Syllabus: US-East Asia Relations (Fall 2013) (Online)

US-East Asia Relations
Hist 533-99/700-97

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Online Course
Fall 2013

Phone: 235-4315
Office: RH 406F
Office Hours: MWF 11-12, 1-2
Tu 10-12, 1-3

“As Troeltsch pointed out many years ago, it is one thing to speak of points of contact
between different civilizations and diferent cultural groups,
and quite another to suppose that their histories are linked by a real causal connexion
which makes them subordinate parts of a single historical process.”
— Geoffrey Barraclough, Main Trends in History (1991),
in Dunn, ed., The New World History, p. 127.


The connections between the United States of America and East Asian societies go back to the “China Trade” active at the nation’s founding and have only deepened with time. As the United States grew to include Pacific Ocean coastline, the economic, personal, and strategic relationship with East Asia has deepened. This course offers an examination of the trade, travel, conflicts, and cultures that have grown out of the relationship over the last two centuries, particularly since the mid-19th century.

This course takes the perspective of World History, looking at the relationships as part of the global transformations of modernity. So in addition to the diplomatic and official relationships, we will examine the personal and cultural ties formed over time. Though the lenses of empire, diasporic migration, and food, we will look closely at key moments and processes of the historical intersection of these populations and governments.


  • Madeline Hsu, Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and China, 1882-1943 (Stanford UP, 2000). ISBN-13: 9780804746878
  • Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America, Oxford UP (2005) ISBN13: 9780195159417
  • Michael H. Hunt, Steve Levine. Arc of Empire: America’s Wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8078-3528-9.
  • James Watson, ed., Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, Second Edition. Stanford UP, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0804749893
  • Andrew Coe, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States, Oxford UP, 2009. ISBN-10: 0195331079
  • Amy Werbel, Lessons From China, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 17, 2013), ISBN-13: 978-1490466217


History is about real people, diverse cultures, interesting theories, strongly held belief systems, complex situations, conflicts and dramatic actions. This information may be disturbing. Such is the nature of historical study.


In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and online schedule, the online schedule will be correct: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester.

Course Goals

In addition to historical and cultural content, students will demonstrate increasing mastery of critical reading of primary and secondary sources in writing and discussion. “Critical” does not mean “attacking” but “analytical”: putting material in historical and cultural context, drawing appropriate inferences and deductions from the evidence of the text, and raising relevant questions for further inquiry.

Course Prerequisites and Application

World History to 1500, equivalent or permission of instructor is required before taking this course. This course counts towards the History major or minor as a non-Western course. Students are expected to have a reasonably good idea of the basic historical outline of US and Asian history; if not, some basic encyclopedia reading or survey textbook review is in order.


All schedules, assignments, and policies in the syllabus are subject to change. Check the website, which will have the most current and accurate information possible, as well as copies of course handouts.

Reading and Assignment Deadlines

There will be short writing assignments (200+ words) for each reading, due  by midnight at the end of the date indicated. Since you have to complete the readings to do the assignments, you will want to make sure that you start working on them well before the deadlines. Comment replies to at least two of your colleagues should be posted within 48 hours of the assignment deadline. Comments must be substantive (100+ words) and civil. Details on writing prompts, etc. will be available separately.

Book Essays

For each book assigned, there will also be an essay assignment, a review focusing on the overall thesis of the work and its effect on our understanding of modern history and transnational relationships. For undergraduates, this will be 750-1500 words; for graduate students, 1500+ words.

Historiography Project

Historiography is the study of history itself: the themes, growth, errors, changes and methods of historians. For this project you will examine a topic or school of thought related to the transnational history between the US and East Asia. You will need to come to a conclusion about the state of scholarship on the topic, as well as your own ideas for fruitful directions or new questions, as expressed in the final essay.

For the first assignments (Starting Bibliography, Annotated Bibliography) you will post your assignment in the appropriate discussion forum and you will comment on at least two other students’ assignments. For the essays (Book Review, Historiography) you will turn in a fully formatted and footnoted file to me, and will also post the text in a discussion forum for comment.

The essays will be graded on the quality of the thesis, use of evidence, cohesion of argument, coverage, structure and writing. Bibliographies will be graded primarily on timely completion, evidence of appropriate work, and citation style.

Feel free to ask for guidance, recommendations, or feedback at any point in the process (within reason: I can’t guarantee useful comments on essay drafts 24 hours before a deadline, etc.).

Starting bibliography                                                                                                10/2 (W)

Create a collection of scholarship and sources on a topic related to US-East Asia relations. You will need to pick a topic or theme, but it doesn’t need to be a narrow one: US-Japan relations, for example, or Trade. Your bibliography must be in Chicago Manual of Style format, and should include primary sources, books, and/or journal articles. Include a short explanation of your theme or topic, and a proposal for a narrower topic or theme for your historiography project.

Undergraduates: at least 8 items. Graduate Students: at least 12 items.

Annotated and expanded bibliography                                                                  10/30 (W)

Create a collection of scholarship and sources on a relatively narrow topic within US-East Asia relations, and annotate them. The “Annotation” means short commentaries making it clear to your readers the relevance and value of the sources, which means you should have read (at least skimmed!) these works. Include a short explanation of your theme or topic.

Undergraduates: at least 10 items. Graduate Students: at least 15 items.

Book Review                                                                                                              11/20 (W)

Choose from your annotated bibliography (or another work related to the same topic, with approval from me) for a full review. Your review grades will be based on the quality, clarity, completeness and effectiveness of your writing. Most important is the quality of your analysis of the article or book: is it thorough, balanced and convincing? Is it a coherent essay? Can your reader learn from your review what is in the book and whether it would be worth reading?

Undergraduates: 1000-1500 words. Graduate Students: Two Reviews, 1500+ words each.

Historiography Essay                                                                                                12/11 (W)

As described above, this is a careful historical examination of the scholarship on a specific topic, event, or theme, within US-East Asian relations. You will need to identify major strains, debates, and changes in focus or method within this scholarship. You are also responsible for reading and commenting on your colleagues’ papers.

Undergraduates: 2000-3000 words. Graduate Students: 3000+ words.

Professionalism: Preparation, Attendance and Preparation

This is not just a classroom: it is a work space, and you are adults. You are expected to be present and prepared, not only physically but intellectually, and to carry out your assignments in a timely and careful fashion. You are responsible for keeping track of assignments, due dates, and announcements made through Canvas.

The essence of scholarship is constructive engagement; the best learning comes from doing. It is very important that everyone keep up with the readings, and be prepared to think and write and question and listen. The class should be a collaborative conversation, with a wide range of contributions; this requires respect and civility towards your classmates as well as your instructor. Specifically, students are responsible for responding in a timely fashion to each other’s postings with comments, arguments and constructive criticism. Asking good questions is an important form of participation. Asking questions which can be easily answered by referencing the syllabus, course website or textbooks is not.

Late assignments may be excused for illness or family-related problems, but only if I am informed in advance (email is fine) or you have documentation (such as a doctor’s note). Unexcused late assignments will affect your professionalism grade. Failure to complete assignments, or consistently sloppy or incorrect work, will also affect your grade. You are responsible for ensuring that assignments submitted through Canvas are successfully uploaded.

You should check your email at least daily: if you don’t use a university email account regularly, set it to forward mail to your preferred address. I check email regularly: you should hear back from me within 24 hours. If I don’t reply, I probably did not get the email: try again.


Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Online comments must be constructive and reasonable. Disruptive behavior will result in participation penalties. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, vulgar language, threats, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course. Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and footnote; paraphrase and footnote; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other forms of academic misconduct will not be tolerated either, including the use of unauthorized aid on tests, failing to write one’s own papers, using papers for more than one course without permission. None of this precludes group study and discussion: those are actually really good ideas. Academic misconduct will result in zero credit for an assignment, and may result in failure of the course or other penalties.

For more detail, see the University Catalog:


Advising is designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and their individual majors. Students should consult with their advisor at least once a semester to decide on courses, check progress towards graduation, and discuss career options and other educational opportunities. Advising is a shared responsibility, but students have final responsibility for meeting degree requirements.

Student Accommodation

Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accommodations should contact the instructor as early in the semester as possible. For more information, contact the Center for Student Accommodations (235-4309,

Syllabus Supplement

For official PSU policies and information about campus resources, notifications, attendance, financial aid, expectations, grades, etc., see: (Fall 2013)


The most important component of your grade on writing assignments will be whether you have used the historical materials available to effectively answer an interesting question. I will give you topics to focus on, but you will have to decide on and articulate a thesis, select and present relevant evidence, and make it clear to your reader how the evidence proves your point. I do not generally grade on style, grammar or spelling, unless they are so bad as to obscure the meaning of what you are writing.

Grade Policies

  • Grades are generally calculated and recorded on a traditional 4-point scale. Canvas doesn’t allow 4-point scale grading, so I will translate them to the usual 100-point scale for recording in the online gradebook.
  • The Canvas gradebook is only being used to allow you to keep track of assignments completed and graded. Because of the difference in grading scales, and the portion of your grade determined under “professionalism”, your course grade as determined by Canvas doesn’t accurately represent your grade in this class. Ask me if you have questions about your grade that aren’t covered in the syllabus, assignments, or feedback.
  • Assignment format, requirements and due dates will be included in the assignment instructions: read them carefully, and ask questions well in advance of the due date if there is anything you do not understand.
  • Assignments will be submitted through Canvas
  • Unexcused late assignments or tests, due to absence, technical problems, etc., will be penalized one-quarter grade level (4.0 to 3.75, etc.) per 24 hours.
  • In the event of an excused absence on an assignment due date, the student is responsible for turning in the work no later than the next class, unless other arrangements have been made. Tests must be made up at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Even very, very bad (or very late) work is still going to get an F, which is better than a zero. Plagiarism or other violations of academic honesty will result in zero credit on that assignment and may result in an F or XF for the semester depending on circumstances.
  • I reserve the right to adjust assignment grade scales upwards (to students’ advantage) to reflect the performance of the class as a whole; I do not “curve” grades towards a target distribution, nor do I adjust grade scales downwards.

Grade Distribution

Short Writing Assignments 25%
Professionalism 20%
Bibliographies 10%
Book Review(s) 20%
Historiography Essay 25%


Assignments are due before midnight at the end of the day.
Students are expected to comment on at least two colleagues’ work
for each assignment, within 48 hours of the deadline.

Hunt/Levine = Michael H. Hunt, Steve Levine. Arc of Empire
Hsu = Madeline Hsu, Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home
Azuma = Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires
Golden Arches East
= James Watson, ed., Golden Arches East
Coe = Andrew Coe, Chop Suey
Werbel = Amy Werbel, Lessons From China

Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics
Assignments and Tests are in Bold

M (8/19) First week: syllabus, introductions, some framework.
W (8/21) Introduction, including interests, theory of empire and diaspora
M (8/26) Last day to enroll or add without instructor permission.
Last day for online enrollment.
Tuition and fees must be paid by 3:30pm.
Last day for full tuition refund

Hunt/Levine, Introduction, “Four Wars and the Problem of Empire”
W (8/28) Hunt/Levine, chapter 1, “The Philippines, 1899-1902: The Imperial Impulse Released”
F (8/30) Last Day to drop without ‘W’
M (9/2) Labor Day holiday
Tu (9/3) Hunt/Levine, chapter 2, “Japan, 1941-1945: Securing Dominance”
Th (9/5) Hunt/Levine, chapter 3, “Korea, 1950-1953: Dominance Challenged”
M (9/9) Hunt/Levine, chapter 4, “Vietnam, 1965-1973: Dominance Undone”
W (9/11) Hunt/Levine, Conclusion, “Empire and Aftermath”
M (9/16) Hunt/Levine Essay Due
W (9/18) Hsu, to 54
M (9/23) Last day for half tuition refund
Hsu, 55-123
W (9/25) Hsu, 124 to end
M (9/30) Hsu Essay Due
W (10/2) Bibliography Due
M (10/7) Azuma, to 88
W (10/9) Azuma, 89-163
F (10/11) Fall Break
M (10/14) Columbus Day (not a holiday)
Midsemester D/F Grades Due by Noon

Azuma, 163 to end
W (10/16) Azuma Essay Due
M (10/21) Coe, to 102
W (10/23) Coe, 103-179
F (10/25) Last day to apply for December graduation
M (10/28) Coe, 180 to end
W (10/30) Annotated Bibliography Due
M (11/4) Last day to drop single course.
Early Enrollment for Spring begins

Coe Essay Due
W (11/6) Golden Arches East, to 76
M (11/11) Golden Arches East, 77-135
W (11/13) Golden Arches East, 136 to end
M (11/18) Golden Arches East Essay Due
W (11/20) Book Review Essays Due
M (11/25) Werbel, to 119
W (11/27) Last day to withdraw from entire term.
Thanksgiving Holiday
F (11/29) Thanksgiving Holiday
M (12/2) Werbel, 120 to end
W (12/4) Werbel Essay Due
F (12/6) Last Day of instruction
W (12/11) Historiography Essay Due

“And this perhaps indicates that the value of history as a training of the judgment and of the imagination is very limited if it is exercised only in recreating our own past, with little reference to the total context within which our society developed and, more particularly, the often very divergent structures of other societies whose development may have been of yet greater importance to the making of the world in which we live today. If it is, indeed, one of the major functions of the historian to explain the present by deepening our understanding of the past, then a study simply of our own society will not get us very far. Our awareness of the world and our capacity to deal intelligently with its problems are shaped not only by the history we know but by what we do not know. Ignorance, especially the ignorance of educated men, can be a more powerful force than knowledge. Ethnocentrism in historical studies, whatever its advantages in scholarly training, is likely to feed parochialism in the societies which those historians serve; and such parochialism can have pretty disastrous results.” — Michael Howard The Lessons of History (1989), p. 12, cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 183.

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