's "Ottomans"
Sources of Early Chinese History
Prof. Roel Stercks, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, was among the experts discussing the sources for early Chinese history in a recent edition of the Radio 4 cultural programme In Our Time.
The first attempts to make a record of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the second millennium BC. The earliest surviving records were inscribed on bones or tortoise shells; in later centuries, chroniclers left detailed accounts on paper or silk. In the last hundred years, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of new materials, including a cache of previously unknown texts which were found in a sealed cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Such sources are are shedding new light on Chinese history, although interpreting ancient sources from the period before the invention of printing presents a number of challenges.
Yasir Suleiman made Ambassador of the University of Sarajevo
Prof. Yasir Suleiman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Professor of Modern Arabic Studies, has been made an Ambassador of the University of Sarajevo. This in recognition of his work in promoting links with the University over the last several years.
Sarajevo was the first venue of the Centre of Islamic Studies' "Cambridge in.." series in May 2011
and since then several of its staff have visited Cambridge conferences, workshops and training events organised by the Centre or supported by its scholarships.
More info and photos from the award are available on the Centre's website.
Pride and propaganda
Mainland China seems to be on a collision course with Japan, and arguably the national mood indicates many are itching for some sort of confrontation. Why the increased hostility and why now?
Two new British Academy Fellows in the Faculty
The removal of Chang Song-thaek
Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, Deapartment of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House, contributed two recent pieces to the BBC News website about the removal from power and subsequent execution of the North Korean "powerbroker" Chang Song-thaek:
Barak Kushner interivew on ramen and history in Asashi Shimbun
Dr Barak Kushner, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History, gave a major interview on the the intersection between the history of ramen and Sino-Japan relations to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The article was published on 9th July 2013. The interview is in Japanese with some festive photos.
What Upper House victory means for Shinzo Abe
Viewpoint article about the recent Japanese election, written for the BBC News website by Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, Deapartment of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House.
Taiwan Youth Ambassadors' Visit to the Faculty
On 19th June, 2013 the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies welcomed the Taiwan Youth Ambassadors student delegation from National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan during their visit to Cambridge. Further details of the visit.
Prof. Peter Koricki awarded Yamagata Bantô prize
Prof. Peter Kornicki, Professor of Japanese Studies, was awarded the 24th Yamagata Bantô Prize in Osaka in June. This is awarded every three years to foreign scholars working on Japan.
Barak Kushner's writing on the history of ramen wins Sophie Coe Prize for Food History
Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen - Japan's Favorite Noodle Soup, Barak Kushner's writing on the history of ramen, has won the 2013 Sophie Coe Prize for food history: "This fascinating, well-researched history of the complex factors in the rise of ramen during Japan's quest for modernisation was full of enthusiasm and interest. Drawn from otherwise unavailable sources, this was the obvious choice for our judges, and deservedly takes the £1,500 prize".
John Swenson-Wright co-ordinates UK-Japan Global Seminar at Chatham House
Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, Deapartment of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House, co-ordinated a two-day conference on Japan at Chatham House which coincided with a visit from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The following briefing paper was written with the conference in mind, as well as the visit by the PM:
On 23 May, Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies Richard Bowring was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun (Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon) by His Excellency Mr Hayashi, the Japanese ambassador, at the ambassador's residence in London.
The award was given in recognition of his scholarship in the field of Japanese studies, his stunningly successful fundraising activities to build up Japanese studies at Cambridge and his many contributions to the furthering of Anglo-Japanese relations over many years at Cambridge. Many present and former members of the teaching staff in Japanese studies at Cambridge were present.