Distinguished representatives from several areas of the humanities at BU gathered today...
By Michael J Carroll
On Thursday, April 21, 2011, over 130 Asian Studies faculty, film enthusiasts, and students gathered at the Colloquium Room of the BU Photonics Center for a truly unique film viewing of the 1954 Japanese classic Gojira (known in the United States as Godzilla).
The event took place just over a month after the earthquake in northeastern Japan, and amid daily news coverage of the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. This made the discussion about nuclear dangers, a prominent theme in the 1954 film even more poignant. In recognition of the gravity of these events organizers invited the BU Japanese Student Association to collect donations and sell wristbands at the door to benefit the victims of the earthquake.
The evening began with a lecture by Gregory Pflugfelder, a Japanese historian at Columbia University. Professor Pflugfelder’s lecture, titled “The many faces of Godzilla: Figuring atomic danger and urban devastation in cold war Japan,” helped to contextualize the film historically and provided some insight into why the original Gojira movie was made. The lecture was made even better by a slide presentation of Professor Pflugfelder’s extraordinary collection of Godzilla posters and paraphernalia from all over the world, including many from communist Eastern Europe.
Following the film screening, participants were invited to continue the discussion with a sushi reception.
This event was made possible by financial contributions from the Center for the Study of Asia, the Boston University Humanities Foundation, and the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature. This event attracted significant attention from outside the BU community, with stories being written in BU Today, The Japan Society of Boston, the Boston Phoenix, and The Quad.
On April 1, 2011, at the 70th anniversary joint meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) and of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) in Honolulu (Hawai’i), Eugenio Menegon, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Boston University, received the 2011 Joseph Levenson Book Prize in Pre-1900 Category for his monograph Ancestors, Virgins and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China (Harvard Asia Center, 2009).
This prestigious prize is awarded by AAS’s China and Inner Asia Council to the English-language book that makes the greatest contribution to increasing understanding of the history, culture, society, politics, or economy of pre-1900 China. In keeping with the broad scholarly interests of the UC Berkeley intellectual historian of China Joseph Levenson (1920-1969), to whom the prize is entitled, special consideration is given to books that, through comparative insights or groundbreaking research, promote the relevance of scholarship on China to the wider world of intellectual discourse. The award committee this year included Michael Puett (Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University), Melissa Macauley (Dept. of History, Northwestern University), and Ding Xiang Warner (Dept. of Asian Studies, Cornell University).
The prize citation defines the book as “a ground-breaking study of the ways in which Christianity became a local religion in late imperial China.” The citation continues: “Utilizing materials in Chinese, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, French, German, English, and Italian, Menegon is able to tease this local story out of sources both hostile to Christianity (Chinese government sources like criminal confessions, elite writings etc.) and supportive of it (missionary reports, pamphlets, accounts by Christian families etc.). Menegon’s marshals this stunning range of sources to paint an amazingly rich and nuanced portrait of an indigenous Christian community in Fuan, Fujian, and to explain how it managed to endure for over four centuries. This is an impressive account – as he puts it – of the ‘transformation of a global religion into a local one.’ Menegon also succeeds in providing a superb and detailed account of the complexities of social and religious life in late imperial China. Menegon is a master of the historical narrative, and the book is beautifully written. In short, the committee salutes the cosmopolitan sweep of Menegon’s research, his impressive powers of historical analysis, and his compelling storytelling skills.”
The first recipient of the pre-1900 Levenson Prize in 1987 was Frederic Wakeman Jr. (1937-2006), Eugenio Menegon’s advisor at UC Berkeley. Wakeman was the most brilliant among Joseph Levenson’s students, and Menegon dedicated the prize to his memory at the UC Berkeley reception in Hawaii. Several teachers and classmates from his Berkeley days, friends from other institutions, and BU colleagues (Bob and Nancy Hefner, Frank Korom, Rob Weller, and Cathy Yeh) were in Honolulu and shared the joy with Eugenio.
On Monday, February 14, 2011, The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future held a lunch seminar on ‘What is Asia?’. Part of the ‘Pardee House Seminars’ series, the event featured Prof. David Eckel (BU Religion), Prof. Robert Hefner (BU Anthropology) and Prof. Eugenio Menegon (BU History), and was moderated by Prof. Adil Najam, Director of the Pardee Center and introduced by Prof. Joseph Fewsmith, Director of the BU Center for the Study of Asia.
This seminar was organized in collaboration with the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia (BUCSA). The panel continued on the theme of BUCSA’s 2009 conference which was titled “The Idea of Asia” and began the discussion in light of the recent special issue of the Journal of Asian Studies which included a forum of special articles on the ‘meaning’ of Asia. The seminar also looked at what an Asian identity might mean in the future and in the context of what is already being called by some as an ‘Asian Century.’
Eugenio Menegon is Professor of History at Boston University. He teaches courses in Chinese history (premodern and modern periods) and in World History. He started the seminar by providing a history of the term “Asia” and explained the trajectory of Asian identity as a region. He also discussed the different approaches to the study of Asia and provided a summary of scholarly works on the idea of Asia.
Malcolm David Eckel is Professor of Religion and Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston University. Prof. Eckel suggested using various religious philosophies in Asia to view the idea of Asia. In particular, he demonstrated the use of three Buddhist concepts to consider the idea of Asia. He also argued for giving a greater role to Asia and the study of Asia in the university and its curriculum.
Robert W. Hefner is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at Boston University. He pointed out the focus of the “new” Asia is on how to live together, given that Asia, as a region, is pluralized and diverse. He also highlighted three currents that will define the future of Asia – 1) economic integrations, 2) culture and entertainment and 3) religious resurgences. Prof. Hefner concluded his opening remarks by pointing out that the concept of Asia is not an artificial construct but a reality.
Following the presentations the audience engaged in a lively discussion with the panelists. Prof. Najam began the Q&A session by asking if religion is a unifying or dividing force in Asia. Some of the other issues discussed included further discussion on the idea of other regions such as Africa and Europe, the possibility of Asia integration and the impacts of the rise of Asia: both within and outside the continent.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.
Boston University has been awarded a grant from the Korea Foundation to support the establishment of a new professorship in Korean and Comparative Literature. The position will be a tenure-track assistant professorship in the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, and a search is currently underway for a scholar and teacher to begin at Boston University in Fall 2011. Currently, MLCL offers four years of Korean language and a course in Korean cinema. The new position will build on this curriculum to offer courses in Korean literature and comparative literary studies that will serve our concentrations in East Asian Studies and in Comparative Literature as well as opening the door for a concentration in Korean language and literature.
For further information, please contact Sarah Frederick in the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature.
The Boston University Center for the Study of Asia is please to announce that it has launched its first publication, titled Occasional Papers on Asia. This series will highlight a wide range of topics and issues in relation to Asian Studies and will feature the research of BUCSA’s faculty and fellows.
The first of these papers, titled “China’s Naval Modernization: Reflections on a Symposium” was authored by Aki Nakai. Mr. Nakai is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Boston University. He is currently conducting research on the dissolution of security alliances, Japanese foreign and security policy, and U.S., Japan, and Chinese trilateral relations. In the paper, he comments on the overarching themes discussed at the recent BUCSA/US Naval War College symposium on China’s navy.
The paper is available for download, free to the public.
On February 7, 2010, BUCSA invited Jonathan D. Pollack, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution to speak on the current and historic relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
China’s relationship with North Korea (and its presumed influence over decision making in Pyongyang) constitute major considerations in U.S. policy deliberations over the Korean peninsula and in the continued efforts to inhibit North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. However, Pollack noted that these issues need to be understood in their fuller historical context.
The presentation highlighted the complex nature of this relationship over the better part of the last century and compared the attitudes of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un.
Jonathan D. Pollack is Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. He is also Research Associate in the National Asia Research Program of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He was previously Professor of Asian and Pacific Studies and Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group at the Naval War College, where he also chaired the Strategic Research Department between 2000 and 2004. He has taught at Brandeis University, the Rand Graduate School of Policy Studies, UCLA, as well as at the Naval War College. A specialist on East Asian international politics and security, he has published extensively on Chinese political-military strategy, U.S.- China relations, the political and security dynamics of the Korean Peninsula, and U.S. strategy and policy in Asia and the Pacific. His latest study, No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, and International Security, will be published in early 2011 by Routledge, for the International Institute for Strategic Studies. This event is cosponsored by the BU Center for International Relations.
Significant attention has been paid to U.S.-China relations, particularly in the wake of a recent visit to the United States by Chinese President Hu Jintao. In particular, there has been much discussion about the growth of China’s military power. But, what effect will this growth have on East Asia and the greater Pacific?
On November 19, 2010, the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia and the United States Naval War College hosted an afternoon symposium addressing the questions raised specifically by China’s recent naval expansion. With an introductory address by BU Professor Andrew Bacevich (International Relations) titled, “The U.S. and China in a Changing World,” and two panels featuring speakers from both colleges, a lively debate on China’s intentions, the role of the United States and other Pacific neighbors, and the short and long term impacts ensued. Open to the public, the audience of over 80 specialists, faculty and students, also had an opportunity to ask questions of the experts.
The following individuals presented talks at the symposium:
Panel II: China and the Near Seas
Toshi Yoshihara – “The East China Sea and Ryukyu Islands”
Peter Dutton – “The South China Sea”
Joseph Fewsmith – Moderator
Robert Ross – Discussant
The symposium was the topic of an Occasional Paper on Asia released by BUCSA.
The Boston University Center for the Study of Asia is pleased to announce that it has updated its web site to the WordPress format. This upgrade will dramatically improve the navigability of our site content and feature a greater amount of multimedia content. Keep checking back over the next few weeks for additional changes and updates.