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Asia and the World (Howard Chiang)

This seminar marks a turning point in the focus of the module from thematic considerations to geographical approaches. Building on the conceptual tools that we have learned from the first half of the module, we will begin this unit by exploring the historical relationship between Asia and the world. We will consider the shifting depths and configurations of that relationship from different regional and chronological vintage points. Above all, we will connect the role of China, India, and Europe in global economy from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, examining alongside the pertinent social, cultural, material, and political transformations. Emphasis will be placed on method, theory, and historiography.



  1. In what ways does the meaning of the phrase 'Asia and the world' get differentiated by viewpoints drawn from East Asia and South Asia?
  2. Do we need different approaches (e.g., postcolonial theory, minor transnationalism, inter-Asian comparison, etc.) for the study of different Asian regions in a global historical framework?
  3. How have the roles of China, India, and Europe evolved over time in the history of modern world economy?
  4. Why do science, technology, medicine, and knowledge (production) matter?
  5. In what ways are the terms 'convergence', 'divergence', 'rise', 'decline', 'miracle', 'conflict', 'cooperation', and 'competition' useful (or not) for characterising the historical relationships between Asia and the world at different periods? (Consider what each of these terms assumes as its foundational points of reference.)
  6. What are the analytical limitations of the concepts of 'China', 'India', 'diaspora', and even '(East/South) Asia' and 'the world'?



Prasannan Parthasarathi, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2011), chapters 7-8. [e-book]

Dipesh Chakrabarty, 'Provincializing Europe: Postcoloniality and the Critique of History', Cultural Studies 6, no. 3 (1992): 337-357.

Kuan-Hsing Chen, 'Asia as Method: Overcoming the Present Conditions of Knowledge Production', Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Duke University Press, 2010), 211-285.

Shu-mei Shih, 'Against Diaspora: The Sinophone as Places of Cultural Production', in Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays, ed. Jing Tsu and David Wang (Brill, 2010), pp. 29-48.

Aihwa Ong, 'Introduction: An Analytics of Biotechnology and Ethics at Multiple Sites', Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate (Duke University Press, 2010), 1-51. [e-book]

Charlotte Furth, 'Becoming Alternative? Modern Transformations of Chinese Medicine in China and the United States,' Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 28, no. 1 (2011): 5-41.


David Landes, 'Why Are We So Rich and They So Poor?', American Economic Review 80, no. 2 (May 1990): 1-13.

Prasannan Parthasarathi, 'The Great Divergence', Past and Present 176 (2002): 275-293.

Philip A. Kuhn, 'Why China Historians Should Study the Chinese Diaspora, and Vice Versa', Journal of Chinese Overseas 2, no. 2 (2006): 163-172.

Kenneth Pomeranz, Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of Modern World Economy (Princeton University Press, 2001).

John W. Garver, Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth-Century (University of Washington Press, 2001).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, new ed. (Princeton University Press, 2007 [2000]).

Shu-mei Shih, Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific (University of California Press, 2007).

Philip A. Kuhn, Chinese Among Others: Emigration in Modern Times (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

Prasenjit Duara, The Global and Regional in China's Nation-Formation (Routledge, 2009).

Mei Zhan, Other-Worldly: Making Chinese Medicine through Transnational Frames (Duke University Press, 2009).

Kuan-Hsing Chen, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Duke University Press, 2010).

James Hevia, The Imperial Security State: British Colonial Knowledge and Empire-Building in Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards, eds., Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader (Columbia University Press, 2013).