A Short History of the Silk Road Idea

Tamara Chin

Venue: Room 102, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Monday, December 12, 2016
Time: 12:30 to 13:30 CST

In 1877, the German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen coined the phrase ‚ÄúSeidenstrasse‚ÄĚ (English ‚ÄúSilk Road;‚ÄĚ Chinese ‚ÄúSichou zhi lu‚ÄĚ ÁĶ≤Á∂ĘšĻčŤ∑Į). Suggestive of an era of premodern globalization in which China played a central role, the Silk Road concept has had a popular and academic appeal since the 1980s. Dr. Chin’s talk will focus on the Cold War period, when China‚Äôs diplomacy with the newly decolonized world reimagined an Afro-Asian Silk Road that was at odds with the Silk Road of the West and Japan. This semantic history of the Silk Road offers a window onto the historiography of ancient intercultural contact. While recent books, conferences, exhibitions, and institutes devoted to the subject have helped to give shape to a notional ‚ÄúSilk Road studies,‚ÄĚ Dr. Chin aims to draw greater attention to the historical underpinnings and theoretical assumptions of this growing subfield.

Tamara¬†Chin,¬†Associate Professor of Comparative Literature,¬†received her BA from Harvard College in Classics and Literature and PhD from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature (classical Chinese, Greek, Latin). Her first book,¬†Savage Exchange: Han Imperialism, Chinese Literary Style, and the Economic Imagination¬†(Harvard, 2014), received the American Comparative Literature Association’s Harry Levin Book Prize and Honorable Mention for the Associaton for Asian Studies’ Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize.

Dr. Chin works on comparative approaches to antiquity, with a focus on¬†Han dynasty China; ancient interculturality and the Afro-Eurasian “Silk Road”; and with broader interests in early and medieval China, modern conceptions of antiquity; economic and environmental history; literary and aesthetic form; gender/sexuality studies. ¬†

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Assistant Professor Armin Selbitschka.

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