Monday, July 31, 2017

Reflections on disciplinary "linguistic landscape" assignment

It has been a couple of weeks since we finished the "disciplinary linguistic landscape" assignment that I asked students in my summer interdisciplinary writing course to do. I'm starting to put "linguistic landscape" in quotation marks because I'm not sure that in the end that would be an accurate description--I'm not sure the assignment did justice to the concept of linguistic landscape studies. That said, I do think the assignment was a useful entry into the course and to each other. I will have to tweak it the next time I teach the course, though.

We started out by reading the Latour & Woolgar chapter that I mentioned earlier. There are some challenging concepts in that chapter, such as "literary inscription" and "inscription devices," along with the authors' use of the terms "mythology" and "culture." We kind of stumbled around with some of those terms, and I'll probably have to take us more carefully through that chapter in the future (if I still use it). We actually didn't read the entire chapter because I wanted to focus more on the texts and uses of texts in the laboratory rather than getting into the way that papers were published and the kinds of statements used in the publications. (We are getting into that to some extent in the second project.)

After that, I teamed them up with people in different majors--I had an engineer working with a philosopher, another engineer and a finance major, an engineer with a graphic design major, an engineer with an accounting major and a communications major, etc. (we had a lot of engineers in this class!). I think I will keep this aspect of the assignment, though this time it meant that the presentations they did were pretty long--some of them going up to half an hour. The benefits were several:
  • students got to know someone from a different major (which will also be useful once they get to the third project, which is an interdisciplinary research assignment); 
  • they got to see--and look carefully at--spaces that they quite possibly hadn't noticed (or even seen) before; and 
  • they got a chance to compare the kinds of institutional resources (including the physical plant) another discipline might possess. 
One of my goals for this assignment was to highlight the idea that in talking about discplinarity and interdisciplinarity, we're not just talking about theories, perspectives, research methods, etc., but that it's also important to consider how disciplines occupy physical and institutional spaces in a university. Some students were rather shocked when they saw the differences between their department's space and that of their partner's department. (One amusing example was when the communications major, who was working with an accountant and a chemical engineering student, noticed that some of the offices in her department still had the signs of the room's previous occupant on the wall--in one case, the previous occupant was a chemical engineer!)

Challenges and Thoughts about Revision
One of the challenges for this assignment was helping students find a focus for their presentations. As I mentioned in the earlier post, my colleagues expressed concern that students would end up just showing slides of similar and different things that they saw in their departments. To some extent this did happen, and in the future I will probably need to ask them to be more "ruthless" with their picture-cutting during the revision process. I asked them to take as many pictures as possible at the beginning, but we do need to work more on cutting, arranging, and theoretically grounding discussions of the pictures we take.

I might also have to revise my sample slide presentation because it focused on only one discipline--rhetoric and composition, as reflected in the Writing Program in the English Department. It would be easier for them to imagine the assignment if I were to do an interdisciplinary comparison myself. I'll have to decide which discipline to use, though.

Another point about my sample slide presentation that led in unforeseen directions is that although I wanted students to focus on the physical buildings in which their disciplines/majors/fields were situated, I started off with a couple of slides pointing out how the page on the English Department website introducing the Writing Program describes the WP as "an intellectual home for the discipline of rhetoric and composition"--I included that to point out that the WP is depicted as a discipline (rather than, say, a "subdiscipline" or "area" of English studies) and to have a jumping-off point for talking about the way in which the discipline of rhetoric and composition is present (and not present) in physical spaces of the English Department. What I didn't expect was that students would also start off with discussions of their departments' or majors' websites. Some of these were more relevant and focused than others, but the websites' inclusion led to me start thinking about whether or not I should somehow incorporate the virtual spaces of the disciplines in the assignment. I'm hesitant to do that, if for no other reason than that it will make presentations even longer, but I'm still thinking about this.

All in all, I think this was a good assignment, though it needs some fine tuning. I think I'll try it again the next time I teach the interdisciplinary writing course.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

George Kerr: Teacher, sailor, poor man, ... spy?*

The claim that George H. Kerr was spying for the U.S. during his first period in Taiwan (1937-1940) has resurfaced, this time in a 2017 publication by respected historian Chen Tsui-lien (陳翠蓮), 《重構二二八:戰後美中體制、中國統治模式與臺灣》 (Reconstructing 228: The Postwar US-China System, China's Ruling Model, and Taiwan**).

Chen cites three sources that claim Kerr collected intelligence for the US during his time as a teacher in Japanese-controlled Taiwan. The first, Huang Jinan (or N̂g Kí-lâm [黃紀男]), wrote that Kerr was sent to Taiwan by the Central Intelligence Agency as a spy (臥低的間諜). Chen neglects to point out the problem with  N̂g's story: there was no CIA before 1947--even its precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) wasn't established until 1942 (the OSS's precursor, the Office of the Coordinator of Information, was established in 1941).

The second source, Wu Hongren's (吳宏仁) 一個家族。三個時代:吳拜和子女們 (which I am still reading after all these months!), says that after WWII, when someone asked Kerr about why US bombers avoided bombing Taipei First High School (台北高校), he admitted that he had been on a mission to collect intelligence about Taiwan during his time teaching there in 1937-40. However, the "someone" (有人) of whom Wu speaks isn't clear (in fact, it could very well be N̂g--Wu doesn't specify that it was a former student).

The third source that Chen uses is an indirect quote from Wang Chengxiang's (王呈祥)'s awful book, 《美國駐台北副領事葛超智與二二八事件》 (U.S. Vice-Consul in Taiwan George H. Kerr and the "228 Incident"). Wang at least points out that Kerr couldn't have been working for the CIA at that time, though somehow misses out on the fact that the OSS also didn't exist yet during Kerr's first time in Taiwan. Wang quotes a University of Hawaii professor, 鄭良偉 (Robert L. Cheng) who wrote (in a comment board post that is no longer available) that Kerr, who was living in an apartment overlooking Pearl Harbor, told Cheng that he often thought about how, with a heart full of righteousness and patriotism that let him overlook any danger, he went to the enemy territory of Taiwan, on the one hand to teach English, and on the other, to engage in secret field work to collect intelligence (滿腹的公義心及愛國心,讓他無視任何危險,前往敵國國境的台灣,一方面教英語,一方面進行秘密的田野工作,收集情報。) One problem with this statement is that in 1937, Taiwan (or even Japan) wasn't "enemy territory" yet, and unless Kerr was being anachronistic or had a bad memory by the time he talked to Cheng, he wouldn't have been motivated by Pearl Harbor in 1937.

The quote from Cheng in Wang goes on to say during the war, Kerr joined the US Defense Department and was sent to Taiwan. At the time he was publicly known as an English teacher, teaching at Taihoku Provincial College (which is now Taiwan Normal University) and many leaders in the Taiwan democratic movement (like Peng Mingmin) were students of his. (Wang notes in a footnote that Peng actually wasn't one of Kerr's students.) Kerr's "secret identity" was that of a  member of US Naval Intelligence. (在世界大戰期間,Kerr以他的專長學識,投入美國國防部。他被派到台灣。當時他在台灣的公開身份是英語教師,任教於高等學校(現在的師範大學前身),許多台灣的民主領袖(如彭明敏)都曾受教於他。他秘密的身份是美國海軍的情報員。) This account is so totally confused that it's hard to imagine it appearing in a serious history book. It appears to be suggesting either that Kerr was in Naval Intelligence before the US entered the war or that he was teaching English in Taiwan during the time that the US was fighting against Japan. Either way, it's not only factually inaccurate--it's patently ridiculous. I seriously doubt that this came from a conversation with Kerr, unless Kerr was having problems with his memory (or Robert Cheng was having trouble remembering the conversation).

Note that I'm not saying that Kerr didn't make use of his knowledge acquired in Taiwan once he did join Naval Intelligence. I'm also not saying that it's impossible that Kerr might have passed some information on to the US government while he was teaching in Taiwan (though I'm guessing that they would have done better to use a "spy" who could actually speak and read Japanese and/or Taiwanese). But there's no real evidence, as far as I know, that Kerr was "sent" by the US government to Taiwan in 1937 to collect information, and the evidence that has been given in Chen's book is not much more than confused hearsay. The rest of her book seems to be well-documented, and I hope it's more believable than this part.

I have another problem with Chen's interpretation of Kerr's motivations for pushing trusteeship and later independence for Taiwan, but I don't have time to get into that. Suffice it to say that in my view, Kerr's motivations were probably more complicated and changing than what Chen thinks. (She seems to believe that he was totally motivated by his loyalty to the US and its interests.)

*I'm using "sailor" loosely here to refer to the fact that Kerr worked in Naval Intelligence during WW2.

**I know, awful translation of the title.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Another book in the former native speaker's library

I started a post last month on the Taiwan Independence Movement, the assassination attempt on Chiang Ching-kuo, and George Kerr's reaction to it, but had to put it aside while we did some family traveling and I had to prepare for my summer class. Now I've started the summer term, so blogging will continue to be light.

I received a book today with a shipment my wife received from Taiwan. (I limited myself to one book--trying to practice self-control):

陳翠蓮,《重構二二八:戰後美中體制、中國統治模式與臺灣》. 衛城出版, 2017.

There are two excerpts posted on the website Thinking-Taiwan (here and here). Also, there's this review of both Chen's book and Hsiao-ting Lin's Accidental State (which I've written about before). The reviewer sees Chen's book as a good complement to Lin's. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Since I'm working on an introduction to a new edition of Formosa Betrayed, I'll probably start with chapter seven of Chen's book, which discusses the US and the 2-28 Incident, there's a section of about 15 pages on George Kerr and his ideas about trusteeship for Taiwan.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Update on the post-publication fate of Formosa Betrayed

About seven years ago I wrote about some of the theories going around regarding what happened to George H. Kerr's Formosa Betrayed after it was published in 1966 (copyright 1965). To summarize, the book was reprinted by Da Capo Press in 1976 in a more expensive "library edition." Some in the Taiwan Independence Movement believe that the book's copyright was somehow acquired by the KMT or some of its members/supporters. Kerr, for his part, was convinced that China scholar John King Fairbank persuaded Houghton Mifflin to sell the copyright to Da Capo Press because Fairbank was pro-China and wanted to marginalize Kerr's pro-Taiwan book.

As I said then, the idea that the KMT bought the copyright doesn't seem reasonable because if they wanted to suppress Formosa Betrayed, it doesn't make sense that they would go to the trouble of putting out a library edition (especially since they're also accused of having their "professional students" in the US steal the book from libraries). Kerr's belief that Fairbank would go to the trouble of convincing Houghton Mifflin to make a deal with Da Capo doesn't make sense for similar reasons.

After going through more of the records in the GHK collection at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, I've come to the conclusion that Houghton Mifflin never "sold" the copyright of Formosa Betrayed to Da Capo (or the KMT or anyone else); they merely gave Da Capo permission to reprint the book in a library edition, probably because H-M had no intention of making new printings themselves (sales had declined by 1976). In fact, the Da Capo edition assigns the copyright to Kerr.

Here's the language of the relevant parts of the contract between H-M and Da Capo*:
AGREEMENT made this 25th day of February 1976 between DA CAPO PRESS, INC., ... hereinafter referred to as The Publisher, and Houghton Mifflin Company, ... hereinafter referred to as the Proprietor, concerning a work entitled:
hereinafter referred to as the Work.
Now, therefore, for and in consideration of their mutual promises and for other valuable consideration, receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the parties hereto agree as follows:
1. Proprietor warrants that it is the sole owner of the Work and of all rights granted to the Publisher under this agreement and that the book does not infringe upon any statutory or other copyright, or any right of others whatsoever; also that the book contains no matter which is contrary to law. ...
2. Proprietor hereby grants to the Publisher the sole and exclusive right for the term hereinafter stated [five years, stated in point 3] to publish and sell a hardcover edition of the Work in the English language throughout the United States, its dependencies and possessions, and Canada, and non-exclusively in the Open Market exclusive of the British Commonwealth as presently constituted including the Republics of South Africa and Eire.
9. The Publisher agrees to print on the copyright page of each book the copyright notices as contained in the Proprietor's edition and any new copyright information alsong with the phrase, "reprinted by special arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Company."
10. All rights not specifically mentioned herein remain the property of the Proprietor.  
I'm not a copyright lawyer, but it looks to me as though Houghton Mifflin is keeping the copyright, not selling it to Da Capo.

I'm not sure, though, why the copyright on the Da Capo edition (see the link above) is in Kerr's name. I don't seem to have a copy of Kerr's contract with Houghton Mifflin, so I can't check it to see what they agreed to concerning the copyright ownership. However, the 1965 Catalog of Copyright Entries lists the copyright as belonging to Kerr:

I didn't find any copyright entry for Kerr's Formosa Betrayed after 1965. Nevertheless, after finding out about the deal that Houghton Mifflin had made with Da Capo, Kerr wrote to H-M on 10 May 1982, asking to have "all rights and interests" to Formosa Betrayed reverted to him, as allowed by his contract with the publisher.* Kerr wrote that he had not been notified of the agreement that H-M had made with Da Capo "until months after it had been concluded." After hearing from Da Capo in 1976 and receiving a copy of their edition in 1977, Kerr "heard nothing further on the status of the book" from Da Capo, but after he wrote to them in 1981, he received a check for $29.25 in royalties from H-M based on the sale of 13 copies of the book. As Kerr wrote, "Total sales of thirteen copies over a period of seven years can hardly be considered satisfactory to anyone concerned." Kerr then received another royalty statement in September, 1982 that indicated that seven more Da Capo Press editions had been sold in the previous six months.

As I wrote above, I'm no expert in copyright law, but I wonder if Kerr needed to do all this. Is it possible that he lost possible royalties (no matter how small) by having the rights reverted to him?

*Source of the contract and Kerr's letter to H-M: George H. Kerr papers, Okinawa Prefectural Archives.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Drafting a disciplinary linguistic landscape assignment (Was, Work on a new assignment for my summer interdisciplinary writing class

As I might have mentioned, I'm teaching a summer course in interdisciplinary writing, beginning in June. I've taught this course before, with what I'd consider to be mixed success. The course was inaugurated in the fall of 2014, and as I mentioned back then, in my experience it's ideally (though not necessarily in practice) populated by students from a variety of academic disciplines. At this point, though, it looks like I'm going to have a lot of engineering students in my section, which will make the "interdisciplinary" part of this a bit challenging. One thing that I've found, though, is that there are some interesting differences among the fields (sub-fields?) of industrial engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, etc. (I see that I've mentioned this before.) So I might try to take advantage of those differences to have students look into the interdisciplinarity of engineering.

In the past, I've had students start out by reading up on discourse communities and thinking about the implications of seeing their own disciplines as discourse communities, perhaps stretching the common definitions. For this class, though, I'm going to try to start off with a specific focus on the writing that goes on in their disciplines, in particular by asking students to look at their departments as physical, institutional, and textual spaces. I'm going to ask them to work in pairs (I want to put them in groups comprising students from different disciplines, which will be a challenge) and preparing a PPT presentation in which they'll describe, compare, and analyze the spaces occupied by their departments. Depending on how their departments are physically situated in the school, part of this would involve observing (and photographing) the buildings/hallways in which their departments are located. The other areas might be classrooms, laboratories, lounges, etc., that "belong" to their departments. I want them to pay special attention to the kinds of written texts that are displayed around those spaces and what those texts might tell them about how the department is trying to represent itself to insiders and outsiders. By texts, I'm thinking about not only displays of scholarly work (books, papers, poster presentations), but also signs, postings on bulletin boards, postings on faculty members' office doors, etc. I'm asking students to think about what these texts (including images) might say about what their discipline is "about"--what kinds of activities are valued in the department and how these activities help distinguish the department from or connect it to other departments or parts of the university.

I showed a draft of the assignment to Neal Lerner and Laurie Edwards, the director of the Writing Program and the director of the Advanced Writing in the Disciplines (AWD) program at my school. They kindly provided advice on revising the assignment; in particular, they warned that I should make sure that the students' products don't end up simply listing features and similarities and differences, but that these observed features also need to be analyzed in a theoretical context. So I'm working on revising the assignment to put more emphasis on analysis, and I'm trying to bring in some theoretical perspectives that will be accessible to the students without overwhelming them in the first week of the course.

In writing up this assignment, I've been drawing on several different (and probably incompatible!) sources: the field of linguistic landscape studies, John Swales' concept of "textography" (here's a re-review of Swales' book) and Latour & Woolgar's discussion of the anthropology of the laboratory life, as presented in "An Anthropologist Visits the Laboratory." Most of this material is relatively new to me (thanks to Neal Lerner for introducing me to Latour & Woolgar), but I'm doing my best to cobble it together in a way that will be accessible to students (particularly second-language learners).

I've found the slide presentation below from Dave Malinowski to be useful to me in framing the assignment from a linguistic landscape perspective. In particular, slides 18-20, 22, and 25-33 have been helpful.

One interdisciplinary aspect of this assignment is, of course, that I am asking students to view their own disciplines (or departments--and I know I'm "problematically" equating the two) from the perspective of another discipline (or disciplines! I'm not even sure!). That is, I'm asking them to look at their disciplines from a linguistic perspective, with the values of a linguist (or social scientist, more generally). I'll probably include a question about that in the reflection assignment that goes along with the general assignment.

I'll add more to this post (or add another post) later as I refine the assignment...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

George H. Kerr, Ryukyu: Kingdom and Province Before 1945 on

In their introduction to Islands of Protest: Japanese Literature from Okinawa, editors Davinder L. Bhowmik and Steve Rabson argue that in the 1950s and 60s, Okinawans' preference for Japanese control over U.S. occupation "grew extremely popular, with greater than 70 percent of the Okinawan electorate supporting reunification with Japan at a time when, in one of history's repetitions, U.S. occupation forces encouraged the flourishing of Ryukyuan culture in an effort to distance Okinawans from their mainland cousins" (4).

George H. Kerr took some role in this U.S. effort. Kerr had conducted research with SIRI (The Scientific Investigations of the Ryukyu Islands), a joint academic-military effort. Kerr expressed concern about the Okinawan desire to "revert" to Japanese control. Hidekazu Sensui quotes from a 1952 SIRI progress report in which Kerr worries that this movement "constitutes a threat to our position in political warfare" (qtd in 40). As part of the U.S. occupiers' efforts to distance Okinawans from the Japanese, Kerr was asked to write a history of the Ryukyus that would be translated into Japanese.

The English book was written, as Kerr notes in a foreword, "at the request of Brigadier General James M. Lewis, Civil Administrator for the Ryukyu Islands, who desired a text suitable for translation into the Japanese language for use at the University of the Ryukyus" (ii). Kerr's 1953 book, Ryukyu: Kingdom and Province Before 1945 (available on became the basis for Ryukyu no Rekishi.

In his short biographical essay about George H. Kerr (pdf), Tony Jenkins notes that
Okinawans of a certain generation variously celebrate or scorn George Kerr's Ryukyu no Rekishi (1956), which they were required or encouraged to read in their college days. It was, and still is, seen either as welcome international recognition of Okinawa's place in history, or as American propaganda, occasionally erroneous, that sought to divorce the 1950s Okinawan collective mentality from Japan. (3)
It would perhaps be understandable if the history of the Ryukyus that Kerr was writing was meant only for American civil administration. The fact that the U.S. Civil Administrator saw a need to have an American write a history of Ryukyu to be translated into Japanese was cause for suspicion among Okinawan academics, as Jenkins notes.

But Jenkins also argues that Kerr was at least somewhat aware of the complicated nature of Okinawan-Japanese relations--Kerr saw the Okinawans as needing to emphasize a more equal status with the Japanese mainland so that when Japan retook control of the islands, they wouldn't be treated as second-class citizens. This theme is also evident in the foreword to Ryukyu, where Kerr argues that "the people of Ryukyu are much more eager to be recognized and accepted as 'Japanese', than the people of Japan are ready or eager to claim them without reservation." He concludes,
Okinawa and its people have sometimes been likened to Texas and the Texans. They are proud of their tradition of former independence, and cherish special cultural characteristics which set them apart and give them self-respect. But like the Texans whose pride and patriotism as citizens of the United States should not be challenged, the people of Ryukyu consider themselves patriotic and true citizens of the larger unit, Japan. The attitude of the sophisticated Japanese of Tokyo toward the farmers and fishermen of Okinawa Province finds its parallel in the attitude of the native New Yorker toward the drawling, ranch-born cowhand on the most distant border ranges. With great reluctance the Okinawan will admit that the record shows Japan's discrimination in economics, politics, and social advantage. Nevertheless, the ties of race, common language, education, political and administrative institutions, and economy were and may be assumed to be permanent. (ii)
It would be interesting to know if any of these thoughts made it into the Japanese translation, though. Here's an interesting case where any changes between the English and Japanese versions would be a result of the U.S. civil administration's censors rather than "cultural" differences or censorship by the Japanese themselves.

[Update: Prof. Sensui noted on Facebook that the Japanese translation of the book included the foreword, which was "often quoted by Okinawan writers and politicians (Prof. Ota's was one of the earliest cases), though they usually skipped the part in which GHK drew comparison with Texans."]

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In which my translingual aphasia leads me to explore the origins of the term 五金行

Earlier this evening (or yesterday evening, depending on when I finish this), I was talking with someone who mentioned a store on the corner of a main street in a nearby town. I thought I knew which store it was, but instead of saying the word "hardware," I said, "Is it a five..." before I stopped myself. I wasn't thinking "five and dime"--actually I was trying to say "五金行" in English. (A more-or-less literal translation of "五金行" would be "five metals store.")

About an hour ago, I started to reflect on this and got to wondering what was wrong with me the origins of the term 五金行 were. First I checked the Chinese Wikipedia, but that didn't tell me much, though it did cite an article that's no longer available but evidently discussed a Ye Chengzhong (葉澄衷), who was known as the "hardware king" in late Qing Shanghai.This discovery led me to an English Wikipedia entry about Ye Chengzhong (!). This article links to a 2011 Xinhua News story about Ye, which tells about how he became the hardware king:
According to the book "The Century-Old Famous Factories and Stores in Shanghai" (1987), an American business man once hired Ye's boat for a ride in 1862. But he left behind a briefcase full of cash and valuables.

Ye waited for a long time for the owner to return the briefcase. When he did, he was greatly touched by Ye's honest. The American businessman helped him open the city's first hardware shop on Daming Road in Hongkou District, selling much-needed tools and suppliers to sailors and military personnel at premium prices.

As the hardware business boomed, Ye expanded into many areas, including finance, commerce, industry, shipping and education, and made important contributions before he died in 1899.
But this story, inspiring as it might be, didn't bring me any closer to finding out the origins of the term 五金行. And interestingly, according to Sherman Cochran's book Encountering Chinese Networks: Western, Japanese, and Chinese Corporations in China, 1880-1937 (University of California P, 2000), Ye's hardware store was called "Shunji Imports" (順記洋貨號)--no five metals mentioned there.

I went on to find an entry in the Chinese Yahoo! Knowledge where someone had asked why "five metal stores" were called that ("為什麼賣五金的地方要叫五金行"). According to a somewhat lengthy response to the question, the five metals are gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin (金、銀、銅、鐵、錫). The respondent goes on to say that metals that were most resistant to oxidation were the earliest to be discovered by humans and used for weapons and tools. The writer goes on to suggest a relationship between the five metals and the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth (金、木、水、火、土). Those of you interested in reading more about the five elements (or five phases), can check out Wikipedia for an introduction to Wu Xing (though I make no guarantees about its accuracy or readability).

This was all getting a little too abstract for me, though (especially since it's after 1 a.m.!), but I'm at least temporarily satisfied that even if I don't have a date for the earliest usage of 五金行, at least I have a little information on the term, which seems to be using some ancient terminology for modern purposes. An article in a 1922 issue of The Scientific Monthly also notes this interesting, ummm... element:

And that's where we'll end for now. I've exhausted most my options, including my old copy of Endymion Wilkinson. But I'm open to suggestions!