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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review is a peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal that offers its readers up-to-date research findings, emerging trends, and cutting-edge perspectives concerning East Asian history and culture from scholars in both English-speaking and Asian language-speaking academic communities.


Against the Nihilism of Suffering and Death: Richard E. K. Kim and His Works

This article examines the life and works of Richard E. K. Kim (1932–2009), a first-generation Korean diasporic writer in the United States. It focuses on how Kim struggled to overcome the nihilism of suffering and death that derived from colonialism and the Korean War through his literary works. Kim witnessed firsthand these two major historical events, which caused irrevocable psychological and physical damage to many people of his generation. In his autobiographical fiction, he conveys painful memories of the events by reviving the voices of people in that era. What his works offer us goes beyond vivid memories of the past, however; they also present the power of forgiveness as a condition to overcome the nihilism of suffering and death. Remembrance and forgiveness are, therefore, two major thematic pillars of his works that enable us to connect to these difficult and traumatic times. These themes are portrayed in such a gripping way mainly because Kim tried to maintain a certain distance—an emotional and linguistic distance—from the familiar, in order to elucidate the reality of the human condition: an ontological position of the exile from which he produced his works. This article argues that Kim’s works provide us the possibility to transcend the nihilism of historical trauma through articulating the meaning of remembrance and forgiveness from his self-assumed position of exile. Keywords: Richard E. K. Kim, diasporic writer, Lost Names, The Martyred, Searching for Lost Times, Japanese colonialism, Korean War, remembrance, forgiveness

Street Theater and Subject Formation in Wartime China: Toward a New Form of Public Art

Based on archival research, this article presents a succinct history of the street theater movement in China through the 1930s. It examines how complex discourses and competing visions, as well as historical events and practices—in particular the War of Resistance against Japan—both shaped and propelled the movement. The author focuses on theoretical and practical issues that promoters and practitioners of street theater dealt with and reflected on in three succeeding stages. Observing that the street theater movement hastened the formation of a modern national imagination, the author argues that the movement presented a paradigmatic development as it foregrounded the imperative to engage rural China as well as the need for participants to acquire new subject positions.  Keywords: street theater, public culture, subjectivity, avant-garde, spoken drama, Xiong Foxi, Tian Han, Sino-Japanese War, modern China

A Russian Radical and East Asia in the Early Twentieth Century: Sudzilovsky, China, and Japan

This article deals with the noted Russian Narodnik revolutionary Nikolai Sudzilovsky-Russel (1850–1930), his views on China and Japan, and the background of those views in the Russian intellectual tradition. Russian revolutionaries tended to share many of the Eurocentric biases of their Westernizer (Zapadniki) mentors and often viewed Asia—East Asia included—as retrograde, Japan being seen as an exception. Russian Narodniks’ positive view of Japan was not unrelated to their belief in the unilineal hierarchy of progress and civilization, in which Japan was seen as topping Russia. Sudzilovsky-Russel’s views originally developed as a continuation of this paradigm. However, his observations of the contemporaneous Chinese revolutionary movement and personal exchanges with Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) showed him the revolutionary potential of China. In the end, he accepted the idea that a political revolution in China would provide an important impulse to the cause of social revolutions in the West. Concurrently, in the dialogue between Russian and Chinese revolutionaries, something akin to a general strategy for radical change on the world’s agricultural periphery was taking shape, anticipating a number of later ideological and political developments in both China and Russia. Sudzilovsky-Russel viewed the tasks facing Russian and Chinese revolutionaries as essentially similar: while catching up with the supposedly advanced societies of the West, both were to bypass the “plutocratic” capitalist stage on their way to an emancipatory, alternative modern future.  Keywords: Narodnik, Nikolai Sudzilovsky-Russel, Sun Yat-sen, socialism, revolution, catch-up modernization, China, Japan, Russia

Readings from Asia

Exploring Colonial Modernity through the Dynamics of Multilayered Time and Space

Itagaki Ryūta 板垣竜太. Hanguk kŭndae ŭi yŏksa minjokji: Kyŏngbuk sangju ŭi singminji kyŏnghŏm 한국 근대의 역사민족지: 경북 상주의 식민지 경험 [A historical ethnography of Korean modernity: Colonial experience in Sangju, Kyŏngbuk Province]. Translated by Hong Jong-Wook and Yi Taehwa. Seoul: Hyean, 2015. ISBN: 9788984945234.