Reviews of Books

Extrapolation (2017), 58, (1), 95–122.


Reviews of Books Reviews of Books To Resist Our Own Sickness. David S. Roh, Betsy Huang, and Greta A. Niu, eds. Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2015. 260 pp. ISBN 978-0-81-357063-1. $34.95 pbk. Reviewed by Mark Bould A curious aspect of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century Orientalist imaginary is the way in which its perception of East Asia and East Asians is structured around an apparent contradiction. China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore (and their peoples and diasporas) are repeatedly depicted as simultaneously pre-modern and modern, feudal and hypercapitalist, hypotechnological and hypertechnological. This techno-Orientalism “has become ‘an epistemological apparatus for [East Asians] to misunderstand themselves, and for Westerners to misunderstand others’” (qtd. Toshiya Ueno 9). In order to develop a clearer understanding of techno-Orientalism and the ways it has been consciously reworked and subverted, David Roh, Betsy Huang, and Greta Niu have divided the fifteen contributions to their collection into two parts: the first “document[s] and analyze[s] instantiations of techno-Orientalism over time and across genres”; the second “examine[s] ironic and self-referential texts that seek to recuperate anti-imperial, anti-Orientalist critical and representational stances via techno-Orientalist reappropriations” (16). Part One begins with Kenneth Hough’s analysis of the impact of Japan’s surprise 1905 victory in its war with Russia—a war that, while not as fully mechanized as WWI, utilized the entire scientific romance arsenal apart from Oswald Bastable and a Martian war machine: “contact mines, torpedoes, quick-firing rifles, heavy artillery, machine guns, searchlights, pre-dreadnought battleships, torpedo boats, barbed wire, telephones, wireless radios, aerial observation balloons, transcontinental railroads, […] experimental weapons like submarines and airships,” rapidly disseminated news coverage and “mass media propaganda” (26). This spectacular high-tech militarism “stoked apprehensions of a looming Eastern threat to Western civilization” (28) and led to the development of a “Japanese invasion sublime,” Extrapolation, vol. 58, no. 1 (2017) https://doi.org/10.3828/extr.2017.6

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