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What is the role of nostalgia in our increasingly dynamic and interconnected world? This special issue, Mobilizing Nostalgia in Asia, assesses the mobilization of nostalgia in the changing international order, and within individuated socioeconomic and cultural spheres. Its four articles examine the political and social dynamics that evoke, utilize, amend, and manipulate nostalgia for collective present needs and demands. This Introduction connects the issue's four contributions to three interconnected themes: the power of nostalgia, the plurality of nostalgia, and nostalgia as a process of creation.
China's emergence as a great power has been accompanied by the official rhetoric of the China Dream of Great Rejuvenation (weida fuxing 伟大复兴). Although there are conflicting views among academics and political elites about the exact content of the China Dream, one of its features is the nostalgia for China's past and its five-thousand-year-old civilization. Xi Jinping's current rhetoric of a China Dream of Great Rejuvenation uses a reinvented history as an asset for the future, linking China's natural progress as a global power with a selective re-reading of its millennial history. While much existing literature already discusses China's Great Rejuvenation, this article looks more specifically at the role of historical memory and deconstructs the key interconnected components that support Xi's rhetoric, namely, the chosen trauma, glory, and amnesia. The conclusion offers some general remarks about the effect of this rhetoric on China's domestic and foreign policy and some of the risks that accompany it. This article contributes to the debates on the influence of memory in International Relations (IR), showing how constructed memories of history can significantly impact both national identity and foreign policy.
The language of shared heritage for humanity holds a central position within UNESCO's World Heritage. However, the “Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution” as World Heritage is primarily Japan's national project for globalizing a glorious historical narrative of Meiji Japan. While this national nostalgia matches the contemporary political discourse of overcoming domestic and international challenges in twenty-first century Japan, it also encourages people to forget alternative perspectives related to Korean memories of forced labor, colonialism, and war. Ministry officials and cultural council members expressed concerns over possible critical reactions from South Korea, but the Japanese government accelerated its campaign for UNESCO's World Heritage designation and achieved its objective in 2015. Why did the Japanese government take this step despite the alarming voices within Japan? This paper uncovers the process in which Japan's industrial heritage was constructed and promoted as World Heritage. It points to the role of Japanese and Western heritage experts in a newly established committee outside the conventional procedure for Japan's World Heritage nomination and concludes that Japan's heritage diplomacy pushes alternative historical narratives into oblivion.
China's commercial revival of the 1980s initiated a wave of nostalgia for old brands, which various political and commercial actors spent the subsequent four decades trying to develop, enhance, or exploit. Such attempts can be divided into two types: the heritage approach of the “old brands revitalization project” and the “creative nostalgia” of retro advertising. Both aim to nurture a sense of nostalgia for old brands, but they espouse opposing logic: the former emphasizing authenticity, while the latter mines the past for fun, novelty, and irony. These trends are expressed in the food sector, which comprises the majority of classic enterprises, and has been shaped by explosive growth. Rather than a generational rejection of the past, it is the rush to establish a presence in the crowded national market that drives China's classic food brands to repackage nostalgia from authenticity to novelty, from scarcity to replicability, and from heritage to retro.1
The vision of the Soviet years in post-Soviet republics varies depending on the government's official master narrative, foreign policy priorities, and general public perceptions of the past. By contrasting the published interviews of presidents Putin, Nazarbayev, and Karimov and the outcomes of in-depth interviews with the elderly public in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan), this paper reveals the differences between the official master narratives of political leadership (positive or negative) with respect to the Soviet past and public attitudes. This paper aims to demonstrate that the narratives of political leaders/governments and public recollections coexist in the same social space in parallel to each other. While governments attempt to use their narratives to promote certain policy goals, people use their nostalgic recollections to make sense of the social changes in their respective countries and use such recollections to interpret their lives.
Searching for common themes, this afterword questions the meaning and experience of nostalgia in Asia today. The collected essays show the important roles that conflict, trauma, and the need to create a new modernity shape, and are shaped by notions of nostalgia through much of Asia. Perhaps more so than in Europe, nostalgia in Asia seems very national. The case studies in this collection are excellent examples of how nostalgic longings are deployed to enhance national power, as well as a demonstration of the enduring influence of the nation-state over individual imagination across the region.
Due to the introduction of the market economy, in the past four decades China has switched from being a “planned country” – planned economy, planned art – into a domestic version of cultural pluralism. Consumerism has refilled the vacuum left by the retreat of Maoist ideology. However, the overwhelming success of mass culture is sided by the progressive marginalization of the intellectuals or elite, featuring a culture that is kitsch in its ideological twist. In China, present-day cultural constructions provide a forum of debate for the identity of the whole nation, no more traditional, and not yet modern. In other words, consumerism and commercialism, triggered by products of market economy, have generated a cultural consumption of redundant bad taste. Kitsch indeed.1
This study brings the voices of Chinese Muslim modernists back into discussions on polygamy in the Republican era. Starting from the late nineteenth century, abolishing the practice of polygamous marriage became a vital component of Chinese modernizing elites’ vision of modern Chinese society, as they saw polygamy as an obstacle to modernization. Chinese Muslim modernists actively engaged in China's struggle with polygamy. Their dynamic discussions on polygamy were not insignificant and peripheral. On the contrary, when the Republican law promoting monogamy was hard to implement, some Chinese Muslim modernists pushed their fellow Muslims to set examples for other Chinese to obey the law. The Chinese translations of Arabic scholarly work even helped some Chinese Muslim modernists take a different approach to the issue of polygamy by arguing that polygamy, if properly regulated, could be beneficial to modern societies.
This essay explores how the term ‘girl,’ or 少女 (sonyŏ), in 1930s colonial Korean society simultaneously created and resisted homogeneity. We analyze the different contexts and cultural forces that shaped the term ‘girl’ in colonial Korea in order to illustrate some phases of the relationships that historical girls of colonial Korea had with their nation and state, the nation, that is, to which they thought they belonged at births and the state for which they were mobilized while they were systematically otherized. In our examination, we scrutinize the ways in which the subjectivities of colonial girls were ideologically forged through educational and institutional interventions and cultural interpellation. The first section discusses the concept of the girl in colonial Korea. The second part analyzes the various ideological functions that school textbooks played in gender-specific inculcation of colonial state ideals. We then read the ways The Chosŏn Ilbo (Chosŏn Daily) used the term the ‘girl’ in the 1930s, the period when the conceptual distinction between children and adults was further solidified, and the call on children was gender-specific in public. We finally elucidate the colonial processes of which girls of colonial Korea became part, albeit unknowingly.