World History in China: The Twentieth Century

World History in China: The Twentieth Century

Speaker: Xin Fan
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-9-26 | 20:00-21:30 (Shanghai)
2022-9-26 | 8:00-9:30 (New York)
2022-9-26 | 16:00-17:30 (Abu Dhabi)

World history as a field of knowledge production has a history in China that goes back prior to the twentieth century. In this talk, I focus on a case study on ancient world history and trace three stages of the development of world history into an academic field of teaching and research over the course of the entire twentieth century: the rise of amateur world-historical writing in late Qing era, the inclusion of world history as a mandatory teaching component in the school curricula in the Republic, and the establishment of world history as a research field from the early People’s Republic to the 1980s. Throughout this process, the historians in focus constantly negotiated the relationship between national identification and global outlook in their teachings and research. By examining this process, I show how the separation of world history from national history came about as an unintended consequence of the state’s massive social engineering projects.

Dr. Xin Fan (ŤĆÉťĎę) is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York. He is interested in Chinese intellectual history, historiography, and global history. He is the author of¬†World History and National Identity in China: The Twentieth Century¬†(Cambridge University Press, 2021). He also co-edited¬†Reception of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia¬†(Brill, 2018). He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled, ‚ÄúThe Right to Talk about China: Liberal Intellectuals and the Rise of Emotional Politics, 1900 to 1949,‚ÄĚ as well as collaborating with scholars in Europe, America, and Asia on several projects on nationalism, historiography, and conceptual history. In addition, he is writing about world-historical analogies.¬†For the upcoming academic year, Dr. Fan will teach at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. He will also become a Fellow and Director of Studies at Lucy Cavendish College at the university.

Introduction by Tansen Sen, Professor of History Director of the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai.

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Southeast Asian studies in China

Asian Studies in China Blogs and Interviews

Southeast Asian Studies in China

Interview with Dr Xie Kankan, Peking University

Yiming Yu

Research Assistant at the Center for Global Asia

Amid the rapidly increasing engagement between China and the rest of the world, when the importance of Chinese Studies is receiving wider recognition and critical evaluation outside China, Chinese scholars have also been striving to learn more about the rest of the world, especially the regions in Asia. As a result, the discipline of Asian Studies has witnessed remarkable growth in China during the past decade.

In this series of interviews by the Centre for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai, we aim to provide insights into how the study of Asia has developed in China. We examine the history as well as the current landscape of Asian Studies through dialogues with scholars at various academic institutions in mainland China who have made outstanding contributions to the field.

Dr Xie Kankan is Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Peking University. His research and teaching deal with various historical and contemporary issues of the broadly defined “Nusantara” (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore), particularly the region‚Äôs left-wing movements, the intersection of colonialism, nationalism & decolonization, as well as China and Southeast Asia relations during the Cold War. His current research focuses on the history of Indonesian leftism and Chinese diaspora, funded by China‚Äôs National Social Science Foundation and the Institute of Overseas Chinese History Studies. Xie has published in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia, Journal of Indonesian Social Sciences and Humanities, Dongnanya Yanjiu, and Nanyang Wenti Yanjiu. He received his Ph.D. in Southeast Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and holds an M.A. in Asian Studies from Cornell University and a B.A. in Malay Language & Literature from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

01.

As a scholar specializing in Southeast Asian studies, especially on Indonesia and the Malay World (Nusantara) could you please describe the development of Southeast Asian studies overall, particularly in China, and say what Peking University has done to promote these fields of study?

Modern Southeast Asian studies in China can be traced back to the 1920s, when the National Jinan University in Shanghai established the Nanyang Cultural Affairs Bureau to study socioeconomics, history, geography, and social culture in the Southeast Asian region. Southeast Asian studies in China started in the form of ‚ÄėNanyang studies‚Äô, was closely associated with research on the Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and was broadly defined as ‚ÄėOverseas Chinese Affairs‚Äô. Despite the Second World War having an adverse impact on Chinese research institutions focusing on Southeast Asian studies, interest in and the demand for studying Southeast Asia continued to grow in China. In the post-war era, ‚ÄėOverseas Chinese Affairs‚Äô or ‚ÄėNanyang studies‚Äô gradually evolved into ‚ÄėSoutheast Asian studies‚Äô focusing on the region‚Äôs nation-states. At present, research institutions concentrating on Southeast Asian studies in China can be found at institutions of higher learning, Academies of Social Sciences, and military organizations, which are located in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi and Yunnan.

In terms of the history of the field, Southeast Asian studies at Peking University stemmed from two branches: the Department of Oriental Languages, and the Institute of Asian and African Studies. The study of Southeast Asian languages at the Department of Oriental Languages was built upon the disciplinary foundations laid by the National College of Oriental Languages, which had been established in 1942. In the beginning, these languages included Burmese, Vietnamese, and Thai. The objective was to train translators to satisfy the urgent requirements of the nationalist government during the war. In 1949, the National College of Oriental Languages was merged into the Department of Oriental Languages, which gradually added Bahasa Indonesia (Malay) and Filipino to its curriculum. In 1999, the Department of Oriental Languages was integrated with the Departments of English, Russian, and Western Languages to form the School of Foreign Languages. The Department of Southeast Asian Studies, under the School of Foreign Languages, now offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in all five languages.

The Institute of Asian and African Studies was set up at Peking University in 1964 with the aim of studying and teaching Asian and African politics, economy, society, and culture and serving China’s diplomatic initiatives. The Southeast Asian Research Unit at the Institute has long focused on the Overseas Chinese, Southeast Asian politics and economy, and other topics. At the end of the 1990s, the Institute of Asian and African Studies was merged with the School of International Relations. Apart from the School of Foreign Languages and the School of International Relations, scholars from other departments at Peking University, such as History, Government, Law and Sociology, have been engaged in the study of Southeast Asia as well. Peking University has also set up cross-departmental and interdisciplinary research institutions, including the Asia-Pacific Research Institute, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Center for Overseas Chinese Studies. Moreover, in 2018, Peking University established the Institute of Area Studies, of which Southeast Asian studies is an important component, aiming to integrate campus-wide resources and build a comprehensive academic platform that will draw together academic research, academic management, scholarly training, think-tank functions, and international academic exchanges.

02.

What types of support does Peking University provide to undergraduate and postgraduate students in Southeast Asian studies, such as language training, academic resources, and international exchanges?

As a comprehensive university, Peking University is relatively rich with its academic resources, curricular development, library collections, inter-university exchanges and other opportunities. MA and doctoral students in the field of Southeast Asian studies are able to apply for funding for a variety of exchange programs, fieldtrips and short-term research. The sources for such funding are diverse, coming from either standard funding agencies such as the China Scholarship Council, the University and its Graduate School, or specifically through supervisors, alumni, and project-based grants. Compared with other comprehensive universities in China, Peking University enjoys a degree of advantage in training in Southeast Asian languages. The School of Foreign Languages regularly offers courses in five concentrations: Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Filipino. Each of these five concentrations enrols undergraduate students every four years and occasionally employs foreign scholars to enrich their curricula. Before the pandemic, many undergraduate students had opportunities to visit countries of their concentrations for one or two semesters. Others attended summer schools in Western countries. However, the pandemic has made such international experience more difficult. Those not majoring in these languages, whether undergraduates, and postgraduate students, are also able to enrol in or audit language courses that are occasionally offered to non-majors. The Southeast Asian studies program at Peking University is not confined to these five languages. We enrol postgraduate students (including international students) interested in studying Laos, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia. Many of these students also choose to study additional research languages from outside of Southeast Asia, such as Sanskrit, Pali, French and Spanish, for their research. Evidently, the languages acquired for research exceed those learnt for teaching purposes.

03.

Some of your projects related to Indonesian studies receive funding from the National Social Science Fund and Peking University. What is the state of funding like for Southeast Asian studies from Chinese universities and the Chinese Ministry of Education?

My academic interests lie primarily in modern Indonesian history, specifically left-wing movements in the late colonial period. At present, I am an independent PI of a research project funded by the National Social Science Fund‚Äôs Young Scholars Program. Additionally, I am a co-PI of another project under the Fund‚Äôs Major Projects scheme. I also received funding from the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (AFCROC). All these projects are closely related to my research interests. In the last decade, the Belt and Road Initiative has drastically boosted the government‚Äôs support for area studies, prompting Chinese universities to establish relevant research institutions en masse. Peking University therefore considers area studies a priority field under ‚ÄėAdvanced Interdisciplinary Studies‚Äô and an important ‚ÄėAcademic Growth Sector‚Äô. Southeast Asia is a neighbouring region of China, with close connections through exchanges of people, trade, and culture. In China, Southeast Asian studies often involve an indispensable sub-field of the Overseas Chinese studies. Thus, with the rise of area studies in China, developing a good Southeast Asian studies program has become an important objective of many Chinese universities. With regard to the National Social Science Fund, I have not found an evident preference for area studies in general or Southeast Asian studies in particular. However, agencies such as the Ministry of Education and the AFCROC, as well as local governments at all levels, have clearly intensified support for policy-related research within the field of area studies. The methods and intensity of support from Chinese universities vary as well. At comprehensive universities located in places such as Beijing and Shanghai, Southeast Asian studies does not have a clear advantage over studies of other regions. However, similar programs at universities in Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi and Yunnan enjoy more favorable treatment because of their proximity to Southeast Asia.

04.

Southeast Asia is a geographical region that includes eleven countries. As for Southeast Asian studies in China, is there any centre of gravity, i.e. does any particular country or area receive more focus? What impact do you think such a preference will have on the future development of Southeast Asian studies in China?

There is a clear preference for Southeast Asian studies in China. A basic tendency is that the greater the country's economy, population size and territorial area, the more attention it receives. As a result, the larger Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand receive more attention within Chinese academia. However, smaller countries like Brunei, Cambodia and Timor-Leste are barely studied. The same phenomenon exists among Western scholars as well. A major difference between Chinese scholars and their Western counterparts is in their respective research into ‚Äėmiddle countries‚Äô. Chinese scholars focus more on countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, largely because of the Chinese diaspora, but the Philippines, a country of similar size, does not receive similar treatment. The main reason for this is accessibility to research resources, as many Chinese scholars working on Southeast Asian studies only know Chinese and English and not the local languages. Many of them thus use the local Chinese community as the starting point for their research, studying Southeast Asia through the lens of the Chinese overseas. In the long run, Chinese scholars have inevitably failed to avoid the bias of ‚ÄėChina-centrism‚Äô or ‚ÄėChinese-centrism‚Äô, where there is a lack of important local perspectives. The other trend in Southeast Asian studies in China is the emphasis on current affairs in the neighboring regions. One example of this is the focus on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the coup in Myanmar, and measures to prevent COVID-19 in many Southeast Asian countries. The consequence of this trend is that many scholars over-emphasize the study of ‚Äėhot‚Äô current affairs at the expense of the necessary long-term accumulation of knowledge and in-depth investigation of the region.

Teaching a class on Southeast Asian at PKU. Many international students enrolled before the pandemic.

A lecture by Professor Henk Schulte Nordholt on nationalism, decolonization, and the Cold War in Southeast Asia.

A Panel discussion after Professor Henk Schulte Nordholt’s lecture on nationalism, decolonization, and the Cold War in Southeast Asia. Participants from right to left: Henk Schulte Nordholt (KITLV and Leiden University), Ngeow Chow Bing (University of Malaya) and Xie Kankan (Southeast Asian Studies, PKU).

05.

Speaking of the three Nusantara countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, many people would associate them with studies of local Chinese communities, and much of your research is on these communities. So, in the first place, how much does research on local Chinese communities account for studies of the Malay World in China? Secondly, apart from this subject, what are the emerging or popular topics in studies of the Malay World in China? Which areas do you think deserve more attention?

Overseas Chinese studies is a topic that is impossible to overlook in Southeast Asian studies. Despite the fact that the Chinese communities are in the minority in most Southeast Asian countries, the international academia pays a great deal of attention to this group, which is closely associated with China‚Äôs influence in these places and the political and economic status of the Chinese in local societies. With regard to the three Nusantara countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Chinese communities have always been an important research subject. Nanyang studies, the predecessor of Southeast Asian studies in China, originated from a focus on these countries. The Schools of International Relations of Xiamen University and Jinan University, two important institutions for Southeast Asian studies in China, were built on the foundation of the respective institute of Overseas Chinese studies. However, in recent years, most space in academic periodicals for area studies in China is devoted to International Relations. In terms of Southeast Asian studies, Overseas Chinese studies still accounts for about ten percent of the core periodicals of International Studies, even though most publications related to this subject focus on culture and history (see: Luo, Yifu, ‚ÄúStatus of Southeast Asian Studies in China (2007-2017)‚ÄĒBased on Articles Issued by Journals of International Relations Studies in China,‚ÄĚ Journal of Strategy and Decision-Making 9, no. 5 (2018): 28.) The Journal of Overseas Chinese History Studies, the periodical specifically focusing on this subject, also features a large Southeast Asia-related content. Apart from Overseas Chinese studies, Chinese academia now focuses on bilateral relations, domestic politics, trade and economic ties, ASEAN and regional cooperation, and the South China Sea. Most of China‚Äôs academic focus still falls primarily in the fields of politics and macroeconomy, which are relatively elite-driven and time-sensitive. There needs to be more attention to local society and culture, long-term history, and minority communities. Similarly, archival studies and ethnographic studies, which demand long-term and in-depth research in local areas, are rare. Before the 21st century, there was a relatively strong tradition of cultural and historical studies in Southeast Asian studies in China, which have now been relegated to the fringe amid the rise of policy-related area and country studies. I think we need to seriously reflect on this shift.

Book launch of Language Ungoverned: Indonesia’s Chinese Print Entrepreneurs, 1911‚Äď1949 (Cornell University Press, 2021), by Dr. Tom Hoogervorst (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, KITLV).

A lecture on Dutch-Indonesian writer Tjalie Robinson (1911-1974) by Jeroen Dewulf, Queen Beatrix Professor in Dutch Studies at UC-Berkeley.

06.

You chose to do a Designated Emphasis (minor) in Dutch studies for your PhD. Given the colonial past of Southeast Asian countries, how important do you think it is to simultaneously study the colonial history from a Western perspective in Southeast Asian studies? In the field of Southeast Asian studies in China, is it common to study the metropoles and colonies at the same time?

I systematically studied Malay during my undergraduate years at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, laying the foundation for my smooth transition into the study of Indonesia in the postgraduate programs. The relatively long length of doctoral study in the USA enabled me to learn Dutch from the scratch with ease, which fortunately led me to study colonial history. Undoubtedly, the Dutch perspective is very helpful in my study of Indonesia because firstly, there is a rich collection of archives and materials in the Netherlands, and secondly, there is an outstanding tradition of Indonesia studies in the Netherlands, where one can find a large number of excellent scholars specializing in studies of the Malay World. As a result, the research experience in the Netherlands benefited me tremendously, which allowed me to get in touch with several researchers in the field outside China, America and Southeast Asia, and helped me to get rid of the thinking patterns of essentialism among area studies scholars (or ‚ÄėIndonesian Exceptionalism‚Äô, i.e. ‚ÄėIndonesia is the most unique country unparalleled to other countries because I am studying Indonesia.‚Äô) By understanding the colonial histories of the Netherlands and Britain, I have more comprehensive knowledge of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. I could imagine that studying France would improve my understanding of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, while studying Spain and the US would benefit research on the Philippines and studying Japanese and Arabic would help one examine several specific topics during a specific period. Based on my observation, a lot of Chinese scholars belonging to my generation have undergone similar academic training in the West, especially in the field of Southeast Asian studies. In China, this kind of doctoral training is still not possible, as researchers in Southeast Asian Studies are limited by factors such as the duration of study, language skills and academic resources.

07.

Does the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at Peking University have any kind of collaborations with other departments or institutes within the university? What is academic exchange like in the field of Southeast Asian studies in China?

The School of Foreign Languages at Peking University is unique. On the one hand, it represents the Primary Discipline of Foreign Language and Literature in the university with over two hundred full-time faculty members, way more than those in the Schools of Foreign Languages at other comprehensive universities in China. On the other hand, the research interests of the faculties at the School of Foreign Languages cover many areas, such as literature, history, linguistics, anthropology, politics, and religious studies. The School could thus be described as a cluster of inter-disciplinary research and teaching in area and country studies. The Department of Southeast Asia collaborates with several departments within the School, particularly with the Departments of South Asia, Arabic, West Asia and Afro-Asia, which were all part of the now-defunct Department of Oriental Languages, and newly-established departments involving area studies, as joint research projects and inter-department modules are quite common. At the university level, there are a lot of inter-school platforms for collaboration. For example, the School of Foreign Languages convenes a joint program, Foreign Languages and Foreign History, with the Department of History and the Yuanpei College (Liberal Arts), as well as a joint program, Foreign Languages and International Communication, with the School of Journalism and Communication. The School of Foreign Languages has also established collaborations with the Schools of International Studies, Government, Law, Sociology, Chinese Literature, History, Philosophy and even the Schools of Medicine and Natural Science and Engineering within the university. This has been achieved through a series of inter-disciplinary platforms such as the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Asia-Pacific Research Institute and the Institute of Oceanic Research. The Institute of Area Studies further integrates resources for relevant disciplines across the university, as there are numerous opportunities for inter-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration.

Even with the impact of the pandemic, there have been lots of academic exchanges in the field of Southeast Asian studies in China. Although it is difficult to accurately count the number of scholars working in this field in China, from my personal view the scale of the academic community and the frequency of academic events are higher than those in America and Europe. The Association for Southeast Asian Studies in China, founded in 1978, holds a major conference every four years. The last conference was held in Guangzhou in 2019 with near four hundred participants in attendance. This number of attendances is just the tip of the iceberg for Southeast Asian studies in China, and this quadrennial conference has been unable to satisfy the demands of Southeast Asian studies in China. There are numerous seminars, workshops, and lectures on different scales in the field of Southeast Asian studies in China, most of which are centred in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Nanning and Kunming, all cities with high concentrations of Southeast Asian Studies institutions. In recent years, the online visibility of Southeast Asian studies has improved dramatically, as many new online lectures during the pandemic have overcome the restraints of time and space in academic exchanges. There are countless accounts and a great deal of content on social media platforms such as Wechat and Weibo with a self-claimed focus on Southeast Asian studies, but they are of inconsistent quality.

A lecture on developmental states in Southeast Asia by T.J. Pempel, Jack M. Forcey Professor of Political Science at UC-Berkeley.

Giving an online talk on the Chinese National Salvation Movement in Malaya and Java, hosted by the Harvard University Asia Center.

08.

You did your PhD research in the United States and have also gone on research visits in the Netherlands and Southeast Asia. What do you think are the differences in research directions and methods between your research in China and the research undertaken in the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia in Southeast Asia studies and studies of the Malay World?

Academic discourses are influenced by local social, political and cultural factors. Academic circumstances in different places certainly shape local Southeast Asian studies. In the United States, Southeast Asian studies was influenced by Cold-War area studies and was initially inextricably linked to decolonization, nation-state construction, modernization theory, and ideological debates. However, after decades of development, Southeast Asian studies has been organically assimilated to America‚Äôs academic ecosystem. Southeast Asia has been both a natural lab for social-science theories in the United States and an important source for the development of the relevant disciplines. This includes Clifford Geertz‚Äôs research on local knowledge, Benedict Anderson‚Äôs study of nationalism and James C. Scott‚Äôs work on anarchism. Contemporary Southeast Asian studies in the United States is closely associated with those areas that have received wide attention, including migration, human rights, ethnicity, gender, religion, the environment, climate change and postcolonialism, all sustaining the development of this scholarly field. Southeast Asian studies in Europe has been heavily influenced by its tradition of orientalism and production of colonial knowledge, but it shares common ground and even converges with its United States counterpart in methodology and theoretical concerns because of strong academic interactions across the Atlantic. To some extent, ‚ÄėFrench Indo-Chinese studies‚Äô, ‚ÄėDutch Indonesian studies‚Äô and ‚ÄėSpanish Filipino studies‚Äô, rooted in the production of colonial knowledge, have gradually been transformed into ‚ÄėEuropean Southeast Asian studies‚Äô, a discipline with a modern academic focus. After the Second World War, as Southeast Asian countries gained independence, local scholars started focusing on the issues of decolonization, construction of nation states, ethnic politics, and religion in their own countries. Also, an increasing number of Southeast Asian scholars have started to shed more light on neighboring countries or to break down the different silos of nation-states to study issues such as migration, the environment, cultural heritage, and regional cooperation. In addition, Southeast Asian studies in Southeast Asian countries is deeply impacted by western academia, with more frequent interactions between both sides. In the past, Southeast Asian studies in Singapore, with its close alignment with western academia, is a unique case in the region. More recently, highly internationalized research institutions have prospered all over Southeast Asia. As mentioned above, Chinese Southeast Asian studies, greatly influenced by the requirements of the government, economic activities, and popular consumption, has witnessed an explosive trend in growth in recent years. However, generally speaking, policy-oriented research concerning current affairs constitutes the mainstream of the discipline in China. By contrast, original research with theoretical rigor based on long-term fieldwork and first-hand multilingual materials is relatively weak.

09.

What are exchanges and interactions between Chinese and foreign scholars in the field of Southeast Asian studies like? How do you think the development of this field in China has been influenced by foreign scholars through such exchanges and interactions? And conversely, has Chinese academia influenced international academia in the field of Southeast Asian Studies?

Before the pandemic, Chinese scholars in the field of Southeast Asian studies had regular interactions with foreign scholars: Chinese scholars obtained more opportunities to travel abroad to study, research and participate in academic conferences. There were also a number of Chinese students studying at universities in the West or Southeast Asia. Furthermore, such exchanges were not one-way, as foreign scholars were ‚Äėbrought in‚Äô when Chinese scholars ‚Äėwent abroad‚Äô. The Internet also drastically improved the accessibility of materials. Yet, I think it is not quite accurate to use the word ‚Äėfrequent‚Äô to describe the interactions between Chinese scholars and their foreign counterparts, and the pandemic has complicated the situation, creating more difficulties for academic exchanges. Beyond the pandemic factor, I think there are two issues hindering such academic exchanges. On the one hand, Southeast Asian studies in China is unique in its discourse, language preferences, theoretical approaches and academic ecosystem, which are consistent with the problems faced by Chinese academics in general. Southeast Asian studies in China has formed a huge academic community that is capable of the domestic circulation of ideas. Even when completely without international interactions, many Chinese scholars are able to publish their research in Chinese journals to prioritize domestic demand and establish themselves within the domestic community. On the other hand, compared with many Humanities and Social Science disciplines, the internationalization of Southeast Asian studies has fallen behind. For disciplines such as economics, political science, and sociology, ‚Äėgoing abroad‚Äô and ‚Äė(foreign scholarship) coming in‚Äô have already become the norm, but those scholars who are most keen to enter into exchanges with their foreign counterparts mostly study Chinese problems since such interaction enables them to contribute ‚ÄėChinese perspectives‚Äô or ‚ÄėChinese voices‚Äô to international academia.

Accordingly, those scholars who specialize in Chinese studies and are interested in engaging with their foreign counterparts are usually familiar with foreign academic discourses and aware of the state of the field globally. In recent years, many publications on Southeast Asian studies in the West have been translated into Chinese, but several scholars who translated these works were not from the field. They usually focused on specific disciplines and the state of international scholarship, which allowed them to quickly grasp the academic value of these works from the perspective of disciplinary theories. In comparison, most scholars in the field of Southeast Asian studies in China do not possess the academic sensitivity and capability to participate in international exchanges. It is worth pointing out that, even with these systematic obstacles, the influence of foreign scholarship on Chinese Southeast Asian studies has been extensive and profound. It is already very common to cite English academic works in Chinese journals when some scholars with Southeast Asian language abilities could even draw on a wide range of local materials in their research. Objectively speaking, the influence of Chinese research on Southeast Asian scholars outside China is quite limited. This is closely related to the aforementioned restrictive factors, language barriers among scholars and academic systems in western and Southeast Asian academia. However, I think it’s necessary for the international academia to learn about research undertaken in China. It is undeniable that China has a geopolitical impact on Southeast Asia, and research by Chinese scholars on relevant issues will enable their foreign academics to strengthen their understanding of these complicated issues. Deepening international exchanges in the field of Southeast Asian studies is extremely important.

Professor Barbara Watson Andaya’s lecture on Christianity and the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia.

A Panel discussion after Professor Barbara Watson Andaya’s lecture on Christianity and the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. Participants from left to right: Barbara Watson Andaya (Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i), Ni Yun (English, PKU), Chen Boyi (History, Xiamen University), and Xie Kankan (Southeast Asian Studies, PKU).

10.

In Europe and the United States, scholars have been moving away from western-centrism and revaluating decolonization. In one of your seminars, you have argued that many local scholars are now focusing on China at the expense of neglecting the perspectives from Southeast Asian countries. How could these problems be addressed in the future?

It has been a long time since western academia started to call for decolonizing and criticizing western-centrism in the study of Southeast Asia. This has been a driving force in western academia, as it continuously self-reflects and corrects earlier scholarship to develop and make progress in the field. The decolonization of knowledge production and of politics, the economy and culture are closely related but distinct facets. For over half a century, ‚Äėcolonization‚Äô has developed complicated connotations, which international scholars in the field of Southeast Asian studies have been reflecting on. Overall, the effort to decolonize Southeast Asian studies has resulted in dramatic progress, but there is still much to be done. This suggests a continuing need for further research and analysis. Similarly, it is not that the Chinese academic community is not aware of or has not reflected on so-called ‚ÄėChina-centrism‚Äô. The transformation of ‚ÄėNanyang studies‚Äô into ‚ÄėSoutheast Asian studies‚Äô is indicative of this awareness. Many Chinese scholars increasingly take this issue of ‚ÄėChina-centrism‚Äô seriously in their research. However, for Chinese scholars specializing in Southeast Asian studies, there is no standard solution to ‚Äėde-China-centrism‚Äô, nor a shortcut to achieve this goal. This is because the solution requires Chinese scholars to learn and borrow from western academia both comprehensively and intensively and to avoid presenting their research as derivative of western academic traditions. Chinese scholars have to both emphasize their innovative research with the use of primary materials, methods and concepts related to Southeast Asia, and avoid falling into essentialism. It is necessary for them to boost and strengthen their exchanges and interactions with foreign counterparts and, at the same time, insist on their own unique academic traditions. In the last few years, ‚Äėdomestic circulation‚Äô and ‚Äėexternal circulation‚Äô are two buzzwords that have been used to discuss the development of the Chinese economy, which seems suitable for describing the field of Southeast Asian studies as well. With a long history, a solid tradition, a rich and special academic focus and a growing community of scholars and students, Chinese Southeast Asian studies forms an ecosystem that differs from those in other countries for its foundation of ‚Äėdomestic circulation‚Äô, which does not exist in many places. With this foundation, even during the pandemic, the academic community in the field of Southeast Asian studies in China remains active. However, blindly emphasizing ‚Äėdomestic circulation‚Äô is problematic, as it will only lead to a lack of exchanges, rigid thinking and stagnant knowledge production. Therefore, in the post-pandemic era, there will be an urgent need for the field of Southeast Asian studies in China to restart and deepen ‚Äėexternal circulation‚Äô since it has to go global.

More on the authors’ reflections on Southeast Asian studies in China can be found in:

Xie, Kankan. ‚ÄúExperiencing Southeast Asian Studies in China: A Reverse Culture Shock.‚ÄĚ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 52, no. 2 (2021): 170‚Äď87. doi:10.1017/S0022463421000473

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ATTCAT 2022

The International Workshop & Symposium on Annotation and Translation of Traditional Chinese Architecture Terminology

Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-6-10 to 2022-6-12
2022-6-17 to 2022-6-19

Chinese architecture is a critical component of global architectural heritage. Scholars of historic architecture around the world have been particularly fascinated by China’s traditional timber-frame system. However, the idiosyncratic technical terminology used to describe this system of building has long been an obstacle for scholars. Native and non-native speakers alike find it challenging to fully understand the terms and translate them into modern parlance and across cultural divides. Without a full understanding of the vocabulary used to describe Chinese architectural elements, this rich tradition remains largely inaccessible to an ever-expanding public interested in visiting, and more deeply understanding China’s cultural heritage sites.

In the light of this, a group of scholars and architectural historians, led by Professor CHEN Wei (Southeast University, China), Professor Tracy Miller (Vanderbilt University, USA), and Professor ZHUGE Jing (Southeast University, China), initiated an international collaboration called the Annotation and Translation of Traditional Chinese Architecture Terminology (ATTCAT). The ATTCAT project is a workshop that meets annually and brings scholars from different countries and cultures together to study the meaning of technical terms in traditional Chinese architecture and develop full annotated translations with bibliographic references. By then publishing revised annotations in open-access databases, the ATTCAT project seeks to advance a common knowledge of Chinese architectural terminology and the heritage it describes.

NYU Shanghai has been hosting the online workshop for the ATTCAT project since 2020. We are happy to announce that the 2022 workshop will be hosted again by NYU Shanghai and organized by Professor Lala Zuo (NYU Shanghai). The event will take place over Zoom across two weekends: June 10-12; and then again from June 17-19.

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Rolling with the Rotis: Body Techniques around the Bay of Bengal

Rolling with the Rotis: Body Techniques around the Bay of Bengal

Speaker: Krishnendu Ray
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-5-27 | 21:00-22:30 (Shanghai)
2022-5-27 | 9:00-10:30 (New York)
2022-5-27 | 17:00-18:30 (Abu Dhabi)

‚ÄúEvery habit makes our hand more witty, and our wit more handy‚ÄĚ Nietzsche

Taking mundane instances of making various kinds of rotis at home and in the marketplaces, and paan chewing around the Bay of Bengal littoral, I build on recent theorizations about doing and thinking. As a sociologist among historians, I tend to look backward from the current material evidence to its historical sedimentation across different temporalities. I distinguish between things and actions that have long lineages and ones with shorter pedigrees. Practices such as cooking and eating precede individuals, who are thrown into a world with standards of mutually intelligible and acceptable behavior. Drawing on recent theorization in Anthropology and Sociology, I develop an argument about the unconscious relationship between normed practice and performative instance. In this new behavioral bent, culture is less about values in the head, and more about repetitive practices of the body and the mind. Cooking is a micropractice with larger implications, about connectivities and differences, continuities and change.

Krishnendu Ray is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University. He was the Chair of the department from 2012-2021. He is the author of The Migrant’s Table (2004) and The Ethnic Restaurateur (2016) and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia (2012). He was formerly a faculty member and the Acting Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at The Culinary Institute of America (1996-2005) and the President of The Association for the Study of Food and Society from 2014-2018. He is an Editorial Collective Member of the Food Studies journal Gastronomica.

Introduction by Kathleen Burke, Doctoral Fellow, Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai; PhD Candidate, University of Toronto.

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4th CGA & GPS Young Scholars Symposium Asia and the World

4th CGA & GPS Young Scholars Symposium
‚ÄúAsia and the World‚ÄĚ

Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-4-29 to 2022-4-30

The Young Scholars Symposium on ‚ÄúAsia and the World‚ÄĚ is co-sponsored by NYU Shanghai Center for Global Asia and the GPS program, which brings together doctoral and postdoctoral fellows as well as recent alumni from NYU Shanghai to share their work on Global Asia, broadly constructed. This is the fourth year of the symposium and it is designed for scholars in their early career to explore the pan-Asian and global connections in their work. The participants will focus on topics on history, art, literature, society, archaeology, anthropology and cultural studies, and examine and expand the ever-changing intellectual boundaries of academic scholarship on China, Asia and the broader world. This year, in order to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of NYU Shanghai, we will also have participants, young scholars as well as faculty members, from Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Renmin University of China, who will share their research on the study of Asia. The objective is to eventually make the Young Scholars Symposium an annual pan-China event and showcase NYU Shanghai‚Äôs contribution to the study of Asia.

*By invitation only

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Keynote Address | Rethinking the Everyday: Approaching Asia-Africa through Daily Life and Popular Cultures

Rethinking the Everyday:
Approaching Asia-Africa through Daily Life and Popular Cultures

Speaker: Ying Cheng
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-4-29 | 20:00-21:30 (Shanghai)
2022-4-29 | 8:00-9:30 (New York)
2022-4-29 | 16:00-17:30 (Abu Dhabi)

What happens when an African audience watches Indian or Chinese films on Saturday nights? What exactly a Chinese student gets out of a seminar about youth dance culture in West Africa?

The presentation draws attention to current studies on the transnational cultural flows between Asia and Africa that have been largely ignored in dominant discourses of postcolonialism and globalisation. I try to illustrate how popular culture functions as an essential site of mutual representation and knowledge production within a Third World context. Popular culture forms exemplify ‚Äėthe episteme of the everyday‚Äô (Newell and Okome, 2014) that speaks to ordinary people‚Äôs concerns, values, desires and desperations. The transnational circulations of pop cultural forms not only shape people‚Äôs imagination of self and other, but provoke alternative imaginaries of modernities and globalisation within a Southern context.¬†

The presentation calls for a southern, comparative theoretical endeavour among scholars of Asian and African studies: From which kind of shared daily experiences are the ‚ÄėAfrican-Asian affinities‚Äô (Jean-Fran√ßois and Jeychandran, 2022) generated? How could we think of Asia-Africa as an epistemological framework that challenges traditional models of academic theorisation in area studies and other disciplines? And how could we reactivate our academic debates with languages or ‚Äėvernaculars‚Äô rooted in the lifeworld of Asia and Africa?

Ying Cheng is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Peking University. Her research interests include youth and popular culture in Africa, African visual and performance arts, cultural interactions between China and Africa, and so on. Dr Ying Cheng is an editorial board member of the Journal of African Cultural Studies. She has also been a research associate (Arts of Africa and the Souths) of Rhodes University, South Africa since 2017. In recent years, she has published articles in African Arts, Routledge Handbook of African Literature, African Theatre, Journal of African Culture Studies and so on.

Introduction by M. Yunus RAFIQ, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU Shanghai.

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Indian and South Asian Studies in China

Asian Studies in China Blogs and Interviews

Indian and South Asian Studies in China

Interview with Dr Cao Yin, Tsinghua University

Yiming Yu

Research Assistant at the Center for Global Asia

Amid the rapidly increasing engagement between China and the rest of the world, when the importance of Chinese Studies is receiving wider recognition and critical evaluation outside China, Chinese scholars have also been striving to learn more about the rest of the world, especially the regions in Asia. As a result, the discipline of Asian Studies has witnessed remarkable growth in China during the past decade.

In this series of interviews by the Centre for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai, we aim to provide insights into how the study of Asia has developed in China. We examine the history as well as the current landscape of Asian Studies through dialogues with scholars at various academic institutions in mainland China who have made outstanding contributions to the field.

In this interview, we talk with Dr Cao Yin, Associate Professor and Cyrus Tang Scholar in the Department of History at Tsinghua University. Dr Cao specializes in South Asian Studies. His research interests include modern South Asia, global history, and Sino-Indian interactions. He is the author of Chinese Sojourners in Wartime Raj, 1941-45 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and From Policemen to Revolutionaries: A Sikh Diaspora in Global Shanghai, 1885-1945 (Leiden: Brill, 2018). His articles have appeared in Modern Asian Studies, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, and Journal of World History. He is currently working on a new project of the British Raj’s imagined infrastructures across the Indian Ocean region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

01.

As a scholar specializing in Indian/South Asian Studies, could you please provide a brief introduction to the history of this discipline in China?

South Asian Studies in China might be said to have two origins. The first consists of studies of South Asian languages and texts that was undertaken through translations of classical South Asian religious literature. Such studies were influenced by the methodologies of comparative linguistics, popular among the so-called ‚ÄúOriental Studies‚ÄĚ scholars in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. This attracted some Chinese scholars to study classical South Asian language and texts. The second origin probably appeared at the end of the 20th century, when the demand to study Chinese geopolitics enticed International Relations and International Politics scholars to focus on contemporary political and economic trends in South Asia. With the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, the academic focus on the politics and economy of South Asia has increased markedly.

02.

As far as you know, how much interest do Chinese university students have in Indian/South Asian Studies? How much support have Chinese institutions provided to these students?

In China, Indian/South Asian Studies is among the less popular disciplines in regional studies. Because of language barriers, limited awareness of research topics, unclear career paths etc., there is not too much interest among students in this subject. The teaching at Chinese universities is language-oriented, which focuses on reading texts, translation, and language training. Since most universities in China that offer South Asian language programs are at local foreign language training campuses, they can only obtain limited funding from the government, so the support for students is relatively modest.

From Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University

03.

In terms of teaching, could you please compare Indian/South Asian Studies in Chinese universities with those in other countries? In your opinion, what should Chinese universities do to improve their teaching in this field?

Reforming the teaching of South Asian Studies could be approached from two aspects. First, a job-oriented teaching plan should stress vocational expertise in addition to language training. Second, a research-oriented teaching plan should provide students with rigorous academic training in the humanities and social sciences. In other words, in China, research on South Asia should lessen the emphasis only on language training (could language training centres that are independent of research institutes take charge of language training?). They should, rather, establish efficient curricula that integrate humanities and social sciences courses to cultivate comprehensive knowledge of the discipline and awareness of the issues [concerning South Asia].

04.

In the area of historical research, what are the new and popular topics related to India and South Asia in China? What aspects need to be improved? And what are the future prospects of development in these areas?

In my view, in China, South Asian Studies, as a sub-field of regional and country studies, still displays a tendency towards polarization. At one end is Indology, which is dominated by studies of classical languages and terms and the analysis of texts, while at the other end is policy studies, which is dominated by International Relations and International Politics. In China, research on South Asian history during the Islamic and British colonial periods is quite limited. In addition, there is still room for improvements with regard to the identification of research topics.

From Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University

05.

In the area of South Asian Studies, how is the state of interaction between scholars in China and those from other countries?

There is not much interaction. Publications on South Asian from prominent foreign university presses are rarely translated into Chinese. Similarly, research on South Asia by Chinese scholars is seldom translated and published outside China. Interaction between Chinese and prominent foreign South Asian Studies centres are not very frequent.

06.

What has Tsinghua University done to promote the study of South Asia?

There are several post-doctoral fellows and young scholars specializing in South Asian Studies at the Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS). They focus on all topics related to contemporary South Asian politics, economics, and culture. I have convened two course modules at the Department of History, Tsinghua, related to South Asian Studies, namely A Brief History of India and The British Raj and the Making of the Modern World.

I and the postgraduate students under my supervision focus more on the interaction between South Asia and other regions in the early-modern era, as well as on the impact of colonialism on South Asian politics, environment, and culture. Through events such as postgraduate reading groups, workshops for young scholars and public talks in South Asian Studies, South Asian Studies at Tsinghua have gradually cultivated the ability to interact with international academia and develop unique research themes.

07.

Regarding your courses on Indian history at Tsinghua, what has student feedback been like? In your view, before attending the first lecture, how much did students know about the subject? Why do they choose courses on South Asia?

In the first few years, not many students took my courses on Indian history. Most of those who enrolled in the classes had no background knowledge or language skills. They conveyed that it was hard to understand the content of the lectures. These students mainly learned about India through what they saw on the media and Internet. They took these courses in the hope of understanding Indian culture further. About a third of these students are international students, most of whom come from Malaysia. They opt for courses on India because they have often interacted with Indians in Malaysia and thus hope to learn more about the Indian community in their own country.

08.

Does Tsinghua provide extra support such as language training, academic resources or opportunities for students to take Indian/South Asian Studies abroad?

The IIAS recruits PhD students with a full scholarship. These doctoral students are entitled to two-year field trips in South Asia and one-year visiting positions at universities in Europe and the USA that have research programs on South Asia. MA students in the Department of History, Tsinghua University, can undertake a one-year study visit to Europe, the USA, or South Asia with funds from the China Scholarship Council. Since there are no schools of foreign languages or foreign teachers within the university, Tsinghua should step up its efforts to provide training in South Asian languages.

From Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University

09.

In the past, you have at various seminars frequently mentioned that Indian Studies should be placed within the wider perspective of Global Studies to make the necessary connections and comparisons. Regarding such cross-regional and interdisciplinary research, what is the state of collaboration between yourself and other South Asian Studies scholars and those in other disciplines in and outside Tsinghua? How have you collaborated with foreign scholars, organized lectures by foreign scholars for Tsinghua students, and partnered with foreign institutions?

I and some of my peers from the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University, have set up two research groups: Asia-African Studies in Motion, and the Monsoon Lab. Both aim to integrate South Asian Studies with African Studies, Southeast Asian Studies and Chinese Studies in order to extend the boundaries of South Asian Studies through inter-regional comparison and connection.

Additionally, I have also organized three lecture series for promoting global South Asian studies in Tsinghua. Through the Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series in 2019, the New Frontiers of Global History Lecture Series in 2020, and the Asia & Africa Studies in Motion Lecture Series in 2021, I have invited more than one hundred scholars with humanities and social sciences backgrounds from across the world to give in-person and virtual talks. In so doing, I am working hard to build a platform to facilitate the interdisciplinary understanding and dialogue among young scholars in China to facilitate interaction among Southeast Asian Studies, Chinese Studies and African Studies in China.

I have also worked closely with the Centre of Global Asia at NYU Shanghai to train Chinese graduate students in issues related to methodologies and concepts in China-India Studies.

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The Materiality of Friendship: Kongfuzi as an Archival Source for China-India Interactions during the 1950s

China-India Blog

Over the past several decades, the discourse and publications on China and India have been dominated by the issues of border conflicts and tensions between the two countries. On the other end of this spectrum are those who embellish the relationship between the two countries with jargon to create unconvincing depictions of the past, present, and future of China-India connections. The bickering, speculative predictions, and pointless embellishments have resulted in the neglect of many interesting facets of the China-India interactions and exchanges that took place within civil society, the contributions of lesser-known actors, and the myriad of things that were produced to facilitate, celebrate, or interrogate the connections between China and India. This blog will engage with such overlooked aspects with the aim of facilitating a more meaningful exploration of the longue dureé of interactions between China and India. Those interested in contributing to this endeavor should write to me at the email address chinaindiablog.cga@gmail.com.

The Materiality of Friendship

Kongfuzi as an Archival Source for China-India Interactions during the 1950s

Tansen Sen

Professor of History
Director of the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai

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Shi Lu’s Visit to India in 1955 and the Cosmopolitanism of National Art

Shi Lu’s Visit to India in 1955 and the Cosmopolitanism of National Art

Speaker: Juliane Noth
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-3-10 | 19:00-20:30 (Shanghai)
2022-3-10 | 6:00-7:30 (New York)
2022-3-10 | 15:00-16:30 (Abu Dhabi)
2022-3-10 | 12:00-13:30 (Berlin)

The Chinese painter Shi Lu (1919‚Äď1982), a veteran of the revolution and party secretary of the Xi‚Äôan Branch of the Chinese Artists Association, visited Delhi in July 1955 as the artistic director of the Chinese pavilion at the Indian Industries Fair. During this visit, he produced several paintings and sketches that document sites of cultural interest and people from different social backgrounds in realistic portraits. But the encounter with Indian culture and with Egypt in the following year seems to have sparked in him a renewed interest in Chinese traditional painting, an interest that would lead him away from realistic modes of painting and towards more expressive and individualistic forms. The importance of these cross-cultural encounters resurfaced in 1970, when Shi Lu revised some of the paintings he had made in India and Egypt. While suffering from schizophrenic episodes, he covered the paintings with a new layer of graphic signs and texts. In my talk I will show how Shi Lu construed in these paintings a common cultural past for China and India while at the same time delineating a contemporary world of socialist cosmopolitanism in which the artist situated himself in a moment of utmost personal crisis.

Juliane Noth is Professor of East Asian Art History at Freie Universität Berlin and Research Professor at the China Institute for Visual Studies at the China Academy of Art. The focus of her research is on Chinese art and visual culture of the twentieth century. She is the author of Landschaft und Revolution: Die Malerei von Shi Lu (2009) and co-editor of four edited volumes. Her articles were published in Art History, Ars Orientalis, Trans Asia Photography Review, Xin Meishu, and Twentieth-Century China. Her second book, Transmedial Landscapes and Modern Chinese Painting, is forthcoming with Harvard Asia Center in May 2022.

Introduction by Adhira Mangalagiri, Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London; Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai.

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The Alchemy of Ritual Architecture in Early Buddhist Asia

The Alchemy of Ritual Architecture in Early Buddhist Asia

Speaker: Tracy Miller
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-3-4 | 21:00-22:30 (Shanghai)
2022-3-4 | 8:00-9:30 (New York)
2022-3-4 | 17:00-18:30 (Abu Dhabi)
2022-3-4 | 7:00-8:30 (Nashville)

Although miao ŚĽü, ta Ś°Ē, and si ŚĮļ were all used to describe early Buddhist architecture in China, one of the first ritual spaces for the Buddha was a huagai ŤŹĮŤďč, literally a ‚Äúfoliate canopy‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúflourishing cover.‚ÄĚ Similar to the central element in ‚ÄúDomes of Heaven‚ÄĚ across Buddhist Asia, the floral shape of which is believed to derive from Western divisions of the circle, the huagai in the Chinese context predates other evidence of specifically Buddhist influence. But if the ‚Äúfoliate canopy‚ÄĚ was not the result of the adoption of a new spiritual tradition, why incorporate this alternative celestial geometry into the Sinitic world view?

By examining the iconographic elements of crowning structures across Asia during the early centuries BCE-CE, this paper will show how ornamental canopies were expected to provide more than decorative shelter. Rather, they were conceived as necessary to create an appropriate atmosphere for the alchemical transformation of natural substances‚ÄĒfrom mined ore to the human body. Focusing on empirical observation over sectarian ideology, I argue that technologies of containment transmitted along the silk and incense routes from West Asia to China fueled the acceptance of alternative cosmologies and resulted in stylistically different, but functionally similar, ritual architectures.

Tracy Miller is Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research specialization is medieval Chinese ritual architecture and sacred landscapes. She holds an interdisciplinary MA (1996) and PhD (2000) from the University of Pennsylvania in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (emphasis: China). She has published The Divine Nature of Power: Chinese Ritual Architecture at the Sacred Site of Jinci (Harvard Asia Center, 2007), and articles in major art history and interdisciplinary journals including The Art Bulletin, Archives of Asian Art, Tang Studies, and Artibus Asiae. She is currently completing a book manuscript on the use of generative design strategies in the creation of ritual architecture in Medieval China. Additionally, working with colleagues globally (including at NYU Shanghai), she helped launch the ATTCAT (Annotation and Translation of Traditional Chinese Architecture Terminology) Project, published through ArchitecturaSinica.org, the first publicly accessible research database of traditional Chinese architecture and architecture terminology. At Vanderbilt she teaches courses on the history of art and architecture across Asia.

Introduction by Lala Zuo, Associate Professor of Art History at NYU Shanghai.

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Channels: Small Traders in the Digital Age

Channels: Small Traders in the Digital Age

Speaker: Biao Xiang
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-2-23 | 20:00-21:30 (Shanghai)
2022-2-23 | 7:00-8:30 (New York)
2022-2-23 | 16:00-17:30 (Abu Dhabi)
2022-2-23 | 13:00-14:30 (Berlin)

Co-organizer: Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

This presentation explores how petty traders and manufacturers from the global South can join the world market without relying on hierarchical supply chains, monopolistic platform companies, or informal networks. It suggests that international trade based on ‚Äúchannels‚ÄĚ among petty traders can empower small players. Channel is in-person connection (though often supplemented by online communication) that people establish purposefully to exchange selected information for a particular goal. Neither random encountering nor friendship are channels. Channel is horizontal, thus different from supply chain. Channel enables traders and manufacturers to communicate constantly and therefore to change the product, the price, the methods of payment and goods delivery, thus different from digital platforms that offer many choices among ready-made goods and set prices but few chances for making changes or developing collaboration. Channel is ‚Äúdeal-specific‚ÄĚ in the sense that traders constantly make new channels, thus it is different from personal networks. All transactions need channels of some sort, the question is under what conditions can small traders make effective global channels at a low cost, thus can free themselves from large corporations. This presentation addresses this question by drawing on traders‚Äô experiences in Yiwu, a town in southeast China known as the world‚Äôs largest wholesale center for manufactured commodities for daily consumption.

Biao Xiang ť°Ļť£ô is Director of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany since 2020, and Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford before that. Xiang‚Äôs research addresses various types of migration ‚Äď internal and international, unskilled and highly skilled, emigration and return migration, and the places and people left behind ‚Äď in China, India and other parts of Asia. Xiang is the winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize for his book Global Bodyshopping and the 2012 William L. Holland Prize for his article ‚ÄėPredatory Princes‚Äô. His 2000 Chinese book Ť∑®Ť∂äŤĺĻÁēĆÁöĄÁ§ĺŚĆļ (published in English as Transcending Boundaries, 2005) was reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic, and Ťá™Ś∑ĪšĹúšłļśĖĻś≥ē (Self as Method, co-authored with Wu Qi) was ranked the Most Impactful Book 2020. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, Korean, Spanish, German and Italian.

Opening Remarks by Burkhard Schnepel, Professor of Social Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

Introduction by Tansen Sen, Professor of History Director of the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai.

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Where is Home? A Conversation with Wang Gungwu

Where is Home? A Conversation with Wang Gungwu

Speaker: Wang Gungwu, Tansen Sen, and Tzu-hui Celina Hung
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-1-28 | 20:00-21:30 (Shanghai)
2022-1-28 | 7:00-8:30 (New York)
2022-1-28 | 16:00-17:30 (Abu Dhabi)
2022-1-28 | 20:00-21:30 (Singapore)

Wang Gungwu is a renowned scholar of Chinese history, Southeast Asia and the Chinese overseas, a leading theorist of Chinese identity, and a prominent commentator on the contemporary Chinese state. He has also been a celebrated builder of institutions in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Born in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wang Gungwu did his schooling in Ipoh, Malaysia. He earned his bachelor and master degrees from the University of Malaya, and PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Wang Gungwu’s recent books Home is Not Here and Home is Where We Are recount his journey through transregional spaces and his participation in nation building, while reflecting the predicaments he had with his identity and belonging. This conversation with Wang Gungwu revisits some of the fascinating episodes described in these two books. It will also engage with him on the notable contributions he has made to the study of China, the Chinese overseas, and transregional history.

 

Professor Wang Gungwu is the former Chairman of the East Asian Institute and University Professor, National University of Singapore. He is also Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University. Professor Wang received his B.A. (Hons) and M.A. degrees from the University of Malaya in Singapore, and his Ph.D. at the University of London (1957). His teaching career took him from the University of Malaya (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1968, Professor of History 1963-68) to The Australian National University (1968-1986), where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Far Eastern History and Director of the Research of Pacific Studies. From 1986 to 1995, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. He was Director of East Asian Institute of NUS from 1997 to 2007.

Professor Wang is a Commander of the British Empire (CBE); Fellow, and former President, of the Australian Academy of the Humanities; Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science; Member of Academia Sinica; Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Science. He was conferred the International Academic Prize, Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes, and the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology.

His books include The Nanhai Trade: The Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea. New Edition (1998), The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for Autonomy (2000), Anglo-Chinese Encounters since 1800: War, Trade, Science and Governance (2003), Renewal: The Chinese State and the New Global History (2013), Another China Cycle: Committing to Reform (2014), Home is Not Here (2018), and Home is Where We Are (2020).

 

Tansen Sen is Professor of history; the Director of the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai; and Global Network Professor at NYU. He is the author of¬†Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400¬†(2003; 2016) and¬†India, China, and the World: A Connected History¬†(2017). He has co-authored (with Victor H. Mair)¬†Traditional China in Asian and World History¬†(2012), edited¬†Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange¬†(2014), and co-edited (with Burkhard Schnepel)¬†Travelling Pasts: The Politics of Cultural Heritage in the Indian Ocean World¬†(2019) and (with Brian Tsui)¬†Beyond Pan-Asianism: Connecting China and India, 1840s‚Äď1960s¬†(2021). He is currently working on a book about Zheng He‚Äôs maritime expeditions in the early fifteenth century, a monograph on Jawaharlal Nehru and China, and co-editing (with Engseng Ho) the¬†Cambridge History of the Indian Ocean, volume 1.

 

Celina Hung received her PhD in comparative literature from the Department of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her research centers on Sinophone literature and culture, Chinese migration and its cultural networks, Anglophone literature, and discourses of creolization and multiculturalism in Asia. She is writing a book project titled Creolizing the Sinophone Pacific, which examines the multilingual articulations of creolization by writers and filmmakers from Southeast Asia with such backgrounds as Babas, Chinoys, and Peranakans, amid a changing nexus of political and cultural forces. She also works