East Asian Languages and Cultures Courses

In this class we will be exploring Asian and AAPI Speculative fiction through how Asian-Futurism engages time and the body in particular ways. Inspired by the artists and scholars who forwarded notions of Afro-Futurism, we will try to understand the unique dynamics of AsianFuturism. Ideas of futurism have always had its tendrils extending into the present and the past, so we will contextualize the other worlds and realities put forth in course texts through the real world histories and living realities of Asian and AAPI communities. Like Afro-Futurism, Asian-Futurism engages ideas of post-humanism, race, gender, sexuality and labor and highlights the ways in which bodies are marked as “other,” categorized, placed in hierarchies and understood as human. Through mapping the way bodies are presented across time and space in Asian speculative fiction, we will explore the way Asian bodies are understood in a world quickly changing from the forces of globalization and new technologies. More than anything, this course is devoted to your writing, so there will be a strong emphasis on learning to identify essay topics that interest you. You will spend a great deal of time reading and revising student work, as well as considerable attention to the mechanics of argumentative prose. To this end, you will learn how to analyze cultural texts with care and precision as well as critically read non-fiction articles as a tool to contextualize creative work. This class is intended to be a safe space where students can engage deeply with complex topics through thoughtful, critical, and respectful dialogue with each other. Hopefully our work together throughout the semester will not only help you hone your writing skills, but also lead you to think more broadly about the histories, positionalities and futures of Asian and AAPI communities globally. 

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism,” said the soon-to-be assassinated Martin Luther King in 1967. This course will survey these various “evils” through the tumultuous conditions of the so-called radical '60s from the standpoint of East Asia. Drawing from works of literature, film, art, music, and engaged scholarship, we will endeavor to both appreciate and critically reflect on the unique East Asian experience of communization, US imperialism, third world revolution, women’s liberation, the environmental movement, and Afro-Asian solidarity. Was the utopian energy of this decade misplaced? Did the 1960s fail to enact lasting change? Or do the documents from this era still communicate with our present in prescient and instructive ways? Addressing these and related questions, we will delve unflinchingly into this era, never to return the same.

What does it mean to “know” a person in writing, and how does one make oneself—or someone else— “known” through writing? Beginning with both ancient and modern philosophical and literary treatments of the topic, this seminar guides students in reading and writing about people, skills they will need long after this course has ended. Prerequisites: None.

 

This course will discuss the social, economic, and cultural aspects of Buddhism as it moved along the ancient Eurasian trading network referred to as the “Silk Road”. Instead of relying solely on textual sources, the course will focus on material culture as it offers evidence concerning the spread of Buddhism. Through an examination of the Buddhist archaeological remains of the Silk Road, the course will address specific topics, such as the symbiotic relationship between Buddhism and commerce; doctrinal divergence; ideological shifts in the iconography of the Buddha; patronage (royal, religious and lay); Buddhism and political power; and art and conversion.

This course is designed as an historical introduction to the Silk Road, understood as an ever-changing series of peoples, places, and traditions, as well as an introduction to the study of those same peoples, places, and traditions in the modern period. In this way, the class is intended both as a guide to extant textual, archaeological, and art historical evidence from the Silk Road, and as a framework for thinking about the modern Silk Road regions from the perspective of a contemporary American classroom. Prerequisites: None.

A study of the Buddhist tradition as it is found today in Asia. The course will focus on specific living traditions of East, South, and/or Southeast Asia. Themes to be addressed may include contemporary Buddhist ritual practices; funerary and mortuary customs; the relationship between Buddhism and other local religious traditions; the relationship between Buddhist institutions and the state; Buddhist monasticism and its relationship to the laity; Buddhist ethics; Buddhist "modernism," and so on.

 

In this course, we will engage with a range of works in East Asian horror cinema (Japan and South Korea) and explore their power to provoke and disturb, in light of issues such as spectatorship, the uncanny, and the staging of gender and sexuality as modes of critique. We will also discuss the ways in which these films theorize cultural memory and the transmission of traumatic knowledge in the context of their adaptation into other Asian sites (Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand). The aim of the course is to generate a critical understanding of horror cinema, its stock figures and conventions, as well as its inventive potential.

 

Did you ever wonder how other people get their work done? Or where they get their ideas? Are you curious about the best strategies and habits for clear, forceful, and engaging writing? Do you want the inside story on the joys of the process of submitting your work to a journal? Over the course of the semester each of you will revise for submission to a journal a seminar paper you have already written. At the conclusion of the semester you will send your revised essay for review at a journal. (You are not required to have it accepted!) Over the course of the term, we will read and discuss the written work of the seminar members, as well as model examples of writing, including that of Berkeley faculty. Time will also be set aside each session for work on professionalization: publication cover letters, job applications and interviews, mock talks

 

Spring 2022: "Limitlessness. Intertextual understanding of perceptual thresholds and liminality, between sutta, śāstra, sūtra and bhāṣya." Daily and habitual perceptual experiences exposes us to one of the most intricate and obscure cognitive dilemmas. Starting from the mere move into the spatial domain, in fact, we have to cope with the phantasmatic phenomena of thresholds, limits, borders, constrains. Each and every shape we sees, sound we hears, odour we smells, surface we touches, flavour we tastes, appear to us, simultaneously, limited as unlimited, clear and precise as blurred and indistinguishable. Everything that reaches our five senses seems to be ambiguous and double. Therefore, every single ‘thing’ looks like equivocal and uncertain: all the realia are cognised as limited and unlimited, confined and boundless, inaccessible and accessible, closed and open, finite and infinite, calculable and incalculable, comprehensible and incomprehensible. Given the cognitive relevance and practical outcomes of such a problematic situation – which is contained within the Sanskrit term of bheda (in lat. limen)–, it is not surprising to know that it was extremely important for the authors of the first mahāyānasūtras, as well as for those to whom the various works written in the form of kārikā, sūtra, śāstra, tantra and bhāṣya during the first five centuries of the common era are attributed. Authors and works that participate to different traditions and worldviews –such as sāṃkhya, yoga, vyākaraṇa, vaiśeṣika, cikitsā, abhidharma, madhyamaka, yogācāra– and that were proposing different, and often antithetical, perspectives (darśana). The totality of these works, indeed, constitutes the vast intertextual corpus to which those interested in the problem of perceptual thresholds and liminality cognition can devote their attention. During this seminar the perceptual dilemma of limitlessness will be explored and illustrated through a parallel and intertextual reading of selected passages taken from Vasubandhu’s works and from Patañjali's Yogasūtra, after the analysis of which the interpretative advantage derived from the synoptic reading of texts belonging to different intellectual traditions could be experienced and tested.