Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, Shengqing Wu (Columbia University Press, December 2020)
Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, Shengqing Wu (Columbia University Press, December 2020)

Chinese poetry has a long history of interaction with the visual arts. Classical aesthetic thought held that painting, calligraphy, and poetry were cross-fertilizing and mutually enriching. What happened when the Chinese poetic tradition encountered photography, a transformative technology and presumably realistic medium that reshaped seeing and representing the world?

This curious little book by Japanese technologist Ishiguro Hiroshi, now available in a very readable English translation by Tony Gonzalez, nominally discusses what robotics research teaches us about what it means to be human. But one can’t help but be left with the impression that what it really shows is just how different Japan can at times be from other parts of the world.

The Refugee Aesthetic: Reimagining Southeast Asian America, Timothy K August (Temple University Press, December 2020)
The Refugee Aesthetic: Reimagining Southeast Asian America, Timothy K August (Temple University Press, December 2020)

The refugee is conventionally considered a powerless figure, eagerly cast aside by both migrant and host communities. In his book, The Refugee Aesthetic, Timothy August investigates how and why a number of Southeast Asian American artists and writers have recently embraced the figure of the refugee as a particularly transformative position.

Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya (Temple University Press, November 2020)
Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya (Temple University Press, November 2020)

In Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya provides a literary and cultural archive of refugee stories and experiences to respond to the question “What is created?” after decolonization and the 1947 Partition of India.

The Japanese tea ceremony is a traditional art in which actual consumption takes a backseat to process and presentation. It’s also an activity for the privileged, one in which people can enjoy only if they have spare time to devote to classes. But Noriko Morishita has shown how a modern woman can embrace a fading art and the calmness it can bring. Morishita’s The Wisdom of Tea: Life Lessons from the Japanese Tea Ceremony was so successful in Japan that it was adapted into a 2018 film.

Just around the corner from Rome’s Pantheon, on the Via di Sant’Ignazio, is the famed Biblioteca Casanatense. Among its precious  books and manuscripts is an album of 76 striking watercolours made  in Goa around 1540, the work of an anonymous Indian painter for an unknown Portuguese patron.