HISTORY AND ETHNOGRAPHY OF EAST ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS
Spring 2004 MW 10:35-11:50
First offered as an ExEAS course at Columbia University Spring 2004
An examination of the transmission, cultural roots, and modern re-invention of martial arts in East Asia, and their practice in New York City. Exploration of the adaptation of East Asian practices in an American context through historical research and ethnographic fieldwork on a local martial arts school. Analysis of methodological problems arising from the application of historical perspectives to contemporary practices, from ethnographic research, and from the combination of these approaches. Consideration of how cultural and embodied knowledge is transmitted from person to person and through time.
Limit: 15 students
Historical and ethnographic research on a local school or club that teaches an East Asian martial art. This may be a Columbia club. Where sources permit, the scope of historical research should include the founding of the school and the history of the martial arts lineage(s) in which the main instructor trained. Ethnographic research may include interviews with students and instructors, observation of classes and events such as tournaments, and interviews with students and instructors. Participation in classes is optional. While some types of investigation will be required of all students for discussion in class and in weekly journal, others will depend on the individual student’s project. It is not necessary to conduct field research every week. Students should narrow the scope of field research over the course of the semester as they develop their final papers.
Class Participation: 20%
Includes occasional short presentations and class discussion. Come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings, study questions, and field research findings where relevant. If you cannot make it to class, let me know as soon as possible, preferably in advance. Be considerate of classmates. If you disagree with them, attempt to express your reactions constructively. Grade will be based on quality of contributions rather than quantity.
Weekly Journal: 40%
Based on field research at local martial arts school (see Class Project). Should incorporate analysis of readings in relation to specific ethnographic situation. Average 3-5 pages/week, beginning with project proposal (due Febr. 9). Journals are to be turned in at the beginning of Monday morning’s class. You may skip the journal assignment up to two times.
Final paper (25-30 pages): 40%
History and ethnography of chosen martial arts school. Papers will be presented and discussed formally at a final course conference. While the weekly journal should cover a broad range of questions and topics, final papers should narrow in scope to develop a thesis.
Readings Available on Reserve and for Purchase
Research Resources Available on Reserve
Recommended for Research Reference
Key to Readings
ERESERVE , EBOOK, JSTOR, EJOURNAL: Access via Clio
Unit I. Orientations
Assignment: Choose a martial arts school. Begin preparing a tentative one- to two-page description of the school, instructor, and research plan (participation, observation, interviews). [due Febr. 9] Students should sign up to meet me at IAB 917 sometime during the next two weeks to discuss their projects.
Week 2: Designing the Ethnographic Project
Consider these readings in relation to your research project design. Would you feel comfortable with “covert” ethnographic research? If not, who are the “gatekeepers” that you might approach about conducting research? How might you go about approaching them? What “Plan Bs” might you use if your request is refused, or if at some later point people become reluctant about talking to you? What factors do you need to consider in order to make good field notes and analyze them?
[Alter, The Wrestler’s Body: “Search and Research,” pp. 1-25. EBOOK]
Week 3: Change Through Time
What varying roles or meanings can history have for participants in a martial art? What is the relationship between what happens historically, and the ways in which historical narratives are constructed? What issues does this raise for the reading and analysis of histories of the martial arts schools you are studying this semester?
How does Zarrilli connect historical traditions with contemporary practices of Kalarippayattu? Do you find his analysis compelling, or does Zarilli draw connections where they might not be justified? What questions does he raise that you might want to consider in your own historical research? What sources will you use?
For East Asian martial arts in NYC, we are looking at transmission across cultures. How might we think about exogenous cultural influences, or cultural mixing? In a New York City context, who is appropriating and translating what? What motivated both the presentation of particular images of kung fu, for example by Bruce Lee, and the reception of these, for example among African-Americans in the 1970s? Think about how you might approach questions such as these in the historical side of your research project.
Unit II. The School
Week 4: The School in Space and Time
Writing/field assignment (due Febr. 16): Map the school and activities that take place there. Does the instructor attach meaning to the arrangement of the school’s space? Do students? How does the space of the school structure activity there? What is the structure of the classes and other activities? What is the schedule of classes and other activities over a week/month/year? Which might you attend? Consider as you read what other questions you might ask and what you might look for.
[Francesca Bray, “Domestic Architecture,” Technology and Society in Ming China (1368-1644), (American Historical Association, 2000), pp. 55-63.]
[Henning Eichberg, “The Enclosure of the Body: The Historical Relativity of ‘Health’, ‘Nature’, and the Environment of Sport,” “The Societal Construction of Time and Space as Sociology’s Way Home to Philosophy: Sport as Paradigm,” Body Cultures, pp. 47-67, 149-164.]
Week 5: Teaching and Transmission
Writing/field assignment (due Febr. 23): How did the head instructor become a martial artist? Is martial arts teaching a source of income for the instructor(s)? Is it a primary source of income? Does that effect decisions about teaching? (How might you go about ascertaining that?) What is the instructor’s approach to teaching? Does the instructor interact with students other than in formal class settings? What happens there? Does the instructor accept all students or restrict entrance? Does the instructor have a set curriculum? Are there advanced classes for students who are being trained to become instructors? Who takes these? If not, how are future instructors trained, if at all? Have these aspects of instruction changed over the history of the school?
What are the “modes of transmission” of knowledge in your school? How might you go about uncovering the relationship between mode of transmission and the knowledge transmitted?
[Alter, The Wrestler’s Body: “Gurus and Chelas: The Alchemy of Discipleship,” pp. 58-69.] EBOOK
What is embodiment? How is it transmitted? How might you go about exploring it in your fieldwork?
[Alter, The Wrestler’s Body: “The Discipline of the Wrestler’s Body,” pp. 90-135.] EBOOK
[Martha McCaughey, “The Fighting Spirit: Women’s Self-Defense Training and the Discourse of Sexed Embodiment,” Gender and Society (June 1998) 12.3:277-300.] EJOURNAL
Unit III. Historical Roots/Resources
What do “historical roots” have to do with contemporary practice? Is there any point to studying them, beyond their meaning for practitioners? Is there a connection otherwise between historical traditions and what people do now? What is it? How do we get from ancient China to contemporary China, Japan, Korea, or New York City? Do New York City practitioners study these historical roots? Do these studies contribute to what happens in the martial arts school?
Week 6: Lineage
Writing/Field Assignment (due March 1): Chart the lineage of the school’s head instructor. What sources of information do you have besides the report of the instructor? Are there other instructors at the school who come from different lineages? What are the meanings of lineage for people in your school? Do particular students or teachers have expectations about the student-teacher relationship based on East Asian models such as those studied in class? Are there problems in your school due to people coming to the relationship with different expectations?
What was lineage, and why was it important in China? How was knowledge understood to transmit in various traditions in early and medieval China? In what ways did people differ about the ways in which knowledge should/can be best transmitted? What was the nature of the student-teacher relationship? Note that the monkey character * in Journey to the West is humorously subverting numerous conventions of the master-disciple relationship. And numerous other conventions as well. What are these conventions? By the sixteenth century, when this was written, what were the myths and ideals of esoteric learning?
In what ways is the iemoto similar to or different from Chinese lineages? Do Japanese traditions of transmission specifically draw on, depart from, or transform Chinese traditions?
Week 7: Approaches to Power
Writing/Field Assignment (due March 8): Do the teachings of your school claim links to these ideas or to these specific classical sources? If so, how are these discussed or taught?
What is the “Dao”/”Tao”? What is “De” (usually translated Virtue, Potency, or Power)? What is qi? In what ways do these ideas differ between the readings? What are the ideals of being human, and the ideals of power in these readings? What types of power do these works critique?
What is shi? With what type of battle is The Art of War concerned with? How does this contrast with earlier Chinese approaches to battle? With early western traditions?
[Mark Edward Lewis, Sanctioned Violence in Early China, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).]
Week 8: The Body and the Universe
Writing/Field Assignment (due March 22): How is the body discussed in your school? Are ideas such as Yin and Yang (In and Yô), Qi (Ki), or the Dantian (Tanden, “Cinnabar Field”) used to teach the way the body should operate? Do your schools teachings differ from the readings assigned here?
Final Paper Assignment (due March 22): Tentative Final Paper Topic
[Douglas Wile, “Analysis and Translation of the New Texts,” Lost T’ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty, pp. 39-89.]
Week 9: Buddhism
Writing/Field Assignment (due March 29): Does your school claim a Buddhist heritage? What is it?
Final Paper Assignment (due March 29): Annotated Bibliography
[Meir Shahar, “Epigraphy, Buddhist Historiography, and Fighting Monks: The Case of Shaolin Monastery,” Asia Major 3 rd Series (2002), XIII.2:15-36.]
Week 10: Fiction
Writing Assignment (due April 5): Can fiction really tell us anything about martial arts? If so, what? Does it contribute in any way to martial culture? Does martial culture contribute to fiction? For ideas, consider our discussions of the Zarilli reading (class 4) and Sun Wukong (class 10).
Final Paper Assignment (due April 5): Preliminary Thesis and Outline (1 page)
[Louis Cha (Jin Yong), The Deer and the Cauldron, trans. and ed. John Minford with Rachel May, ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).]
[Huanzhulouzhu (“The Master of Pearl-Rimmed Tower”), Blades from the Willows, trans. Robert Chard, (London: Wellsweep, 1991).]
[Louise Edwards, “Women Warriors and Amazons of the Mid-Qing Texts Jinghua Yuan and Honglou Meng,” Modern Asian Studies (May 1995) 29.2:225-255. JSTOR]
[Kenneth Butler, “The Heike Monogatari and the Japanese Warrior Ethic,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (1969) 29:93-108. JSTOR]
¸ Movie Night: TBA
Week 11: Cinema
Writing/Field Assignment (due April 12): Does cinema enter into the ways in which you see people in your martial art practicing or talking about martial arts? In what ways?
Final Paper Assignment (nothing due): Begin writing final paper
[Stephen Teo, “Part Two: Martial Artists,” Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions, (London: British Film Institute, 1997), pp. 87-134.]
[Deborah Klens-Bigman, “Toward a Theory of Martial Arts as Performance Art,” in Jones, ed., Combat, Ritual, and Performance, ( Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2002), pp. 1-10.]
¸ Movie Night: TBA
Unit IV. Modern Transitions
Is your martial art a “modern tradition”? What makes it “traditional”? What makes it “modern”? What makes it “national,” or “international”? Does the school’s self-history make claims to authenticity? What are these claims, and how are we to evaluate them? What historical processes of the last century contributed to its current shape and practice? What current factors do you see contributing to its continuing change?
Week 12: “Traditional” Martial Artists
Writing Assignment (due April 19): Who were the “martial artists” in the centuries leading up to the Twentieth? What martial “traditions” did they carry — or not? In what ways did the social and cultural place of martial pursuits differ in China and in Japan? Do you see this affecting practice in your school?
Final Paper Assignment (due April 19): Sketchy rough draft (~10-15 pages) with revised outline
[Eiko Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).]
[Satô Hiroaki, Legends of the Samurai, (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1995).]
[Thomas Cleary, Code of the Samurai: A Modern Translation of the Bushido Shoshinshu, (Boston: Tuttle, 1999), pp. 12-98.]
[Satô Hiroaki, “Heihô Kaden Sho: Family-Transmitted Book on Swordsmanship,” The Sword & the Mind, (Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1985), 1-19, 55-125.]
Week 13: Modern Invented Traditions
Writing Assignment (due April 26): Is there something about modernity in particular that is conducive to the invention of traditions? In what ways is your own schools martial art a modern invented tradition?
Final Paper Assignment (due April 26): Complete Rough Draft (~25-30 pages)
[Prasenjit Duara, “The Regime of Authenticity: Timelessness, Gender, and National History in Modern China,” History and Theory (October 1998)), 37.3:287-308.] JSTOR
Week 14: Globalization
Writing Assignment (due May 3): What is “Globalization” in the martial arts? The transmission of elements of East Asian cultures (or particular cultural practices) to the “West” runs contrary to the flow usually assumed for processes of globalization. What might that tell us about globalization theory? What is global or local in your martial arts school?
Final Paper Assignment (due May 3): Complete First Draft
[Nancy N. Chen, “Transnational Qigong,” Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China, ( New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), pp. 159-184.]
Unit V. Methodological Problems Revisited
Final Assignment (due May 7): Polish Final Paper.
In the case of the traditions of martial arts, which are more poorly documented in the written record, can we write history as phenomena in the past connected and changing through time? Or can we only write about it as myth? What is East Asian about East Asian martial arts practiced in New York City?
*Sun Wu-k’ung, also spelled Sun Wukong, in Japanese Son Goku — yes, the basis for the “Dragon Ball Z” character Goku.
† Passages of (perhaps) particular relevance in the Analects: 1:1, 1:2, 1:6, 1:7, 1:8, 1:14, 2:4, 2:12, 2:15, 2:17, 5:27, 6:2, 6:16, 6:18, 7:1, 7:2, 7:3, 8:13, 11:6, 14:25, 14:45, 15:2, 15:30, 15:35, 15:38.
You are responsible for participating in one outside activity over the course of the semester. The activity must be related to our main topic, "Stories of (Dis)location: Chinese Female Subjectivity in Transition." You have a lot of options (and if you find something that I haven't mentioned, then ask me if it's ok to use for your outside activity):
I will give you guidelines on this assignment after we return from spring vacation.