Timothy Brook


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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - April 2022)
Serving the occupation state: Chinese elites, collaboration and the problem of history in post-war China (2019)

This dissertation examines the problem of Chinese collaboration with Japan during the Second World War. It does so by considering the pre-war context of Republican China’s politics, the ways in which political collaboration occurred during the Japanese occupation, as well as collaboration’s aftermath in the Chinese Civil War and as a problem of postwar history and memory. Methodologically, this study adopts a biographical approach, examining four individuals—Kiang Kang-hu (Jiang Kanghu), Chu Minyi, Hao Pengju and Jiang Zemin—whose lives became entangled with the problem of collaboration as it occurred under the Re-organized National Government (RNG) of Wang Jingwei in Nanjing. Since the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, China entered a period of state fragmentation that saw a series of different political parties, movements, and warlords compete for power under a political culture of factional politicking. This provided the context in which the decision to collaborate with Japan made sense for certain members of China’s “alternate elite” whose anti-communism and opposition to military resistance set them in opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and Jiang Jieshi’s Nationalist Party in Chongqing. Once in office, these individuals pursued policies that were often closely aligned with their pre-war political behaviour or beliefs, including advocating for the republican political model, maintaining the symbolism and policy of the Nationalist Party, or establishing military cliques.Despite this consistency, however, taking office in one of the occupation states established by Japan has been framed as an aberration committed by a particular subset of individuals who have been condemned as traitors, or hanjian, for their moral failure and betrayal of the nation. Stepping back from moral judgment, this study shows that the political fragmentation of pre-war China shaped collaboration under the RNG as politicians attempted to turn occupation into an opportunity to preserve the Republican model, even to perpetuate Nationalist Party policies. Although the occupation failed and the RNG was officially discredited, collaboration has endured as a lingering historical controversy that reflects the lengths to which the Chinese state will go to police the allegiance of individuals, even within the realms of history and memory.

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Cast in silver: the rise and demise of Kyushu corsairs in a unifying Japan, 1540-1640 (2017)

Piracy in Japan was transformed both politically and economically between 1550 and 1640, in the period of Japanese territorial unification. With the advent of the silver trade, what had been an independent economic enterprise became a sponsored one. Japanese piracy increased in the sixteenth century, and in a structurally different manner from what had transpired in previous centuries. It was now structurally organized as a trade enterprise and was often sponsored by landed power holders. For this reason, pirates are defined herein as corsairs, since they were sponsored by and dependent on daimyō. With a sole focus on Kyushu, this dissertation examines events affecting the Kyushu daimyō, taking as catalyst the annexation of Ryukyu. Revived by the silver trade in Kyushu, Japanese pirates were allowed to find their own economic and political niches in the territories and coastal areas that they occupied. As their economic circumstances improved under the sponsorship of those in political power, in most cases they also found it necessary to adopt a political demeanour—that is, of corsairs—that fitted the times. Further, legislation that aimed to eliminate piracy let them collude further with local daimyō for political protection; failure to do so resulted in the disappearance of smaller, less powerful, piratical clans. The unification of Japan and adverse economic conditions tied corsairs to local power holders. The Korean wars of Hideyoshi (1592–98), and the subsequent battle of Sekigahara, resulted in the deaths and reallocations of powerful corsair clans. Their piratical endeavours were brought to a close not only by the unification wave and its legislation, but through all-encompassing wars that changed the economic and political conditions such that piracy became less than desirable from the point of view of the central government. It was eliminated, while as an international activity piracy was left to foreign mercenaries such as the Dutch and Chinese.

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Revenue as a Measure for Expenditure: Ming State Finance before the Age of Silver (2016)

This dissertation explores fiscal policy during the first half of the Ming dynasty. Assuming a constant state of financial crisis caused by an ideological refusal and institutional inability to increase revenue, it identifies aspects of financial administration that contributed to the durability and resilience of the state. It first analyzes the principles of early Ming financial administration as reflected in the founding administrative text, Zhu si zhi zhang. The chapter devoted to the Ministry of Revenue focuses on the management of local resources through the timely and accurate flow of funds and information throughout the realm and along the administrative hierarchy. Based on evidence of standardized annual revenue reports, this dissertation argues that those principles were applied with relative success throughout most of the fifteenth century. Next, it identifies the practice of commutation in tax collection and official payments as the main fiscal policy that enabled the Ming to abide by its principle of keeping expenditure low while avoiding financial default. Commutation served as a partial tax remission that enabled taxpayers to convert the grain they owed to a money or commodity at a favourable rate. It also alleviated the physical and financial burden of transportation. But as the state came to depend on fixed silver payments, financial administration transformed from a system that was focused on managing local resources to one that was geared to maximizing revenue in the political centre. Finally, payments to officials, soldiers, and princes were affected by commutation. Despite their different social status, these groups were all treated as servants of the state and were managed according to the fiscal principle of measuring expenditure according to revenue. Throughout the fifteenth century payments were partially commuted to scrip and as a result salaries and stipends were greatly diminished. Nevertheless, particular policies and practices maintained a minimal degree of remuneration. And strategies employed by members of these groups in order to better their material condition illuminate the relationship between the state and its servants, as well as their place in local society.

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The birth of the Chinese population: A study in the history of governmental logics (2014)

It was only in the early twentieth century that China discovered that it had a population, at least if a population is understood not as a number of people but instead in terms of such features as relative levels of health, birth and death rates, sex ratios, and so on—that is, as an object with a specific rationality that can be managed and improved. In 1900, such a conception of the population did not exist in China; by the 1930s, it was utterly pervasive. How did this transformation take place? This dissertation argues that it occurred at the level of techniques of governing and systems of knowledge production, and explains it from the perspective of changes in the institutional and epistemological forms by which interventions into other people's activities are organized.The installation of populationist practices into China is tracked in four sites:1. The problem of "race efficiency"—formalized in this period as the cost in "race energy" of producing a given increment to a population—and analyses of the effects of different kinds of social organization on the production of life.2. The institutional division of population registration into censuses ("statics") and vital statistics ("dynamics")—in a word, the formation of a statistical system based on mechanics.3. Public health, whose object of care is not patients but the collective life of the population and its conditions of existence.4. The problem of the China's "rural surplus labour-power" in relation to the formation of a national economy.This dissertation shows how the privileged position of the population in political and economic reflection in Republican China carved out a field of governability by which it was possible to enchain a variety of previously disconnected fields of activity into a single logic, the axiom of which was the capitalist accumulation of life.

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Jesuit finances and networks between Europe and China, 1685-1773 (2013)

This dissertation examines the role of urban real estate in the finances and networks of the Jesuit missions in China. Starting in 1612, when Jesuit missionaries working in China envisioned for the first time a strategy for making the missions financially independent from Europe, I will investigate how and why it took until the second half of the eighteenth century for the Christian communities in China to become financially self-sustaining. The procurators and their subordinate treasurers, the Jesuits primarily in charge of the financial management of the missions, are the subject of this dissertation. How did they combine the resources and personnel extracted from Europe, India, and China to establish an autonomous financial foundation for the missions in China? This dissertation argues that their most reliable source of income was revenue from investments in urban real estate. The arc of this dissertation spans both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries examining the Portuguese and the French Jesuit missions in China. Through a close analysis of Jesuit procurators’ activities and personal networks this dissertation will assert that while they realized the necessity of economic integration in the global missions early on, procurators encountered great problems in realizing this goal. As such, this dissertation recognizes the limitations of global networks by exploring the role of global contact and the circulation of missionaries, money, and mail and by looking at the Jesuit search for financial opportunities in the local and regional economy to become self-sustaining communities. Only by studying the Jesuit finances in China over a time-span of 166 years does the relationship between Longobardo’s strategic planning for financial independence in 1612 and the French Jesuits’ budget for their missions in Beijing in 1778 become fully clear. This dissertation’s most important contribution is in charting the growing importance of revenue from investments in urban real estate. Ironically, just as the missions in China had begun to galvanize local resource networks largely independent of the central organization of the Society, European monarchs expelled the Jesuits from their realms and Rome finally dissolved the Jesuits as a Society.

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Dissecting Modernity: Anatomy and Power in the Language of Science in China (2012)

This study analyzes the construction of modernity by looking at a set of problems that began to be posed in a striking connection in China in the 1910s, related to anatomy, technical language and power. It does so by focusing on a network of people who created and standardized translations for scientific terminology in Chinese, beginning with the terminology for anatomy. This network, lasting from 1915 to 1927, extended to three hundred members, but this study keeps the focus on a much smaller number. Anglo-American physicians were represented by Philip Cousland and Yu Fengbin. Mediating between missionaries and Chinese elite physicians were members of the Jiangsu Provincial Education Association like philologist Shen Enfu, but also Yu Rizhang, also head of the YMCA. Overshadowing these men was Dr. Tang Erhe, government representative and leader of Japanese-trained physicians. Only several years earlier, Tang had almost single-handedly established legal, routinized dissection as the basis of medical education in China. The activities of these men reveal the problems of how scientific modernity would be established as a new orthodox epistemology in the Chinese context.This study examines the rapid shift, in China, from a cosmology centered in Confucian orthodoxy and the institution of the imperial examination system toward a scientific worldview based on material practices like anatomical dissection and bolstered by a vast new technical terminology. In China in 1910 China was still the Qing empire, anatomy was illegal and medical education occurred only in master-disciple relationships. By 1920, these conditions had changed. Even as politics deteriorated, new forms of mundane power were established. The JPEA-Joint Terminology Committee network coincided with, and accelerated trends towards professionalization, first among anatomically-based physicians, but also scientists and educators. Professional groups formed in 1915, publishing the results of the committee and related attempts to regulate the medical field. This regulation led directly to attempts to abolish Chinese medicine. By following members of this committee, we see the institutionalization of anatomically-based medicine in China through its technical language and anatomical practice. We also see a new form of power that sought to eliminate ambivalence through reductionism.

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A socio-cultural history of sites in Ming Hangzhou (2011)

This dissertation takes a fresh approach to the study of place for parsing Ming society. Through a close analysis of the construction and representation of five famous places in the former imperial capital of Hangzhou – a pair of official shrines, a Buddhist monastery, the city god temple, and West Lake – I develop the dual idea of the “site” as a physical place that people made and maintained, and also as an imagined place that had important meanings in the cultural landscape. I argue that no individual group – not even the Ming state – was able to maintain a site on its own, nor was it able to control the meanings ascribed to it. Rather, members of different social groups participated in the construction of a site and the production of its historical meanings, and drew on particular meanings to advance their own concerns. This place-based history was an open resource that was constructed, used, and contested by multiple parties. While it could prompt people to contribute towards the restoration or maintenance of a site, in some cases it also provoked violent engagement with it. This included the intended destruction of statues of villains who engineered the death of a loyal hero, and also the unintended (and mistaken) smashing of religious carvings to punish a nefarious monk.This place-based analysis presents new possibilities for understanding the dynamics of Ming society by focussing on the interactions between its constituent groups. Each site had a particular place within the political order of the state, and also its own relevance to wider society. The interplay of cultural imagination and physical engagement that underlay the making of historical sites reveals the multiple voices involved in the production of meaning in Ming society, and the cooperation, negotiation, and contestation among the groups to whom those voices belonged.

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Linzhang county and the culturally central periphery in mid-Ming China (2011)

This dissertation offers a local history of a small, peripheral county located in the most northern part of Henan Province during the Ming dynasty known as Linzhang County. Henan suffered a great deal from the wars that recurred frequently from the end of the Six Dynasties Period through the late fourteenth century and Linzhang County was among its many places that seemed to “fall behind” as the economic and cultural centres of the empire shifted to the south. Linzhang could however, claim a direct link with some of the empire’s most culturally central heartlands of the past. Given that the foundation of the Ming state followed a period of prolonged alien rule under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, promotion of such “cultural centrality” was at the discursive core of the Ming state’s restorationist legitimacy. In this context, even a small peripheral county that went largely untouched by the dramatic commercial transformations characterizing southern China throughout the 15th to 17th centuries could rightfully claim a degree of “centrality” within the Ming realm.One particular mid-Ming magistrate named Jing Fang, realized this opportunity and in his tenure actively promoted projects that publicly linked the county to its distant antiquity. In just a few years Jing Fang successfully rectified Linzhang’s historic record; compiled and edited the county’s gazetteer; promoted the cult of the region’s most famous ancient culture hero, Ximen Bao; and renovated the county’s most important historic sites, temples and public buildings. Jing Fang’s dizzying pace of activity reveals the use and power of a stylized antiquity as a vital resource for local governance in north China during the mid-Ming period. While the dominant southern, or Jiangnan model of Ming studies emphasizes relatively autonomous commercial development and literati academic achievement as the key to late imperial wealth and culture, this “northern,” or perhaps more precisely “central” study gives more credit to state supervision and popular culture in the sustenance of this particular locality during the Ming period. It also offers a new local vantage point to begin to rethink the deeply regional characteristics of the composite Ming realm.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
"Wounding our customs and debasing our traditions": law, gender, and pluralism in the Chinese community at Batavia (2018)

Mass migration of male Chinese merchants and laborers to maritime Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries fundamentally reshaped world trade networks and colonial state-building, but it also catalyzed social and cultural interactions between Chinese migrants and the Europeans and Southeast Asians they encountered overseas. The existing literature focuses almost exclusively on the bilateral exchanges between Europeans and various Asian groups, paying little attention to the ways that Chinese migrants constructed and adjusted their own group identity in response to the multilateral cultural interactions that were an inescapable part of life in overseas port cities. This study examines how elite Chinese merchants managed to carve out a political and legal constituency in Batavia (modern Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East India Company in Asia, and how they and their subjects turned that constituency into a forum for the negotiation of what constituted proper Chinese behavior. First, I use Dutch administrative documents to show how a Chinese council staffed by wealthy male merchants solidified their control over a constituency composed of nominally “Chinese” households, although most female members were of Indonesian descent. Second, I show how elite men on the Chinese council attempted to use Dutch legal codification projects to impose a highly patriarchal vision of proper gendered behavior within those households. Finally, using the minutes of the law court administered by the Chinese council, I explore the ways that ordinary male and female litigants articulated their own notions of justice, and how the judges of the Chinese council used their privileged position as judges to intervene in the lives of their subjects. The image of the Chinese elite that emerges is one consumed by anxieties over the supposed failure of Chinese-status women to conform to elite standards of behavior: seeking divorces, behaving disgracefully in public, and engaging in interethnic sexual relationships. This paper illustrates the tension between a Chinese political elite whose jurisdiction was predicated on a relatively distinct Chinese community and the widespread tendency of their subjects to blur the lines between ethnic groups and articulate counterhegemonic constructions of Chinese customs.

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Cultural naturalization and the Church of the East in China: using interreligious iconography and inscriptions to investigate Identity in Yuan China (2015)

For well over a century, the Church of the East in China (also known as Nestorian Christianity or Jingjiao) has been commonly regarded as a syncretic sect of Christianity, possibly even adapting itself into oblivion. However, while the original basis for such an assessment is unclear, the actual evidence indicative of syncretism pales in comparison to the evidence that argues against it. For this reason, this essay makes use of the relative paucity of sources to lean into the question of what a better alternative, envisioned as cultural naturalization, could contribute. Cultural naturalization, as outlined in this paper, entails an analysis of interaction after initial contact between differing groups and posits a transition between contact and the final results of interaction. In effecting this, naturalization focuses on observing the evidence of how groups preserve or shed their identities as they negotiate the effects of contact. In the context of Jingjiao in the port city of Quanzhou, China, applying the ideas of naturalization allows us to interpret the religious group in a transitory state of interaction. The evidentiary support for more exact and final results of interaction does not currently exist to make a substantiated assessment. However, as the essay constructs naturalization as an analytic tool for explaining the evidence of interaction, the concept lends itself well to circumventing this problem of evidence that limits the use of syncretism by treating interaction as a necessary process of groups in contact—either in the positive or negative or a mix of both. In doing so, the concept of cultural naturalization acts as a tool to examine the identity of the Church of the East in China—and other groups—through the evidence of their interaction.

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Local nation, frontier Manchuria: The world of multiple cultural systems and intellectual collaboration in Manchukuo, 1990-1938 (2013)

This thesis examines the cultural context of intellectual collaboration in the Japanese colonial state of Manchukuo (1931-1945). Reconstructing the lives and thoughts of Yuan Jinkai (1871-1947) and Zhao Xinbo (1887-1951), two prominent local Fengtian intellectuals who chose to collaborate with the Japanese in 1931, I argue that intellectual collaboration in early Manchukuo was not just a result of vested interest and moral failure, but also a product of the frontier cultural space in which the local intellectuals operated in the late Qing and Republican years. In the first decades of the twentieth century, southern Manchuria was a temporal-spatial frontier zone where Confucianism, Fengtian localism, Chinese nationalism, and Japanese colonial cultural influence encountered and intermingled with each other. Inspired by Clifford Geertz’s interpretive anthropology, I recognize these ideologies as overlapping cultural systems, which shared such a similar set of affective symbols as “China”, “the Chinese nation” and “modernity”. The purpose of this thesis is to interpret the distinctive meanings each intellectual created for these symbolic concepts in the intersection of the various frontier cultural systems and by so doing better understand their individual values, beliefs and visions: elements of intellectual life that shaped their political choices. In the fluid cultural and political environment, Yuan invented the concept of a local China of manifested Confucian Chinese-ness, while Zhao pursued the ideal of transnational modernity, with the Chinese nation being a transient phase towards East Asian unity. The intellectual habitus each of them constructed for themselves in their mental contact zones not only explains their courses of action in the aftermath of the Mukden incident, but also sheds new light on the intellectual developments in southern Manchuria in the decades before Manchukuo. The competition among the various forms of modern nationalism did not dominate the Manchurian intelligentsia at that time of uncertainty and transformation. Instead, such nationalisms were also co-existing and competing with many other cultural systems, local and imported. The “collaboration” among all these cultural systems created a new frontier cultural space of complexity and hybridity in Republican Manchuria.

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