Trade, Diplomacy, and Transformation in China in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Exploring how China’s economic and diplomatic ties to the outside world shaped its modern history. Introduction For centuries, China’s encounters with the foreign lands and peoples involved the commercial exchange of goods. The Chinese attitude towards trade viewed it as desirable, within a structured and regulated framework. Prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic[…]

No-No Boy: Recovering a Lost Novel of Japanese American Resistance

The publishing history of No-No Boy shows how writers shifted the narrative about internment and draft resistance. Who owns an important novel after the author is dead? Copyright law ideally protects publishers, writers, and their heirs, but the law has limits —and loopholes. That issue was recently raised in a copyright dispute between Penguin Classics and the[…]

The Japanese-American Officer Who Helped Take Down and Then Rebuild Japan

Born in Seattle in 1920, Harry Fukuhara was fully bicultural, bilingual, and binational. When I first met Harry Fukuhara, in 1994, he was orchestrating a Tokyo press conference for Japanese Foreign Ministry officials, former Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, and veterans of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The groups were there to commemorate the[…]

An Immigrant Family that Bridged Japanese and American Worlds in Hawaii

How siblings torn between two sides of the Pacific forged identities in the aftermath of war. I still remember them at the dining table after dinner each night in our Honolulu home. Three elegant sisters, styled out of Vogue magazine, their jet black hair in neat chignons and pixie haircuts, each savoring a cigarette and lingering over[…]

Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu

These ancient manuscripts cover every aspect of human endeavor. Introduction Timbuktu, Mali, is the legendary city founded as a commercial center in West Africa nine hundred years ago. Today it is synonymous with the phrase “utterly remote,” but this was not always so. For more than six hundred years, Timbuktu was a significant religious, cultural,[…]

Trade Tales and Tiny Trails: Glass Beads in the Kalahari Desert

Glass beads, more than any other type of artifact, help us make sense of the last 600 years of Kalahari history. The archaeological site of Khubu la Dintša in Botswana is littered with broken-down entranceways of mud and stone melted and slumped inwards on themselves: dirty, stacked lumpy piles defeated and retired from the seasonal[…]

Meerkats Without History: Digging for a Non-Human Past in the Kalahari Desert

Perhaps there’s room now for a type of history that moves smoothly between human and animal subjectivities. The truth is, that man is a creature of greater power than other living creatures are … There be beasts that see better, others that hear better, and others that exceed mankind in all other sense. Man excelleth[…]