From Scroll to Virtual Reality: Navigating Urban Space in China, Lecture by Yomi Braester, Harvard University
On the afternoon of February 13, 2014, at the Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Professor Yomi Braester (University of Washington) gave an enthralling presentation entitled, “From Scroll to Virtual Reality: Navigating Urban Space in China.” Drawing on critical theories of the urban palimpsest, works of Chinese contemporary art, online visual media, and his own fieldwork, Professor Braester examined recent visual media practices, from traditional painting scrolls to state-of-the-art digital screens, from everyday practices of mobile phone cameras to a growing Internet archive of rapidly transforming urban spaces. In the twenty-first century, Professor Braester argued, the boundaries between public spaces and virtual reality are getting increasingly blurred, and visual media practices have not only resisted, but also colluded with the commodification of China’s cityscapes. A scholar specializing in modern Chinese literature and film, Professor Braester has also written extensively on contemporary Chinese visual culture, architecture, and the politics of memory; his talk was drawn from a current project tentatively entitled, “Screen City: Chinese New Media and Beijing’s Politics of Emergence.” Despite a snowstorm, a strong showing of 35 faculty, students, and visiting scholars attended the talk and engaged in a lively question and answer session with Professor Braester.
Sinoglossia: Taiwan, China, and Beyond International Workshop, University of Texas at Austin
More than forty scholars and graduate students from Taiwan, the UK, and the US met at the University of Texas-Austin for an international workshop on “Sinoglossia: Taiwan, China, and Beyond” from February 28-March 1, 2014. In recent years, scholarship in Sinophone Studies has worked to provide new critical insights in the field of China/Chinese studies, but its focus on literary and cultural productions outside China proper has drawn critique. Responding to such criticism, participants at this workshop took up the fundamental terminologies employed by Sinophone Studies and worked to creatively rethink the relationships implied by its key terms, such as parsing “Sino” and “Phone” or “Sino” and “Glossia.” For instance, participants explored new ways to complicate and reconceptualize the common reading of “gloss” through a semiotic glide among “tongue” (glossa), glossary, annotation, and even luster; in other cases, discussions took up the perimeters and parameters of Sinophone Studies in ways that addressed the limits and potentials of this area of inquiry.
The twenty papers presented, with topics ranging from Sinophone literature, Taiwanese documentaries, transnational films, to Chinese textbooks, all sought to more clearly conceptualize the notion of “Sinoglossia.” A few highlights included Professor Karen Thornber’s (Harvard University) presentation on the Chinese translation of Japanese wartime literature, which cast light on the multiple and multi-directional textual pathways that continue to redefine the borders of comparative literature, world literature, and intra-Asian scholarship. Professor Yu-lin Lee (Chung-hsing University, Taiwan), with reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of “minor” and “fold,” discussed the ethico-aesthetic implications of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in relation to ethnic, diasporic, and transnational studies. Professor Joseph Allen (University of Minnesota) glossed issues of the formation of a set of canonical texts that became identified with the “nation” and “literature” with a fascinating study of the textbook of “Nana Hsu,” who turns out to be a family friend of an important May Fourth intellectual, Wang Yunwu (1888-1979). A roundtable discussion on Postcolonial Studies and Sinophone Studies concluded this well-attended workshop.
Participants at the "Sinoglossia" workshop, February 28-March 1, 2014.
The Modern and the Classical: Zhu Ziqing's Literary Criticism, Lecture by Kwok-kou Leonard Chan, Harvard University
Professor Kwok Kou Leonard Chan (Hong Kong Institute of Education) delivered a lecture entitled “The Modern and the Classical: Zhu Ziqing’s Literary Criticism” at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, on April 2nd, 2014. Professor Chan’s talk focused on Zhu Ziqing’s life-long career in literary education and research. As a major writer of the Chinese New Literature Movement, Zhu also served as a professor of Chinese literature at the National Tsing Hua University. The lecture discussed how literary criticism has become the leading path in Zhu’s literary research, and how by straddling between the modern and the classical, Zhu casts light on the old with the new and revitalizes the traditional in the modern day.Approximately 20 visiting scholars and graduate students attended the lecture.
Modern Chinese Literatures: Rethinking a Discipline International Workshop, Duke University
Duke University hosted an extended workshop on “Modern Chinese Literatures: Rethinking a Discipline” from April 3-6, 2014, sponsored by CCK-IUC with additional funding from Duke University and extra-university sources. Spanning four days, the workshop featured twenty-seven paper presentations, all of which were commissioned for publication in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures, edited by Carlos Rojas (Duke University) and Andrea Bachner (Cornell University). Over half of the contributors to the volume attended the workshop, including Ji Jin and Yan Lianke from China, Zhang Longxi (City University of Hong Kong) and Kwok-kou Leonard Chan (Hong Kong Institute of Education) from Hong Kong, and Mei Chia-ling (National Taiwan University), Chang Chen, and Liao Yun-chang from Taiwan. Presenters were grouped into three-paper panels, under themes such as “Language and Voice,” “Genre and Form,” “Alternate Geotemporalities,” and “Feminism, Queer Critique, and Ecocriticism.” Presentations covered topics ranging from the late-nineteenth century to the early twenty-first, and included work on China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and North America. Approaches ranged from textual analysis to discussions of language, performance, and institutions.
Among the highlights of the conference were the prize-winning and repeatedly censored author Yan Lianke speaking about literary censorship, and the Taiwan-based journalists Liao Yun-chang and Chang Cheng talking about their work in commissioning and publishing writings by Taiwan’s community of foreign migrant workers—many of whom are writing in their native languages. On the Thursday afternoon preceding the beginning of the workshop proper, we hosted a “pre-workshop” session featuring ten additional presentations by Duke graduate students and visiting scholars. The pre-workshop session was also well attended and warmly received.
Professors Carlos Rojas (L) and Michael Gibbs Hill (R) speak at the workshop on “Modern Chinese Literatures: Rethinking a Discipline," April 3-6, 2014.
Unpacking China International Symposium, Harvard University
On April 25-26, 2014, an international symposium on “Unpacking China” was held at Harvard University. Organized by David Der-wei Wang and Mark Elliott (Harvard University), the workshop brought together fifteen scholars and eight graduate students from Taiwan, Mainland China, Germany, Canada, and the United States to examine the conceptual parameters and the historical evolution of the ideas of China and Chineseness, along with the intellectual concerns that those concepts raise. Participating scholars included Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania), Michael Duke (University of British Columbia), Rudolf Wagner (University of Heidelberg), Peter Zarrow (University of Conneticut), and the writer Liu Da-jen.
The symposium opened on the 25th with remarks by the esteemed senior scholar Hsu Cho-yun (University of Pittsburgh) delivered via Skype, and a panel of students presenting new research directions on Chinese frontiers, Chinese state-building, and the Chinese national imaginary. Professor Ge Zhaoguang then gave the keynote address, entitled “Bringing the 'Four Barbarian Tribes' into the Chinese Nation,” which discussed how Chinese scholars in the 1920s and 30s set about assimilating non-Han ethnic and linguistic minorities into their vision of a unified Chinese civilization. On Saturday, the workshop reconvened with three panels: the first, moderated by Peter Bol (Harvard University), was dedicated to “Nation and Nationalism”; the second, moderated by David Der-wei Wang, was dedicated to “Territory and Frontier,” and the third panel, moderated by Jing Tsu (Yale University, was dedicated to “Language and Culture.” Discussion on both days was lively and productive, and the symposium was well attended—on Friday, over fifty observers packed a seminar room that normally accommodates only thirty or forty students. In addition to the support of the CCK Foundation, this workshop was also sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Harvard-Yenching Institute.
The Spring 2014 program of the Early China Seminar featured presentations by recent PhDs in the field of early Chinese history and archaeology. On March 22, Paul Nicolas Vogt (University of Heidelberg) delivered a paper titled “Ritual Assemblies and the Geopolitics of Zhou Expansion.” A part of a doctoral dissertation that reconstructs the genuine ritual institution and ritual tradition of the Western Zhou time based on contemporaneous Western Zhou bronze inscriptions, the paper offers close reading of the Mai fangzun and Xiao Yu dinginscriptions and argues that the Zhou kings combined a number of ritual techniques to form ritual narratives according to an integrative strategy that suited their purpose of state building, in contrast to the exclusive ritual strategy followed by the Shang. Adam Schwartz (NYU) presented on “Prayer in the Huayuanzhuang Oracle Bone Inscriptions.” In this paper, he discussed what may be the earliest prayer text in China and offered a new reading and translation of the inscription (HYZ 161), identifying the invocator Zi, the host of divination in the Huadong oracle bones, as a son of the Shang king Di Yi. On April 12, Minna Wu (Richard Stockton College) presented a paper titled “Conquest and Concord: The Transformation of Ji 紀from a Pro-Shang Polity to a Zhou Regional State.” Minna Wu studies the process of the rise of states in Shandong and received her PhD degree from Columbia University in 2013. In this paper, she analyzed the complex relationship between terms like Ji 己, Ji , Ji 紀 and the history of the state represented by these graphs, being originally a lineage-polity in Shang, that was incorporated into the Western Zhou state system through segmentation and migration.
Apart from the above group, on April 12, the Early China Seminar also welcomed a presentation by Professor Enno Giele (University of Heidelberg) on “The Language of Letters: Terminology in Private Letters From the Qin and Han Periods.” Known for his earlier study of the Han text Duduan by Cai Yong, in this paper, Professor Giele discussed a long series of private letters from sites and burials across the Han Empire, suggesting that their writing style and vocabulary are in stark contrast to the vast majority of early Chinese historical sources that are mostly state-related. These letters are important sources not only for the study of Han social relations, but also for understanding literary forms and genres in Early China. The two seminar meetings enjoyed the participation of a large number of scholars and graduate students from New York and the surrounding areas who enthusiastically discussed the contents and arguments of these papers.
Early China Seminar, Columbia University
Early China Seminar at Columbia University, Spring 2014.
Chinese Medieval Studies Workshop 10th Annual Meeting, Rutgers University
The 10th Annual Meeting of the Chinese Medieval Studies Workshop was held at Rutgers University on May 3, 2014. This workshop, started by Professor Wendy Swartz and funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo (CCK) Foundation, is a major academic forum for the exchange of ideas and the advancement of scholarship. Distinguished scholars from across the United States working on medieval Chinese literature, history, religion, and visual culture, have been meeting annually in this forum since 2003 to discuss their current research. Ground-breaking research and methodology first presented at these workshops have found their way into notable and award-winning books and journal articles.This workshop has also served as a lively and dynamic forum in which scholars could interact and collaborate. Among the new projects members of this workshop are planning for collaboration include one on cultural memory, remembrance, commemorative writings.
In addition, the Medieval Studies workshop has also contributed to expanding the field by providing a venue for younger, up-and-coming scholars to participate in major scholarly discussions. Over the years, graduate students from Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers have attended the meetings. This year, the Workshop saw the largest graduate student attendance ever, seventeen students, which surpassed the number of faculty participants. In addition, post-graduate fellows at Princeton also attended this year’s meeting. This workshop hopes to build on the momentum it has gathered over the past decade and continue to be a major forum for scholarly exchange.
Members of the Chinese Medieval Studies Seminar at Rutgers University convened on May 3, 2014.
List of permanent members: Sarah Allen (Wellesley College), Robert Ashmore (University of California, Berkeley), Alan Berkowitz (Swarthmore College), Robert Campany (Vanderbilt University), Jack Chen (University of California, Los Angeles), Jessey Choo (Rutgers University), Alexei Ditter (Reed College), Goh Meow Hui (Ohio State University), Christopher Nugent (Williams College), Michael Puett (Harvard University), Antje Richter (University of Colorado, Boulder), Matthias Richter (University of Colorado, Boulder), Wendy Swartz (Rutgers University), Xiaofei Tian (Harvard University), Wang Ping (Princeton University),and Eugene Wang (Harvard University).