Loyalties across Boundaries: Comparing and Connecting Loyalties in Early Modern Asia

AHA Session 34
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Boulevard C (Hilton Chicago, Second Floor)
Jaymin Kim, University of St. Thomas
Pär K. Cassel, University of Michigan

Session Abstract

What is loyalty? Even in the modern world of nation-states, where the object of loyalty is most often taken as the state, there are many non-state actors within and beyond the national boundaries that compete with the state. This multiplicity of loyalties was even more pronounced in early modern Asia, which recent scholarship has shown to be much more pluralistic and multicultural than previously imagined.

This panel compares and connects loyalties in early modern Asia to further deconstruct the national boundaries in the historiography of the region and to put the region in a more global perspective. By using the comparative method, the panel highlights commonalities and differences within the region that are less obvious when historical analyses are framed within national boundaries. Jiani He’s paper focuses on the Qing and Ottoman translation regimes to compare the ways the two empires exercised universal power across linguistic boundaries. In doing so, it also provides an explanation for the divergent historical trajectories upon the break-up of the two empires in the early twentieth century.

The panel also employs the connective method, reconstructing loyalties across state boundaries that are often left invisible within national units of historical analysis. Kathlene Baldanza’s paper looks at an 1856 Vietnamese gazetteer to analyze how the educated elite of Vietnam participated in a trans-regional culture of knowledge that transcended the political boundaries of Vietnam and China. It shows these Vietnamese scholars to be loyal both to classical Chinese texts and to Vietnam as a center of their community of knowledge. Jaymin Kim’s paper centers on Koreans in the Ming-Qing transition period (1630s-1660s) who remained loyal to Ming, looking at how this phenomenon of loyalty across state boundaries came to be remembered as a universal ideal transcending dynastic loyalty in both China and Korea.

Through this panel, we hope to highlight the multiplicity of loyalties in early modern Asia at the edges of state boundaries as well as the importance of adopting a regional perspective that goes beyond today’s national borders and linguistic boundaries.

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