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Vladimir Tikhonov to discuss Social Darwinism in East Asia from 1870-1910), March 19, 2012.

Vladimir Tikhonov of the University of Oslo, Norway will present a lecture enitlted "Social Darwinism and the Perception of the Other in Early Modern East Asia 1870-1910" on Monday, March 19. Free and open to the public, the program will begin at 6:00pm in Rockefeller Hall, room 200.

In his abstract, Tikhonov notes:

Nationalism, the paradigmatic modern ideology in East Asia (and elsewhere), always tended to develop in an international context, in close connection with the ever-changing imagery of the outside world. In the time of East Asian nationalisms’ incipience – that is, in the age of worldwide “high imperialism” (1871-1914) – much of the stimulus towards “nationalising” East Asian societies came from the perception of external threats, and simultaneously from the influential images of “successful” foreign nations as “models” to emulate. In some cases, the same foreign nation was seen as “threat” and “model” at the same time. While Western powers generally were viewed as either “models” or “threats”, or both, yet another set of the Others was seen either as fellow victims to sympathise with, or as potential allies, or as negative models. For Korea’s modernist nationalists on the eve of the country’s full colonisation in 1910, for example, the enslavement of Vietnam by the French as described in Phan Bội Châu’s (1867-1940) Việt Nam Vong Quốc Sử (History of the Loss of Vietnam, written in classical Chinese and hugely popular in its several Korean translations), was the closest allegory of Korea’s own impending plight. In China too, the History… was read as warning: these unable to establish themselves as free, dignified “nationals” in the course of life-or-death struggle against enemies, were to become “slaves”, to fall out from the mainstream of world history. Vietnam’s ruin was to be mourned, while its failure to fend off the external threat made it into a negative model of sorts. Polish failure to successfully combat the partition of the country was interpreted in the same way. In a word, the newly discovered international world was seen as a scene for a giant Social Darwinist drama – with  some states and nations managing to “survive” and some becoming “unfit” and going under  - in which the East Asian states were simultaneously observers and participants. To summarise, the present lecture will deal with the uses of the Others in the Social Darwinist discourses of early nationalism in East Asia – showing once again that there is hardly an ideology with stronger international awareness than that of nation and nation state.

Vladimir Tikhonov (Korean name – Pak Noja) graduated from Petersburg State University (MA:1994) and Moscow State University (Ph.D. in ancient Korean history, 1996). He has worked for Russian State University of Humanities (1996), KyungHee University (1997-2000) and for Oslo University as associate professor (2000-2006) and as a full professor (from 2006). His main field is the history of ideas in early modern Korea, particularly Social Darwinist influences in the formative period of Korean nationalism in the 1880s-1910s. Another major area of Tikhonov’s research is the history of Korean Buddhism in modern times, particularly in connection with nationalism and militarist violence. His book, Usǔng yǒlp’ae ǔi sinhwa (The Myth of the Survival of the Fittest, 2005) is one of the first monographic studies of Social Darwinism in modern Korea and its relations to Korean nationalism. The same topic has been dealt with in English in his Social Darwinism and Nationalism in Korea: The Beginnings (1880s-1910s) (Brill, 2010). He also regularly contributes to South Korea’s liberal and progressive media, including daily Hangyoreh and weekly Hangyoreh21.

The lecture is sponsored by the Asian Studies Program and co‐sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology, Chinese & Japanese, Geography, History, Political Science, and Sociology and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861. 

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, March 15, 2012