Session 10 Abstracts

The Militarization of Childhood: Education and the Children’s Corps in Chinese Communist Border Regions, 1937-1945

Kyle David
History
kedavid@uci.edu

Conspicuously absent from history of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) miraculous rise during the 1930s and 1940s is the voice of its children. As with many non-elite historical subjects who left behind few if any records, children seldom enter the historical record. However, by reading the records written for and regarding children it is possible to provide an “imaginative reconstruction” of what life was like for children during an exceptionally tumultuous and violent period of modern Chinese history. This conference paper provides an examination of two institutions around which the lives of many border region children revolved: school and the Children’s Corps (ertongtuan). Such an examination argues that childhood in the CCP border regions was exceptionally militarized and inundated with images and stories of highly graphic violence. Specifically, this paper looks at how institutions such as primary schools used graphic and violent imagery in curricula and textbooks. In addition to teaching children basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills, schools within the communist border regions also constructed an anti-Japanese, pro-CCP narrative which implemented violent stories of struggle and various accounts of war atrocities in order to galvanize children in the war effort. This paper also looks at the role children played in the Children’s Corps, a militia-like organization which recruited children between the ages of seven to fifteen. The Children’s Corps worked within the purview of adult military organizations such as the New Fourth and Eighth Route Armies to aid in the war effort by fulfilling a variety of roles. Among many other duties, children played key roles as sentry guards, message runners, counter-intelligence and counter-espionage agents, and supply runners. Such precarious positions at times led to torture, serious injury, disfigurement, and even death. Drawing on a wide collection of newspaper articles, government directives, and oral histories given by former Children’s Corps members, this paper challenges recent scholarship which argues that the war and violence of this period was “beyond juvenile comprehension” while also providing a window into the lives of children growing up in CCP-governed border regions before, during, and immediately following the War of Resistance against Japan. Lastly, this paper seeks to situate the legacies of CCP war-time education within the broader genre of the present-day People’s Republic of China’s National Humiliation Education (guochi jiaoyu) and Patriotic Education (aiguozhuyi jiaoyu) curricula.


Becoming-Fairy: Targeting Everyday Life in the UC Global Food Initiative

Crystal Hickerson
Comparative Literature
chickers@uci.edu

A popular thread of critical theory in the humanities right now involves ecomaterialism—a discourse concerned to put developments in the natural sciences into conversation philosophy. Ecomaterialism is asking how we have understood the material environment and how those understandings have influenced our critical theory, usually with the tacit aim of contributing to the debate on how humans can live more “sustainably.” My critical project “Becoming-Fairy” expands ecomaterialist discourse by using popular conceptions of fairies in Britain and the United States during the 19-20th centuries to consider how material practices of everyday life can be altered more effectively. In fact, “Becoming-Fairy” reads a research project funded by the UC Global Food Initiative that is underway in Verano Place graduate housing right now, designed to encourage residents to begin growing some of their own food. The project, entitled “Grow Your Own Food Campaign,” operates not through overt pedagogical measures such as educational workshops but through small changes in the visual and social environment designed to encourage a more “fairy-like” existence, to lead to more of a cradle-to-cradle system of food production and disposal that enriches our natural and social ecosystems.

My methodology of planting cues in everyday life to work subconsciously on student residents goes against the grain of the usual political posture adopted by researchers in the humanities, whose convention is to contextualize a problem in such a way that an audience will consciously understand that problem differently and freely decide to take ethical action. Here, I am suggesting we make gardening less queer to students and their families via an opposing (but not singular) approach to changing everyday life, suggesting that instead of raising consciousness of the ethical imperative to accept or become educated in queer lifestyles—from the homosexual, to the androgyne historically represented by the figure of the fairy, to the environmental activist-gardener—that we develop strategies for smuggling queer behaviors into the norms of everyday life. I am suggesting, perhaps provocatively, that we avail ourselves of the same subtle tactics that capitalism has used to discipline our consumerist behaviors. Using theories from the logic of fairy-ness in Victorian folklore, turn-of-the century American drama, and present-day children’s media; the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari; and the human-based research on UCI campus, I suggest radical alternatives for encouraging humans in becoming-fairy as they integrate seemingly queer but arguably healthier ecological practices into their already over-taxed daily routines.


The Dehumanized and the Nonhuman: Empathetic Play in Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please

Matt Knutson
Visual Studies
mknutso1@uci.edu

My current research examines the power of videogames to elicit empathy. In popular discourse, the videogame is a medium better known for graphic violence than perspective-taking; however, games are exceptionally capable of making us consider a new point of view when we walk (digitally) in a character’s shoes. The methods by which games “make us” perform behaviors requires unpacking. To this end, I apply Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory to videogames, counting them among the “missing masses” of nonhuman agents that push back against humans and influence our behavior. By eliciting specific behaviors, games can and do provoke in us emotional states, and one emotion of critical significance is empathy.

To explore empathetic play critically, I center my analysis on Papers, Please, a 2013 game in which players assess immigration documents at a border post. By performing the role of a border officer, the player’s task entails scrutinizing immigrants in order to sort them as parcels rather than as people with rights such as privacy. The uncomfortably intimate moment of exchange between officer and immigrant reveals the humanity behind legal documents and the inhumanity of the state’s methods of assessment. Papers, Please often challenges the concept that play is “fun” and instead presents an experience of frustration and heartbreak; in other words, it is a game with a strongly negative affect. I find this negativity productive in its relevance to contemporary discourse on immigration.

The player of Papers, Please can’t help but bring a new set of experiences to the table when moving beyond fictive game to political reality. Empathetic play exposes the arbitrariness of legal documentation, the sometimes frustrating impenetrability of national borders, and the institutional dehumanization often inherent in immigration law. Papers, Please communicates these experiences at its structural, mechanical core; as nonhuman actor, it provokes behavioral and emotional responses from its players. By investigating the methods by which games push back on their players, we can discover and embrace the empathetic consequences of critical play.


Enhancing Student Ownership: The Undergraduate Dance Major and the Creative Process of Choreography

Cara Scrementi
Dance
cscremen@uci.edu

I believe in creating connections between course work and universal skills, and the gained experiences are meant to serve the student holistically. In my thesis research, I am exploring how to consciously and thoughtfully incorporate ways of serving the student holistically within a classroom environment for the undergraduate dance major and how the concepts can be developed within a choreographic framework. Through the integration of experiential learning and active learning theories and techniques into the creative process of choreography, I aim to discover a variety of means in which this process can lead to an enhanced sense of student ownership. The successful methods from a study exploring this idea can help create a habit that can foster lifelong learning within the students. They will be actively improving not only their dance composition skills, but also developing their critical thinking, communication, and intra- and interpersonal skills. They will be learning to take greater initiative and advantage of leadership opportunities, working collaboratively with peers and instructors, increasing self-confidence and heightening their awareness for their own learning processes through activities, reflection, and/or lectures. Students learning the fundamental aspects of the creative process while also being aware of how to use them in the context of future coursework, jobs or other aspects of life is the undercurrent that drives my research topic.

The study will be conducted during the winter quarter. Participating students will meet together with me two times per week to investigate a variety of concepts primarily through movement, but also through reading, writing, reflection, guest lecturers, and discussion. Student progress will be measured through a series of three individual interviews (pre-, mid- and post-study), written and verbal activity assessments, my own observations and evaluations of their progress based on where they began, and student self-observations and evaluations. This research intends to serve the participating students as they continue their education and move into their careers, myself as a growing educator, other educators as a reference to consider in their own teaching methods, and therefore their students. It’s about educating the whole person, the underpinning of what I believe a college education to be.


The Asian American Literary Review Synchronous Teaching Initiative

Gerald Maa
English
gmaa@uci.edu

Per our mission statement, the Asian American Literary Review is ?€?a space for all those who consider the designation “Asian American” a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community.?€? When my co-editor-in-chief, Lawrence-Minh B??i Davis, and I published our most experimental issue, we knew we wanted to extend the innovative impulse beyond the page. Our mixed race issue commissioned collaborative work from writers, artists, and scholars from around the world, encouraging, requiring, even, that the collaboration beget work of mixed genre and/or media capable of contributing to exciting, current conversations about mixed race politics and identity. We partook as well, conceiving of the issue as a box that contains the work collated into two books, a poster, and a deck of cards.

To extend the experimental, community-building impulse out of the box, so to speak, we started our synchronous teaching initiative, for which I was director. We established a virtual node through which classes across the nation, and even a handful abroad, could interact and learn with each other as they study our mixed race issue in their separate classrooms. We built digital labs, like ?€?Indigenity,?€? ?€?Migration,?€? and ?€?Mixed Race Feminisms.?€? We found specialists to imagine curricular material for the issue. We hosted discussion boards that brought together students across all time zones. We encouraged professors to share, co-teach, and think in connection with other classrooms. Over our two year endeavor, the scores of classes that participated in our synchronous teaching program produced imaginative, incisive, and collective work like a virtual database of literary mixed-race figures, Tumblrs that log and reflect upon how mixed cultures appear in students?€? daily lives, fieldtrips undertaken for engaged encounters with memorials, and personal archives of stories. From its inception, the Asian American Literary Review has endeavored to be a conduit between academia and the world outside of the collegiate halls. Through our success with the synchronous teaching program, we have learned that one way to enlarge the channels between university classroom and the social, political, and/or mundane world is to build conduits between classrooms as well. That is why we are excited about continuing our synchronous teaching initiative with a special issue on war to be published fall 2015, appearing in line with the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War.


UC Irvine Service Workers Community-Based Theatre Project

Amanda Novoa
Drama
novoaa@uci.edu

The Service Workers Project is a community-based theatre project engaging UC Irvine service workers. The project is being produced by the campus organization, Brown Bag Theater Company (BBTC).

BBTC’s Mission: “We are an ensemble of students, artists, and scholars who aim to produce critically engaging work that reflects, impacts and empowers the Latino community. We create opportunities and leadership roles for Latino/Hispanic artists. We are committed to sharing and celebrating the richness of Latino culture. We believe that the art of theatre is a cultural force with the capacity to transform the lives of individuals within our community and society at large.”

I am a graduate student leader for BBTC and I established and serve in the role of Engagement Director for the Service Workers Project. I have developed a close relationship with the community of service workers at UCI and have been hosting events through BBTC that serve as a forum for communication between workers and students. These events involve story circles, which include activities that I have adapted to resurface forgotten memories, cultivate conversations, and bring out voices. In preparation for this opportunity, I took an intensive course with Cornerstone Theater Company, a reputable organization that has specialized in community-based work for almost thirty years. As part of my research, I was involved with South Coast Repertory (SCR), a theatre known for producing award-winning new plays. I worked on SCR’s Dialogues/Dialogos, a two-year community-based project that shared the stories of the Latino community of Santa Ana, California.

With the Service Workers Project, the narratives that arise from each story circle that I facilitate will cumulate into an original play inspired by the community. BBTC will present a production that embodies our shared experiences. This original production will invite service workers to be involved as part of the cast and design team. We will be leading theatrical workshops for acting and design to share the world of theatre with the workers and empower them to be artistically invested in our project.

Along with the Service Workers Project, BBTC is presenting additional work that is Latino community focused and invites this audience of underserved and underrepresented populations to the theatre.

A student-worker relationship has been a part of UCI’s history for many years. Students and workers have supported each other through many adversities. This project will strengthen this relationship and create a long-term partnership through the art of theatre.