Illicit Asia: An Alternative Introduction to Asia (3) A historical introduction to unlawful, illegitmate and forbidden ideas, goods, people and places in modern Asia.
ASIA (HIST) 189 Illicit Asia: An Alternative Introduction to Asia (3)
(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.
This course examines patterns of illicit ideas, goods, peoples and places of modern Asia. Traditional introductions to Asia emphasize a history of the powerful, of the center, of the victors. This course seeks to invert the customary narrative by telling the tale of Asia's early modern and modern past from the perspective of those working against the interest of the elite, popular and mainstream.
At the same time, traditional introductions to Asia often risk perpetuating stereotypes of a mysterious, sinister Orient. In fact, dominant discourses both cross-culturally (such as Orientalism) and within a given society (such as elite nationalism) have tended to criminalize or pathologize all kinds of countercultures, alternate economies, non-normative sexual practices, and so forth. But attitudes to orthodoxy and legality may depend on one’s relationship to the dominant system, and the dominant narrative. This class seeks to reveal those phenomena in a different light, according to their own contextual logic. Often omitted or ignored, understanding why illegal activity occurs, how it occurs and who the relevant actors are can offer an extremely potent introduction to the roles traditional boundaries of political, cultural and societal activity played in the shaping of Modern Asia.
Specific content and regional focus will vary according to individual instructor, but the course will be divided into four general sections that focus on forbidden ideas, goods, places and peoples. Topics may unpack heterodox beliefs like secret societies or anarchist movements; trace the production and distribution of illegal goods like opium or counterfeit items; map out notorious places like the Golden Triangle or the internal workings of human traffickers; or examine the practices and scope of criminal elements like pirates or brigands. The objectives of the course are not only to learn about the illicit activities across modern Asia, but are also organized to encourage us to rethink the way we understand standard interpretations of the past and the factors that go into those perceptions. Students will also consider the changing justifications for and definitions of what is legal, normal and orthodox.
Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.