Welcome to the Boston University
Center for the Study of Asia
Boston University’s Center for the Study of Asia, established in 2008, promotes comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and cross-national understanding of Asia through coordination of teaching missions, research support, community-building among faculty and students, and broad outreach beyond the university. It strives to be an intellectual hub for new ideas and cutting edge research in the humanities and social sciences. The recent integration of AsianArc (BU’s Asian Archaeology & Cultural Heritage Research Initiative) enhances our capacity to live up to this role. The Center also facilitates communication and cooperation among the different Asian Studies sub-fields; provides an administrative structure for raising and managing grants that support the Center’s mandate; maintains the Asian Studies website; provides collaborative affiliation opportunities for Visiting Researchers; develops and manages conferences and cultural events; and works to expand access to Asia-related resources across the university. The Center is part of a broad and diverse Asian Studies community across New England with strong ties to other universities, museums, nonprofit organizations and private entities, as well as Asian government agencies.
Annual Theme for 2018-2019:
Asia in Transition
We are delighted to announce that the 2018-2019 annual theme for the BU Center for the Study of Asia is Asia in Transition: Past, Present, and Future. Through a wide variety of events and exhibitions over the course of the year, we will highlight key changes and developments in diverse aspects of Asian culture, politics, and economy. Our events are designed to engage with the academic and broader public community to enhance our awareness and understanding of the dramatic evolution of Asia, particularly as they have unfolded in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The 2018-2019 year marks a number of important anniversaries. A century ago, Asia was shaken by the aftershocks of the end of the First World War, which reshaped the region in many important ways. Modern Asia nationalism was decisively shaped by the events surrounding the March 1st movement in Korea and the May 4th movement in China. In Japan, the Rice riots of 1918 led to the collapse of the transcendental cabinet system and the first government led by a commoner, Hara Kei. Meanwhile, in India the moral authority of the British Raj was decisively shaken by the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in Amritsar. Today, as the region enters into another period of wrenching change—as reflected by the rise of Xi Jinping’s China, the significant policy shifts of the Donald Trump administration and the mercurial diplomacy surrounding the Korean peninsula and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program—BUCSA will sponsor a series of events that will look back at how the region changed in the past in order to gain insight on how it is changing today. We hope that Boston University faculty and students and the larger community will join us at these different events, and suggest ideas for future events.
These events are being organized and presented with many different cultural and institutional partners from across Boston and New England. Details will be available on the BUCSA website as they are finalized, and will be continuously updated in the BUCSA calendar, so check back often! We look forward to your participation in what promises to be an intriguing, insightful, and comprehensive exploration of a changing Asia and a changing world.
Announcing the launching of
Presented by the Center for the Study of Asia, Pardee School of Global Studies
Beginning with the earliest international exhibition at London’s “Crystal Palace” in 1851, “world’s fairs” became a prominent stage for the presentation of peoples and cultures of Asia to a world audience. With its rich, vibrant and diverse histories and cultures, Asia as represented at these universal expositions provided many fairgoers with their first encounter with Asia and helped shape their understanding of the world. Taking place during a time of widespread colonialism, the notion of the world presented at these fairs had many complex layers of meaning. In many cases, indigenous arts and crafts were selected and showcased by their colonial administrators. Yet, many Asian countries chose to actively confront the asymmetry of power in their relationship to the West by presenting in these exhibitions their own image of their country and culture. These expositions served as a grand stage that displayed a complex history of conflicts, contradictions, and engagement of Asia with the world.
This online exhibition focuses on the presence in these early international fairs of Asian cultures and the stimulus they gave to transcultural interactions in areas as diverse as performing arts, architecture, painting, sculpture, print, and even food. Without seeking to minimize the unequal political and economic backdrop of the various early world fairs, our focus on cultural themes in this exhibition will demonstrate the power of culture to engage with and, at least in certain aspects, overcome power asymmetry. It also creates a platform for an open discussion of the contributions Asian cultures have made on the world stage through these fairs and the enormous impact they had on millions of fairgoers for whom the “world” as a concept became real for the first time. The dynamics of cultural interaction reveal, often in surprising ways, a blending and sharing of cultural features that have enriched all sides.
Explore with us our ongoing project
Asia at the World’s Fairs https://www.asiaworldsfairs.org/
The project is organized by themes, each of which is illustrated by a growing number of different exhibitions. At present, the website opens with two main themes, Asian Architecture (illustrated here by the exhibition Tracing the Japanese Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago), and Asian Dance (which explores in The Moving Image of Asia the interplay of Asian and modern Western dance at the 1900 Paris world’s fair). In the coming months, additional themes and exhibitions will come online. We welcome your comments and suggestions!