The Undiscovered Country: An Interview

Melek Ortabasi’s new book explores the work of Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), a writer, folk scholar, “eccentric, dominating crackpot,” “brilliant, versatile iconoclast” and much more. The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) expands how we understand and evaluate his work by contextualizing it in terms of translation studies, simultaneously informing how we think about (and with) translation. … Continue reading The Undiscovered Country: An Interview

China Under Mao: An Interview

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that 1949 was actually the beginning, not the end, of the Chinese revolution.” Building from this premise, Andrew G. Walder’s new book looks at the ways that China was transformed in the 1950s in order to understand why and how Mao’s decisions and initiatives – among those of other leaders – had the effects that they did. Written … Continue reading China Under Mao: An Interview

Gene Jockeys: An Interview

Nicolas Rasmussen’s new book maps the intersection of biotechnology and the business world in the last decades of the twentieth century. Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) takes readers into the fascinating world of entrepreneur-biologists as they developed five of the first products of genetic engineering. Based on a documentary archive that includes oral history interviews and corporate … Continue reading Gene Jockeys: An Interview

Seeing Like a Rover: An Interview

Janet Vertesi’s fascinating new book is an ethnography of the Mars Rover mission that takes readers into the practices involved in working with the two robotic explorers Spirit and Opportunity. Based on two years of immersive ethnography from 2006-2008, Seeing like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars (University of Chicago Press, 2015) focuses on the visuality of the mission, exploring “how scientists and engineers on Earth … Continue reading Seeing Like a Rover: An Interview

China’s War Reporters: An Interview

Parks Coble’s new book is a wonderful study of memory, war, and history that takes the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 and its aftermath as its focus. China’s War Reporters: The Legacy of Resistance against Japan (Harvard University Press, 2015) look closely at writing done by journalists and intellectuals during the war, as well as the “re-remembering” of the war in modern China. Collectively, the chapters of China’s War Reporters argue that the … Continue reading China’s War Reporters: An Interview

The Resurrected Skeleton: An Interview

Wilt Idema’s new book traces a story and its transformations through hundreds of years of Chinese literature. The Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun (Columbia University Press, 2014) collects and translates variations of the tale of Master Zhuang in his encounter with a skeleton who comes back to life and wreaks all sorts of havoc in the lives of those around him. (In some versions, Zhuang … Continue reading The Resurrected Skeleton: An Interview

Yellow River: An Interview

David A. Pietz’s new book argues that China’s water challenges are historically grounded, and that these historical realities are not going to disappear anytime soon. Using a careful history of water and environmental management to inform our understanding of water-related challenges in contemporary China, Yellow River: The Problem of Water in Modern China (Harvard University Press, 2015) asks, how did China reach its current state of water … Continue reading Yellow River: An Interview

Spark from the Deep: An Interview

“In a sense, all life consists of the colonization of an electric world. But to see that, we have to go back to the very beginning.” William J. Turkel’s new book traces the emergence and inhabiting of an electric world through the span of human history and beyond. Embracing a “big history” approach to the archive, Spark from the Deep: How Shocking Experiments with Strongly Electric Fish … Continue reading Spark from the Deep: An Interview

Two Tibetan Studies Readers: An Interview

Two new books have recently been published that will change the way we can study and teach Tibetan studies, and Gray Tuttle and Kurtis Schaeffer were kind enough to talk with me recently about them. The Tibetan History Reader (Columbia University Press, 2013), edited by Tuttle and Schaeffer, is a chronologically-organized set of essays that collectively introduce key topics and themes in Tibetan history from prehistory all the way through the … Continue reading Two Tibetan Studies Readers: An Interview

Bitter Roots: An Interview

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare’s wonderful new book is a thoughtful, provocative, and balanced account of the intersecting histories and practices of drug research in modern Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar. Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) tells the stories of six plants, all sourced in African countries, that competing groups of plant specialists have tried to transform into pharmaceuticals since … Continue reading Bitter Roots: An Interview