Humanistic International: Humanism, China, Globalism, Harvard University
On March 5-6, 2010, Harvard University hosted the international conference "Humanistic International: Humanism, China, Gloablism." Sponsored by the CCK-IUC and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard, the conference took an interdisciplinary, comparative approach to exploring the notion of the human and humanism. Taking inspiration from the case of Irving Babbitt, the early twentieth-century literary critic and Harvard academic, and the group of modern Chinese writers and intellectuals under his influence, the conference speakers traced the international travels of conceptions of humanism through several Chinese cultural traditions and historical moments. Over the course of two days, the conference convened six panels on topics ranging from humanist thought in premodern traditions such as Confucianism and Buddhism, humanism in the context of modern and contemporary intellectual inquiry, socialist humanism of the revolutionary era, the humanistic encounters between China and the world, and concluded with a fascinating discussion of Lu Xun. Each panel concluded with a lively question and answer session with the audience, and both days ended with a roundtable discussion between conference participants, including literature scholars, historians, religious scholars, and other critical thinkers. "Humanistic International" also featured a keynote speech by Harvard professor Tu Weiming on the continuing role of humanism in the global context.
Read the May 13th New York Times article, "In Search of a Modern Humanism in China"
Professor Wang Hui of Tsinghua University speaking at "Humanistic International"
Viral Knowledge: Infection and Information in Modern China, Duke University
From the social impact of infectious diseases, to the policy initiatives that have been taken to control the spread of those diseases, to the vast body of cultural production inspired by these same diseases, together with the frequent recourse to illness-inspired metaphors (e.g., "sick man of Asia") to describe the nation itself, infection has played a critical role in shaping the development of modern China. The workshop "Viral Knowledge: Infection and Information in Modern China" was held on March 21 at Duke University. Sponsored by CCK-IUC, as well as by Duke's Asia / Pacific Studies Institute, the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and the Center for International Studies, the one-day workshop examined the impact, representation, and imagination of infectious disease in China. Some of the questions the workshop sought to address included: What does it mean to speak of the "viral" circulation of culture and knowledge? What are the consequences of government policies that respond to potential epidemics by imposing strict quarantines on public knowledge about the epidemics themselves? How, in short, might we use our knowledge of viruses (and their effects) as a starting point for thinking about the viral nature of knowledge itself?
The presentations were divided into three panels, focusing on "Death and the Sign," "Gender and Desire," and "Dissemination of Knowledge," respectively. In the first panel, Larissa Heinrich (University of California, San Diego) presented on the conceptions of corporeality underlying the international Body Worlds exhibits. In the panel's second paper, Andrea Bachner (Ohio State University) turned from a consideration of bodily signs, to corporeal signifiers, examining some of the ways concerns with corporeality have infected modern Chinese discussions of the Chinese written language. In the second panel, Andrew Schonebaum (Bard College) discussed the ways that discourses of contagion in late imperial and early Republican period literature either developed on or broke from assumptions about the workings of contagion from earlier periods. Li Jin (Oberlin College) then turn to representations of two specific infections—gonorrhea and syphilis—in early twentieth century works by Bai Wei and Ding Ling. Finally, the third panel looked at the dissemination and circulation of knowledge of specific diseases during the contemporary period. Ying Qian (Harvard University) looked at Chinese documentaries about the nation's domestic AIDS crisis, and particularly how the circulation of these works helped facilitate a form of what Qian calls "viral activism." Carlos Rojas (Duke) concluded with a consideration of representations of SARS in a recent Internet novel that was written and distributed in the immediate aftermath of the epidemic. Jing Tsu (Yale) was also scheduled to present on SARS for this final panel but—in a fitting irony for a workshop on infection—had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.
Red Legacy in China, Harvard University
The two-day international conference "Red Legacy in China" was held April 2-3, 2010, at Harvard University. Sponsored jointly sponsored by the CCK-IUC, the Harvard-Yenching Institute, and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, the conference brought together scholars from North America, Asia, Europe, and Australia to exchange perspectives on the remainders and reminders of the Chinese Communist revolution as well as other leftist currents in the contemporary era. Consisting of utopian ideals and dystopian failures, red legacies have three types of manifestations: remnant traces of the Communist revolution and the Socialist era, contemporary representations and reinventions reminiscent of this past, as well as "inherited" and ongoing institutions, practices, and mindsets.
The presentations at this conference sought to revisit, analyze, and critique red legacies in these various forms. The conference's schedule consisted of eight panels total, with each day concluding with a roundtable discussion. Beginning with re-readings and reinterpretations of "Red Classics," "Red Performances," and "Red Art," the conference panels also dealt with questions of "Red Historiographies," "Red Memory Landscapes," and "Red Dreams" and sought new ways of approaching the idea of a "red legacy" vis-à-vis its reenactment in other parts of the world, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the United States. The conference was very well-attended by members of the Harvard community, which fostered a very lively discussion that interrogated, complicated, and subverted the master narrative of "Red Legacy."
Participants of the "Red Legacy in China" conference.
Early China Seminar, Columbia University
In the Spring of 2010, the Early China Seminar sponsored three meetings on the Morningside campus of Columbia University, attended by scholars and students from New York and the surrounding areas on the East Coast. The first meeting of the year, convened on January 30, was entirely devoted to the Shijing (Book of Poetry) and featured two paper presentations from Professor Chang Pao-San of National Taiwan University on "The Issue of Hermeneutics in the Study of the Shijing," and Professor Anne B. Kinney of the University of Virginia on "Women in the Book of Odes." Professor Chang's paper deals mainly with the hermeneutic methods for the research of the various received or excavated texts as foundation to interpreting lines from the Shijing, while Professor Kinney's paper argues that the Mao-Zheng commentary tradition on the Shijing can be properly used as a rich source to study how scholars and readers in Han times might have used the text as a vehicle for propagating women's morality.
Participants of the January 30 meeting of the Early China Seminar at Columbia University
The seminar on March 6 brought us back to the Western Zhou dynasty when Professor David Sena of the University of Texas at Austin presented his paper on "Narratives of Lineage History in the Shi Qiang pan and Qiu pan." By comparing the subtle differences in the two long inscriptions, Sena argued lineage was more a political institution than a social institution, thus shedding important light on lineage organization during the Western Zhou period.
The symposium on April 10 was devoted fully to archaeology. In her paper, "Life in the Farming Communities of Ancient China: A Bioarchaeological Account," Professor Ekaterina Pechenkina of Queens College (CUNY) systematically discussed evidence for dietary deficiency, oral health, body modification, traumatic injuries and fractures observed on human skeletal remains from ca 10,000 years ago to about 5th centuries BC. The other three papers from Li Feng, Jeremiah Trinidad-Christensen, and Elizabeth Berger (all of Columbia University) together report on the current state of the archaeological field project in Guicheng, Shandong, China. This project was supported by the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation and was established in 2006 as a field collaboration between Columbia University, the Institute of Archaeology (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), and the Shandong Provincial Institute of Archaeology. With his paper, Professor Li Feng highlighted the important findings that have been made in Guciheng in 2007-2009 (especially the results of the test-excavation in Summer 2009), and he discussed their implications for understanding the settlement organization of the city as well as its social-political transition during the Eastern Zhou period. Trinidad-Christensen's paper reports on the use of GIS software packages to create accurate maps of soil and elevation as the framework for managing coring data; the project, when completed, will allow us to simulate underground structures before excavation. Berger's paper reports on the results of the systematic surface shards collection conducted in 2008-2009. This special method used in the Guicheng survey allows us to map out the continuous distribution of ceramic shards across the entire site and offers us important clues to understand the settlement organization of Guicheng and its occupational history.
All papers at the seminars were well-received and enthusiastically discussed by the audience that included not only the regular members of the Early China Seminar, but also scholars associated with the Columbia Center for Archaeology. The year has been an intellectually very fruitful one thanks to the strong support of the CCK-IUC that made these meetings possible.
Participants of the April symposium held by the Early China Seminar at Columbia University.
China Workshop, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
With the support of the CCK Inter-University Center for Sinology, the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign established the China Workshop in Fall 2008 and continues to flourish. In Spring, 2010, the first featured speaker of the regular meeting of the China Workshop at UIUC was Laura Hosteler of the University of Illinois at Chicago on February 26, who spoke on "Early Modern Practice of Representation in Qing China: Cartography and Ethnography." On March 11, two practicing lawyers (each with a Master's degree in East Asian studies), David Mungenast and Charles Stone, along with two UIUC international law faculty, Andy Morris and Charlotte Ku, held a roundtable discussion titled "Global Economy, Chinese Law, and Social Change," attended by more than fifty graduate students and faculty of East Asian Studies and prompted an animated discussion. On April 7, sociologist Ho-fung Ho of Indiana University presented a talk called "Protest with Chinese Characteristics: Past and Present." The more than forty graduate students and faculty who attended carried on a debate of what characterized Chinese social movements in comparison with their counterparts in Europe. On April 12, literature scholar Kevin Tsai, also of Indiana University, gave a presentation called "Taxation and Immortality in the Worst Play of China." Around twenty graduate students and faculty attended this wide-ranging talk.
With the support of a grant from CCK-IUC, and the organizational efforts of five doctoral students, the China Workshop is now widely recognized as a force in fostering a dynamic and robust intellectual atmosphere in Chinese studies at Illinois.
Participants of the April 12 meeting of the China Workshop at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Tang and Medieval Studies Workshop, University of Kansas
The inaugural Tang and Medieval Chinese Studies Workshop took place April 29-30, 2010, in Kansas City, Missouri. Funded by CCK-IUC and the Tang Research Foundation, the conference brought together fourteen scholars from eleven universities and institutions in the United States and Canada. Participants included literary scholars, historians, art historians, and scholars of religions. The seven papers that were presented at the workshop covered a wide range of important topics on archaeology, religion, ritual, literati culture and social history as well as contributing significantly to the advancement of research methodology. Issues discussed included the study of the literati experience in Chang’an through the understanding of the urban landscape of the Tang capital, the reconstruction of Tang princesses' funerals through the visual program of their tombs, the approach to social customs and religious practices using newly excavated Tang epitaphs, and the literary creations that shaped Buddhist expressions and practices. Most papers also address the nature of the sources. The attention to historiography and method led all workshop participants to theorize more broadly about Tang culture and its inter-related aspects. The participants came to the consensus that the juxtapositions of literature, religion and history represents the future approach to Tang studies and Medieval China studies in general. The location of the workshop was carefully chosen to give all participants easy access to the nearby Nelson-Atkins Museum and its world-renowned ancient Chinese art collection. Most workshop participants had never seen the collection before, so all benefited from such an arrangement. The curatorial staff of the Asian Art Department at the museum also participated in the workshop and established connections with the rest of the workshop participants for future collaboration.
Participants of the Tang and Medieval Studies Workshop, Kansas City.
The Seventh Annual Medieval Studies Workshop, Columbia University
The Seventh Annual Medieval Studies Workshop at Columbia University was held on May 8, 2010. This annual workshop was conceived to offer a forum for the exchange of ideas on both specific scholarly questions and the general state of the field, as well as to help foster a growing field in American academia. For the past seven years, with the generous sponsorship of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, scholars have come to Columbia each year to present on their current research and many fruitful dialogues and plans for future collaboration have resulted from these meetings. This workshop has been the venue where would-be articles were first presented, and a lively forum where colleagues could present on new research and learn from one another in a freer and more dynamic setting. Moreover, the collaborative book project, Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook, is a good example of the fruitfulness resulting from building scholarly relations across the US and world. This workshop has seen tremendous success, drawing more attention to the field and generating more excitement about it. This workshop has continued to attract the interest of scholars and graduate students alike. Over the years, students from Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and NYC have attended the workshop.
Participants of the 2010 meeting of the Medieval Studies Workshop at Columbia University
Over the course of this one-day workshop, there were five paper presentations, followed by five focused discussions on new topics in and approaches to medieval studies. The paper presenters and discussants were as follows: Sarah Allen, "Authors and Texts: Shifting Views of Stories in the Ninth Century" (Discussant: Alan Berkowitz); Christopher Nugent, "Variation in Early Texts of a Yuefu Poem Attributed to Li Bo" (Discussant: Wendy Swartz); Xiaofei Tian, "Food and Memory: Rethinking Jian'an" (Discussant: Goh Meow-Hui); Paula Varsano, "Disappearing Objects: The Subject of Mirrors in Early and Medieval China" (Jack Chen); and Wendi Adamek, "Dimensions of Endtime" (Discussant: Michael Puett).
This year's meeting was greatly rewarding: scholars of various disciplines (literature, history, religion) discussed specific textual problems as well as larger conceptual issues, resulting in many fruitful discussions.