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Book Beat: September 2002

Nation, Governance, and Modernity in China: Canton, 1900-1927

Nation, Governance, and Modernity in China: Canton, 1900-1927by Michael Tsin, Asian Studies Program
(Stanford University Press, 2002)
Available through Amazon

Although Asian Studies Director Michael Tsin was born in Hong Kong, he knew relatively little about Chinese history until he started studying it seriously in graduate school. "I studied mostly Western history as an undergraduate in England," Tsin says. "Being ethnically Chinese, other students began to ask me if I knew anything about Chinese history and China. I realized that I didn't know as much about Chinese history as I would like."

Tsin became particularly interested in the political aspects of modernity, as seen through China's tortuous efforts to define itself as a "modern" nation in the twentieth century. The theme is highlighted in his recent book Nation, Governance, and Modernity in China: Canton, 1900-1927. "Many say that politics is central to understanding China," Tsin says. "There is a long history of politics intruding into the everyday life of the Chinese people, and it is hard to disentangle the social and cultural fabrics of Chinese society from the politics."

The book focuses on the birth of the Nationalist Revolution in the city of Canton, China, in the early 20th century. Tsin says the book has different layers to it, from providing a narrative account of the Revolution based on new sources, to exploring the distinctive features of modern governance that extend beyond China. "The book deals ultimately with the question of the modus operandi of a 'modern' government and its implications," Tsin says. "Not only in China, but in any country."

Michael TsinAccording to Tsin's book, all forms of modern government, whether democracy or dictatorship, claim to have derived their sovereignty from the people. This claim can be a double-edged sword. "China is a good example of how the rhetoric of the people can be used for repression as well as emancipation," he says.

Tsin's interests in comparative history and the theoretical aspects of modernity led to his contributions to the textbook Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the Modern World from the Mongol Empire to the Present. The book grew out of a yearlong process of regular meetings between the seven authors, in which they conceptualized the volume. The writing took another four years. The book's central theme is that the seemingly contradictory forces of interconnection and divergence in world history should be seen as two sides of the same process. Unlike most other jointly authored volumes, all seven involved wrote for every chapter. The chapters were then repeatedly revised after further group discussions until everyone was satisfied. "It was labor intensive and time consuming," Tsin says. "But it was a great experience.".

—Melissa Douso

Applying Sociolinguistics: Domains and Face-to-Face Interaction

Applying Sociolinguistics: Domains and Face-to-Face Interactionby Diana Boxer, Department of Linguistics
(John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002)
Available through Amazon

This book is an up-to-date overview of discourse studies in oral interaction. Its focus is on encounters in the various spheres of life: family, educational, social, religious and work, with an additional chapter on cross-cultural face-to-face interaction in these domains. Each chapter reviews current research in that specific domain, with particular attention to methodological issues. For example, in-depth explanations are offered to the reader on how the various approaches to studying face-to-face discourse lend themselves to answering different research questions. Each chapter also culminates with an original analysis by the author of face-to-face interaction in that particular domain. Topics include nagging in family interaction, bragging and boasting in workplace interaction, sarcasm in educational interaction, joking and teasing in social interaction, rite-of-passage discourse in religious interaction and gatekeeping discourse in cross-cultural interaction.

—Publisher

Animal Cognition: The Mental Lives of Animals

Animal Cognition: The Mental Lives of Animalsby Clive D.L. Wynne, Department of Psychology
(St. Martin's Press, 2002)
Available through Amazon

Following a history of animal study in the west, animal minds are probed in terms of consciousness, recognition of cause and effect, physical perception, abstract cognition, memory, reasoning, and communication and language. Each chapter is followed by a brief list of suggested readings and websites. A large part of the book is devoted to explaining how scientists get animals to perform and how scientists arrive at conclusions from both controlled performances and from partially or uncontrolled field observation. Covering a wide range of key topics, from reasoning and communication to sensation and complex problem solving, this engaging text presents a comprehensive survey of contemporary research on animal cognition. Written for anyone with an interest in animal cognition but without a background in animal behavior, it is a clear, complete introduction to the way animals think about—and act on—the world around them.

—Amazon.com

 


Photo:
Jane Dominguez

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