ASIA 233: Drugs, Sex, and Sovereignty in East Asia, 1800-1945
The Sinocentric trading area (Qing China; Mongolia; Korea; Japan; Vietnam; Thailand; Tibet; Indonesia) was the focus of global trade for at least a millennium. The most desirable commodities for consumers in Europe and the Middle East all came from this area—silks, spices, and “china”. This stopped dramatically in 1810 when China entered a long period of trade deficits. The single cause of this was British colonial opium, produced in India and sold illegally to the Chinese. Massive opium imports to China brought social chaos and economic dislocation to East Asia, which resulted in impoverished Chinese and Japanese workers being sent to the Americas and throughout the Asia-Pacific. Many poor East Asian women found themselves in brothels in the new European-controlled trading ports such as Shanghai, Singapore, and Yokohama. The dislocation of people led to significant changes in political sovereignty as China lost its emperors in 1911 and Japan gained one in 1868. These changes also brought about new forms of sovereignty like nationalism, which eventually overthrew the Euro-American semi-colonial system. Tragically, in order to do this, Japan took over England’s role as the drug dealer to China and Southeast Asia. This class will use film, literature, and historical texts to document these dizzying changes in East Asia and focus in particular on the changes to sexuality, gender, and race. BN, GL.