The Global Studies Seminar presents Kathryn Meyer.

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The Global Studies Seminar presents “Life and Death in a Manchurian Slum, Harbin China 1940-1941” by Professor of History at Wright State University Kathryn Meyer.

The Garden of Grand Vision stank. Vermin infested the walls. Corpses littered the hallways waiting for the daily offal truck to cart the bodies away. Yet the place served a purpose. It sheltered a floating population from the freezing Siberian winter that visited Harbin China every year. The building residents were Chinese who had fallen to the lowest levers of social devastation. Drug addiction and gambling helped blur the discomfort of the slum. This recreation was paid for through begging, theft, prostitution and scavenging. Rumors that Chinese spies lived in the building concerned the Japanese military which occupied Manchuria during this phase of the Second World War. Therefore the authorities who ran the puppet state sent three Japanese police officers to the building to investigate. The result was a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the people who lived in the back alleys of a nation at war. The result was a 300 page analysis of the economic environment in which their subjects thrived. It also contained veiled criticism of the Manchukuo government for which the policemen worked. Yet sympathetic as the report was, it also provided evidence to the Japanese government to create labor camps to “reform” the ne’er-do-wells of Manchukuo.


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