Tuesday, July 30, 2013

HIST 6641.10 Modern Southeast Asia

CRN: 53136

Rome 206


5:10PM - 7:00PM

Still have room in your fall 2013 academic schedule? Check  out HIST 6641.10 Modern Southeast Asia taught by Professor Shawn McHale.


This course centers on the modern transformation of Southeast Asia from the mid-18th century to the end of the 1970s, with some attention paid to contemporary issues as well.   This course attempts, in comparative fashion, to explore the dynamics of nationalism, revolution, state formation, and social change in mainland, maritime, and upland Southeast Asia. The course will also touch on a host of other themes: the changing character of the state, the impact of colonial rule, ethnic relations, decolonization and war, the postcolonial world, war and violence, and economic transformations.    

This will be a reading seminar that does not presume a background in Southeast Asian studies.  Readings address developments in the major countries of the region.   

Readings will focus on many of the countries of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. These readings will include work by historians, political scientists, and anthropologists. They include Benedict O'Gorman Anderson, Imagined Communities, Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped, Natalie Mobini-Kesheh, The Hadrami Awakening: Community and Identity in the Netherlands East Indies, 1900-1942, David Chandler, Voices From S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison, Duncan McCargo, Tearing Apart the Land, James Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2009).

Shawn McHale
Associate Professor of History and International Affairs

Shawn McHale is a leading scholar of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Born in Malaysia, he has lived ten years of his life in Southeast Asia.  He has a PhD in Southeast Asian history from Cornell University, and has received numerous awards, including two Fulbright-Hays fellowships. McHale has written broadly on Southeast Asian and Vietnamese culture, history, and contemporary politics.  He has lectured in North America, Europe, and Asia.  His scholarship has appeared in English, Vietnamese, and French.  He is currently working on a book on the First Indochina War (1945-54). Among his recent publications is "Ethnicity, Violence, and Khmer-Vietnamese Relations: the Significance of the Lower Mekong Delta, 1757-1954," Journal of Asian Studies (May 2013). 

There are still seats available!

Register Now!

Job Opportunity at the Embassy of Japan: Political Researcher

The Embassy of Japan is seeking an individual for the position of Political Researcher. The Embassy offers group health insurance coverage, paid vacation, and sick leave. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Candidate must be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. Green Card holder.

Work Hours
Monday-Friday 9:00am - 12:30pm, 2:00pm - 5:30pm (Lunch break: 12:30pm – 2:00pm)

Principal Responsibilities

  • Giving a daily briefing to diplomats on key US political developments reported by major newspapers or announced by the US government.
  • Conducting research on US political trends and writing memos on assigned topics relating to US domestic and foreign policy.
  • Assisting diplomats in arranging meetings with government officials, Congressional staffs, and political consultants.
  • Other responsibilities as needed and appropriate.


  • Fluent in English. Proficiency in Japanese, including writing skills, preferred. Ability to take notes and write policy memos as well as draft formal letters and other official documents in professional English.
  • Ability to use computer applications such as Microsoft Windows, Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.
  • Office experience preferred
  • Bachelor’s degree or above in Political Science or equivalent experience required.

How to apply
Please send your resume with a cover letter by August 20, 2013.
By mail:
Political Section
Embassy of Japan
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008

By e-mail: sara.haider@ws.mofa.go.jp

*Inquiries will not be answered by phone or in person. Applications will not be returned. Selected applicants will be contacted for an interview.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kristian McGuire; Pics of Sun Moon Lake and Ali Shan, Taiwan

Kristian McGuire; Trip to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake

Research in China Lesson #3: Rely on Your Network

In China, you often hear about “guanxi,” or one’s personal relationships. Guanxi is the grease that keeps society’s wheels turning in China; for a foreign researcher such as myself, guanxi is absolutely essential for a successful trip.

But why is guanxi so important for research?

In a previous post on Asia on E Street, I had mentioned that I needed something called a “letter of introduction” in order to gain entry into Shanghai's archives. This is a letter that the Director of the Sigur Center, Edward McCord, wrote on my behalf and which verifies that I am student at GWU. The letter, written on official GWU letterhead, also requests that I be allowed to conduct research.

Having this type of letter from one's home institution is typically a requirement for getting into Chinese archives, but often it alone is not enough. Archives also want to see a similar letter from a Chinese institution or university (what is called a “guonei danwei,” or domestic work unit). As I wrote about before, for example, the Zhabei District Archives would not grant me any access without a letter from a Chinese institution, while the Shanghai Municipal Archives only granted me one-week of conditional access pending delivery of this letter.

Because I am not formally affiliated with any Chinese university or research institute during this short trip, I have had to rely on my network of personal relationships in China to obtain this type of letter. I asked a friend from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, who I met more than four years ago, if his danwei could prepare a letter of introduction on my behalf, and he wholeheartedly agreed to do so. 

When I returned to Zhabei District Archives with this letter in hand, the archivists immediately opened up their doors; at the Shanghai Municipal Archives, my conditional access was lifted and I now am able to complete research there indefinitely.

Beyond the practical value of personal relationships in China, having a network here is also important for other reasons. In between days spent in the archives, I have made a point to connect with and meet Chinese scholars who are pursuing similar research as I am. In Shanghai, I met with faculty from East China Normal University, and in Beijing, I met professors from Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Through these meetings I have learned about new sources (or better yet, many scholars often freely share PDFs of documents they’ve obtained from archives in China and elsewhere), have been encouraged to pursue certain tracks of research or research questions, and have had my opinions on Chinese history both validated and challenged. These meetings have also been extremely helpful for planning future research trips to China. My contact at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is encouraging me to come to his institute as a Visiting Scholar during my next research stint in the PRC. These meetings are also an opportunity for a bit of fun--one Peking University professor treated me to dinner, beers, and a musical performance at one of Beijing's North Korean restaurants.

With a network of contacts, colleagues, friends, and mentors in China, I have discovered that a day not spent in the archives is not necessarily a day wasted. Chinese scholars can be remarkably helpful and friendly, even to complete strangers. Networks in China are not just helpful then; they are absolutely essential.

Charles Kraus, Ph.D. Student, Department of History
Sigur Center 2013 Research Fellow
Beijing, China

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Photos from Taiwan

 Hello, everyone,

As I live out my summer days in Taibei, I wish to make the photos of my experience available to as many people as possible. They are currently on a Picasa page administered by the Sigur Center. Yet these photos lack captions and, ultimately, context. The photos I've put on Facebook have stories which are much more fleshed out than those on Picasa. With this in mind, I'd like on this blog to link to these photos on Facebook. Perhaps my photos will reach more people on this site and, with luck, can convince people that Taiwan is simply the best place to study Chinese.

I still have three more weeks left in Taiwan as of today, July 28, 2013; more photos will be coming so check back if you'd like.

Matthew Hubbard
28 July 2013


Friday, July 26, 2013

Research Trip Preparation & Vacation at Jeju Island

With the support of the Sigur Center, I am spending this summer visiting Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo in order to conduct field research on their oil supplier diversification strategies. Interviews, data-gathering, and writing will, of course, be an important part of these visits, but naturally I plan to complement the intellectual pursuits and challenges with cultural excursions and exploration.

My name is Inwook Kim, a 4th-year PhD student in Political Science and I focus on energy security. The current project exposes a puzzling difference in oil import policies among the three major countries in Northeast Asia. In short, the data shows that only China has been moderately successful in diluting its oil-dependence on the gigantic Middle East exporters, while origins of imports remain highly concentrated around the regions for Japan and Korea (see the bar chart below).

Conventional wisdom says that, similar to the logic of building a financial portfolio, the more diversified China has essentially “spread” the risk of energy crisis normally caused by abrupt supply disruption, while Korea and Japan remain significantly more vulnerable to a possible energy crisis.

Oil is an irreplaceable strategic commodity, and an unanticipated shortage of it can have a devastating impact on an industrialized economy and the modern military. Accordingly, oil security has been a primary strategic objective for most oil importers. Historically, supplier diversification has been regarded as a viable and effective means of reducing a state’s vulnerability to an energy crisis. Yet, despite the claimed virtue and shared policy commitments, we still see a divergence in Northeast Asian states’ ability (and possibly willingness) to diversify their oil suppliers. Does the conventional wisdom about the “risk-spreading” effects of diversification still hold against the globally integrated oil market? Are there any new dimensions about motivation and consequence of diversification policies that have not been captured in the existing literature? Overall, how do we account for the puzzling divergence in oil supplier diversification?

Although these questions hold both theoretical implications and practical relevance, little has been written on the topic. While preparing for this trip, I collected data and tried to arrange interviews. Beginning on next week, I’d begin a series of interviews with regional energy experts with a trip to Tokyo next week and Beijing in early August. While organizing interviews, I encountered several disappointing declines, but nevertheless, I look forward to discussing my research questions and arguments with those people who closely follow the Japanese and Chinese energy policy.


On another note, I have spent the last month in Korea. I live and love Seoul, but rather than adding yet another post about cosmopolitan, vibrant, historic, tasty Seoul, I want to talk about Jeju Island where I spent a week-long vacation with family last week. Jeju is located at the south of the Korean Peninsula and is known for its natural beauty, including volcanic hills and mountains, lava tube systems, deep forests, and scenic coastlines. The island contains three UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites: Halla Mountain, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and Geomunoreum. Unfortunately, our trip to Jeju this time did not involve visits to these sites, and the photos below are publicly available ones.

Halla Mountain

Seongsan Ilchung Peak

Yet, rather than these well-known must-visits, Jeju has been a frequent vacation destination for our family for its more low-profile attractions, such as untouched local villages and roads, nameless hills and hiking trails, small but quiet unknown beaches, and of course, fresh and savory feasts. They may not be magnificent and overwhelming, but the island’s culture, history, and geology is so distinct that the unknown local gems still continue to lure us to the island.

A cliff at Wudo Island 

A hiking trail near Seongsan Ilchung Peak

Jeju is working hard to be a better and larger tourist destination, but my impression is that its fame tends to be limited in Northeast Asia. Needless to say, it is a big loss for Jeju and tourists to Korea. For those who want a rest away from glittering Seoul, Jeju can offer such a perfect and unique experience. Welcome to Jeju!

Inwook Kim 
PhD Student, Political Science
Summer Field Research Fellow, Sigur Center 

Olympic Park, Noryangjin, and Sinchon

Hi, everyone! This is my first post here on the Sigur Center Asia on E Street Blog, and it chronicles a few of the things of done here in Seoul thus far: touring the Olympic Park, eating raw fish at the Noryangjin Market, and dancing at a Mexican bar called Somos in the Seoul district Sinchon. You will notice the appearance of Selina Lara, my fellow Korean Language Fellow, in my adventures.
Hope you all enjoy!
I'll be posting the first detailed blog account of my life in Seoul soon.
Thanks for watching and reading!

Andrew Frenkel, B.A. Asian Studies 2015, Japanese and Korean Language and Literature Minor
Sigur Center 2013 Korean Language Fellow,
Korea University, South Korea

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Taiwan's night markets - a treat for the senses!

Learning a new language is hard work, as I found out soon after arriving in Taipei; it is one that requires determination, focused hard work, endless hours of studying, undaunted perseverance, attention to detail, and many other sacrifices. Thankfully though, all the hard work also justifies walking that extra mile for nourishment. If you are in Taiwan, the extra mile is made absolutely unnecessary by night markets that seem to exist in almost every corner - ready to feed the hungry till late into the night, or even early morning. But before I go on, let me back up a bit.

Night markets are common through out East and Southeast Asia. It's a market that opens late in the evening, stays open till very late, at times even till the early hours of morning. In Taiwan, these markets are found through out the island and form a major draw for tourists. Taipei alone boasts of at least two dozen of them. Each of these is known for something or the other - some, for inexpensive and fashionable clothes, some others for electronic goods. But what is impossible to miss in these markets - is the food.

Food, unquestionably, is at the center of every night market experience, and close to the heart of every night market visitor. What is on your plate is limited only by your imagination, and your knowledge of the Chinese language. This stall, for example, had me believe that I was about to devour frogs' eggs.
It was only after I had taken the first sip (I admit, with a lot of trepidation) was I told that the 'frogs' eggs' were actually made of tapioca. But that must not deter the adventurous. There is still stinky tofu to sample and chicken feet to eat!

For someone looking at safety in the known, spring onion wrapped in bacon - or grilled sausages with vegetables that you choose to get fried and pan-fried.

But the night market experience is not just about taste - it is a feast for the eyes, ears and nose, as you push through the sea of people, from students tourists for a taste of the unique experience. In the video below, I tried to capture some of the flavors at ShiLin night market, one of Taipei's largest.

What did I have for dinner, you ask? Excellent question. I chose to end my night with this!

Deep Pal, M.A. in International Affairs, 2014
Sigur Center 2013 Summer Language Fellow
National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan.

Comparing Present Experience in Taiwan to Past Experiences in China

Before I came to Taiwan, I had a lot of expectations for the country that I think were heavily influenced by my experiences in China.  After spending several weeks here, I have to say there are some stark differences between Taiwan and China.

For one, public transportation in Taiwan is incredibly efficient.  I was impressed with China's public transportation, but after getting stuck on a standing-room-only slow train from Suzhou to Shanghai for two hours--a trip that should normally take about 30 minutes-- I realized that there was plenty of room for improvement.  On the other hand, I really can't imagine how Taiwan could improve on its public transportation.  A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Kaohsiung  and Kenting in southern Taiwan.  I arrived at Taipei Main Station at 3:00 pm, decided to wait in the ticket line (although, I could have purchased a ticket from a ticket vending machine straight away), waited in line for about five minutes, and then purchased a ticket for the 3:30 train.  I arrived in Kaohsiung, which is roughly 200 kilometers south of Taipei, two hours later.  The return trip was even easier since I used the ticket vending machine and bought an "anytime ticket" that allowed me to hang around the train station until I felt like boarding a train.

Language is another area where I have noticed major differences between Taiwan and China.  Of course, I knew beforehand that Taiwanese use traditional Chinese characters instead of the simplified characters used in China.  However, I didn't know that many words commonly used in China are rarely if ever used in Taiwan.  For instance, Mandarin Chinese is called "Putonghua" in China, but the Taiwanese use the older word "Guoyu."  Likewise, in China the word for subway is "ditie," but in Taiwan it's "jieyun."  For a while, I thought "lese" the Taiwanese word for garbage was completely different from the Chinese word "laji," until I found out that the characters for the two words are the same it's just a difference of pronunciation.  Apparently, Taiwanese understand most of the alternative Chinese Mandarin words, but every once in a while, I come across a word or phrase that that locals do not understand.  Case in point, I once used the word "yao" which is an alternative way to say "one" in Chinese Mandarin, and my Taiwanese Chinese instructor didn't have a clue why I had mispronounced such an easy word like "yi."

Perhaps the biggest difference I have noticed between Taiwan and China is that Taiwan, as a whole, seems very cosmopolitan.  In China, aside from major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen, I got the impression that the vast majority of Chinese had little if any significant connection to the outside world.  In contrast, many Taiwanese including those in far-flung places like the small east coast city of Yilan and Kenting on the southern tip of the island, seem to have strong personal ties to other countries.  Some have studied in Australia, others have worked in Japan, many have family members living abroad.  The simple fact that so many service workers are at least conversant in English (and more than few in Japanese) adds to this sense of cosmopolitanism.

I'm sure that I will continue to make comparisons between China and Taiwan for a long time to come.  I guess that's natural considering the years I spent in China where the relationship between China and Taiwan was a popular topic of discussion

I plan to travel to Alishan this weekend.  I am a big tea drinker and Alishan oolong tea has long been a favorite of mine, so I'm really looking forward to this trip.  I'll post some pics when I get back.

Kristian McGuire, M.A. International Affairs 2014,
Sigur Center 2013 Chinese Language Fellow,
National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan.

Turtle Island

Within a week of arriving in Taipei, I had plenty of old host families willing to take care of me. I also had the opportunity to live with a new family. They were kind enough to take me to Yilan, which is a smaller city that is about an hour drive from Taipei. So one morning I climbed into their car, and headed to Yilan to whale watch. Unfortunately there were no whales but we did see plenty of dolphins and the weather was beautiful. After our boat chased around dolphins for twenty minutes we sailed around Turtle Island. It was truly beautiful.

Turtle Island

My host sister and I about to board the ship

Turtle Island

Turtle Island

Turtle Island

Dolphins of the cost of Yilan

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Job Opportunity: Operations Manager, Sigur Center for Asian Studies

Job Description Summary:          

To work closely with the Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies in all activities, including financial and grant management, office and HR management, preparing annual reports, and maintaining strong connections with pertinent faculty, students, and units.

Minimum Qualifications:              
Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate area of specialization plus 4 years of relevant experience. Degree requirements may be substituted for a combination of education, training and experience.

Desired Qualifications:  

  •  BA preferably in Business, Accounting, Asian Studies, or International Affairs.
  •  Two years in project, program, or financial management.
  •  Experience and familiarity with accounting systems and other financial management tools.
  • Grant management experience.
  • Strong Microsoft Office, particularly Microsoft Excel, skills.
  •  Professional experience in a university setting.
  • Superior communication and customer service skills.
  • Experience living or working in Asia and/or knowledge of a modern Asian language.

Job Duties:

  • Coordinates the overall management of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies including finance and personnel oversight. This includes hiring and supervising support staff.
  • Responsible for financial management of the Center to include processing reimbursements, grants, contracts, invoices and assisting the Director with formulation and oversight of budget.
  •  Oversees all aspects of Center grants and sponsored research life cycle. This includes proposal submission, award management, budget tracking, and close-out.
  • Functional and administrative supervision is exercised over 2-4 full-time staff members and approximately 5 part-time student employees. Specifically, the Operations Manager supervises the Center’s full-time Program Coordinator and Program Assistant as well as the Rising Powers Initiative’s Research Manager. Part-time staff supervised includes 3 Staff Assistants, 1 Finance Assistant, and 1 Communications and Events Assistant.
  •  Reviews projects to ensure compliance with federal regulations, Department/School/University guidelines, and sponsor requirements.
  •  Special projects as assigned by the Director.        
  • Performs other work related duties as assigned.

For more information please see: https://www.gwu.jobs/postings/16731

Din Tai Fung

Last week I went to a world renowned restaurant called Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐). The restaurant was founded in Taiwan and has since opened shops around the world including one in Seattle and Los Angeles. They're world famous Xiao long bao or 小龍包. These Xiaolongbao are a type of dumpling that are usually associated with Shanghai. These dumplings are often filled with pork but the shrimp and winter-melon are particularly tasty in the summer. What makes the Xiaolongbao different from other dumplings is that there is soup in the filling. This makes them particularly tasty. The Xiaolongbao are served in the bamboo steamer that they were cooked in. The preferred eating method is to take the Xiaolongbao and place it in a spoon. While on the spoon the Xiaolongbao is opened to let the soup out. The next step is to add finely cut slices of ginger soaked in soy sauce and vineager to the spoon. They taste unbelievable, possibly one of my favorite dishes.  Ask any-one about the quality of Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung and there is a good chance they'll tell you they have the best. I went with my good friend Alex, who loves cooking so much he had to make his own dish at our table. I've visited Din Tai Fung before but this was my first trip to the original. It was all delicious and I'd recommend going if you ever have the chance.

Here is a link to they're website for those who are interested.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Learning English in Marathi

When learning a new language, students are often encouraged to use that language as much as possible. As a beginner to Marathi, the language I’m studying this summer in India, daily I proceed through a slow slog to find the words I want to say in Marathi when the English words are on the tip of my tongue. So, knowing that I should try to speak the new language as much as I can, I’m finding it both a blessing and a curse that English is used so much in Marathi. One example is that the word for “table” in Marathi is “table.” Table is just one of hundreds of English words that have found their way into the daily speech of Marathi speakers.

On the one hand, because there are so many English words is Marathi it makes communication easy. Since I am learning Marathi I am told to use as much Marathi as possible. The Marathi words that I use most are usually conjunctions or connecting words like “and” and “but.” Then, if I do not know a word in Marathi, I can use the English word and most likely the other person will still understand what I am trying to say. The result is that my speech is a mixture of intentionally chosen English and Marathi words that I use to show that I can in fact speak and understand a little Marathi.

On the other hand, speaking so much English in a language is a hindrance because I have become very used to replacing words I may not be certain of in Marathi with their equivalent English words and I may never be corrected as to which of the words are more commonly used- the English word or another word in Marathi. One example of the confusion of how and when to use English in Marathi is my struggle with the word “interesting.” I am one of many Americans who pepper my speech with the word “interesting”: “That’s so interesting!” “I find it interesting that…” I realized that these are phrases I use a lot. I have asked a number of Marathi speakers how to say “interesting” in Marathi and I was told to just use “interesting” in English. I have gleaned that there are words in Marathi that mean something similar to how I use the English word “interesting” in various ways but in these instances Marathi speakers also seem to use the English word.

Another challenge to learning how to use English correctly in Marathi is learning Marathi syntax. Marathi speakers may easily use English words in their speech but their syntax, or word order, is distinctly Marathi while using those words. In what I have been learning, at least in simple sentences, the verb should come at the end of the sentence. Linguistically, Marathi is mostly a subject-object-verb (SOV) language. Simple English sentences place the object at the end of the sentence, so English is a subject-verb-object (SVO) language. So while using English in Marathi, speakers stick to the SOV format and the result is a Marathi sentence with Marathi construction with some English words. This is interesting because it means using words familiar to me in unfamiliar ways for communication in a different language.

Lastly, as I’m becoming more and more familiar with reading Devanagari script I’m finding many English words written in Devanagari. A great deal of what is written on signs was really intimidating to me at first because many words were in Devanagari. However, now that I can slowly read when I begin to sound out a word there is a high probability that the word will actually be an English word. The example below is something commonly seen here- Devanagari script (of English words) with the Roman alphabet translation.

In this picture the blue “State Bank” in the Roman alphabet is exactly the same as the last two words written in blue in Devanagari. And the first word in blue is the word India, but not in English. This mix of multiple languages and multiple scripts makes learning Marathi and Devanagari script an exceptionally challenging but enlightening, and interesting, experience!

Photo credit: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/sbi-may-sell-assets-to-aid-recovery/1125820. June 6, 2013

Jessica Chandras, PhD student, Anthropology
Sigur Center 2013 Summer Language Fellow
AIIS Pune, Marathi Summer Language Program, India

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Research in China Lesson #2: Expect the Unexpected

I have been in Shanghai for one-week now on a research grant from the Sigur Center, and in this time I have visited four local archives in the city. My experiences at all four archives have been totally different, and none have met any of my expectations. These varying experiences have led to me to lesson number two about doing research in Shanghai: expect the unexpected. In the videos below I recap what happened at each archive and my progress on my research project so far:

On my first day I visited the Huangpu District Archive, which is located about 15 minutes walking from my hotel (it is blisteringly hot here, so certainly not a pleasant walk!). The staff was initially a bit confused about what to do with a foreigner, so they called in the boss (their “lingdao”). When I explained my research topic to the boss (I tried to make my topic as uncontroversial as possible…Chinese economic development), he was reluctant to let me access anything. He was friendly but insisted I visit the local Foreign Affairs Office and obtain approval to conduct research. When I asked where the office was located, he retreated back into his office and came back ten minutes later. Suddenly he said I could look at whatever files I wanted. I gave him a list of archival numbers and he printed some of the documents off (everything is digitized). He flipped through the pages very quickly to approve them, and then handed them over. A few of the other documents were larger so he asked that I come back in a couple of days to pick them up. I have no idea what changed when he went into his office, but I didn’t complain…

After that I went to the Jing’an District Archives, a short cab-ride away. Surprisingly, the staff, all very young and some English-speaking, had no reservations about having me do research whatsoever. They didn’t even photocopy my letter of introduction from GWU or even my passport. I gave them the archive numbers I wanted to access and a few minutes later the files had been loaded onto a computer. When I asked about printing the documents, the staff said there was no need to print because I could just download the PDFs onto my personal flash drive.

On my third day in Shanghai I went to the Zhabei District Archives. Here I was, for the most part, completely stonewalled. The Zhabei Archives is located in the same building as the District Government, and the entrance was riddled with police (there was at least one woman protesting something). The guards almost didn’t let me into the building but finally relented and escorted me to the archive. Again the staff was completely confused about what to do with a foreigner, and they were highly suspicious about what I was researching (they asked if I was conducting a “social investigation,” or basically looking into some contemporary social problem). I told them I study Chinese economic development and they eased up a bit. I showed them the archive numbers I wanted to review, and they agreed to let me have them contingent on my obtaining approval from the district foreign affairs office. They showed me the formal law governing access to Shanghai's archives by foreigners, and sure enough there is a provision that states foreigners must obtain a letter of approval from the foreign affairs office. They sent me to the foreign affairs office (thankfully just a few floors up), but the staff there was completely confused as well. After a lot of back and forth and several phone calls, the foreign affairs office decided they could not give approval but the main branch of the Shanghai Municipal Archives could…

So I took a long cab ride to the administrative headquarters of the Shanghai Municipal Archives, only to find out that the foreign affairs office had directed me to the wrong branch of the Municipal Archives. So I doubled back and went to the location on the Bund. The staff was friendly but said they never issued any such letters to the district archives. Then I asked if I could just complete research here, and they gave me a one-week access card. I will be able to get longer-term access as soon as I have a letter of introduction from a local research institution (in the works via my friend at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies), and my understanding is that this same letter will help me to get into the Zhabei District Archives as well as other archives.

The Shanghai Municipal Archives is very nice—most everything has been digitized, everything else is on microfilm. Researchers are given a computer and can access all of the digitized files via search. But printing is difficult and expensive, especially for foreigners. So research here requires time and language skills.

More to follow!

Charles Kraus, Ph.D. Student, Department of History
Sigur Center 2013 Research Fellow
Shanghai, China