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.

Ongoing virtual events. Click the image box for links to each event post and its recording!

Welcome to the BU Center for the Study of Asia

Dear Colleagues and Friends in Asian Studies,

Welcome to the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia! My name is Bob Hefner, and I am the Center Director. I am also a professor of anthropology and international relations in the Department of Anthropology and the Pardee School of Global Studies.  I have spent most of my adult life living and studying in Asia.

What is BUCSA, you might ask?

Since our founding in July 2008, BUCSA has promoted the study of Asia and fostered awareness of Asian and Asian-American cultures and current affairs at Boston University and in the broader Boston community. Asia—including East Asia, South Asia, South East Asia and Central Asia—is a vast and culturally rich region. With approximately 4 billion people and a combined GDP of over 50 trillion dollars, it accounts for approximately 60% of the world’s population and over 60% of the global economy. At the same time, while home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, the vibrant cultures of the region have continued to evolve in new and exciting ways. Japanese anime, Korean K-pop, Indian Bollywood films, Indonesian dangdut music, and Chinese cinema—to mention just a few examples—today attract enthusiastic global audiences. As interest in Asia continues to grow, BUCSA has fostered a deeper appreciation of Asia through the sponsorship of lectures, symposia, exhibitions, and other events, as well as by supporting collaborative research ventures within and beyond Boston University.

Like the great continent they engage, BUCSA’s programs evolve and adjust from year to year.  One area of continuity for which I am deeply grateful is that BUCSA continues to work closely with and enjoy the support of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston under the leadership of Director-General Charles Liao. We work most closely with Director Cynthia Huang and Jessica Wung of the Education Division at TECO Boston and are most appreciative of their longstanding friendship and assistance.  Two Taiwan-related events this year merit special attention:  On September 18 and 19, 2023, BUCSA hosted the prominent Taiwanese author and public intellectual, Lung Yingtai, and on March 28, 2024, we are convening an international panel to explore the evolving geostrategic situation around the Taiwan Strait. On Oct. 12 and 13, 2023, BUCSA and the US Naval War College co-hosted a major conference on “China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) at Ten,” an in-depth look at the impact of a decade of BRI around the world and its prospects for the coming years. These are just the first of many Asia-focused events we are sponsoring or co-sponsoring this year.

We are pressing forward with a number of ongoing community and cultural initiatives and research projects with a great deal of impactful student involvement. In particular, two BUCSA-supported digital humanities projects, both of which also engage with our theme of Asia’s historical interactions with other regions, are making excellent progress: The China Historical Christian Database (CHCD), which BUCSA has been proud to help support along with many others, provides a powerful interactive digital tool for exploring the history of Christianity in China. Hosted by BU’s Center for Global Christianity and Mission, CHCD recently received a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and we look forward to an event this fall at which this new scholarly tool will be presented to interested users.

Another major BUCSA-supported digital project, Asia at the World’s Fairs: An Online Exhibition of Cultural Exchange, continues to expand as it explores how Asian cultures were presented—and presented themselves—to Western audiences at a variety of international exhibitions since the 1850s. The highly illustrated and interactive project website, which is currently transitioning to a new WordPress platform and will “go live” in summer 2024, is organized thematically. Under the theme “Architecture,” Prof. Alice Tseng explores the historical, social, and political context of the Japanese ho-o-den “Phoenix Pavilion” teahouse at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and Meng-Hsuan Lee (Columbia Univ.) examines Japanese colonial administrative goals in the use of modernist architecture at the 1935 Taiwan Colonial Exposition (Japan’s celebration of 40 years of colonial rule over Taiwan). Under the theme of “Dance,” we have Prof. Cathy Yeh’s presentation of the intimate interconnections between Asian dance at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris and the evolution of modern dance by the American Löie Fuller and others. And, as our first exhibition under the theme “Religion,” Prof. David Eckel and his team present the first major exposure of Asian religions to a rather unexpectedly enthusiastic American audience at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Sept. 1893, one of the many congresses held in conjunction with the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Additional themes and exhibitions are also taking shape, and we will enjoy a public “launch event” in the coming months.

We look forward to an exciting year of engaging and insightful events and projects with and for our diverse BUCSA community. Please stay tuned for the opportunity to get involved with these BUCSA events, both in-person and online. Details and event links will be available on the BUCSA website as they are finalized, and will be continuously updated in the BUCSA calendar, so check back often, and also sign up for our e-mail newsletter here.

Bob Hefner
Director, Center for the Study of Asia
Professor of Anthropology and International Relations, Boston University

Contact us with your ideas for events and collaborative projects!

Boston University’s Center for the Study of Asia invites faculty and students to join us in organizing and/or sponsoring Asian-oriented events at Boston University. We welcome both BUCSA-organized events and events co-sponsored with other BU centers and departments, and with other colleges and universities.  BUCSA’s programming aims to be open and inclusive, promoting activities and events of benefit to the Asian Studies and Asian-American communities while also emphasizing the diversity of areas and countries within Asia, as well as the range of academic disciplines that engage them.  We welcome inquiries from faculty and student groups wishing to explore the possibility of collaboration.  For BU faculty or students wishing to co-sponsor or organize an event, please contact us and share an informal brief description of the event you have in mind.  If BUCSA funding may also figure in our collaboration, please also provide a sketch of the budgetary commitments or sharing you have in mind.  We look forward to hearing from you!

For more information, please contact Maria Elena P. Rivera-Beckstrom, BUCSA Assistant Director, at <meprb@bu.edu> (with a cc: to BUCSA’s Director, Bob Hefner <rhefner@bu.edu>).

Asia at the World’s Fairs:

An Online Exhibition of Cultural Exchange

Presented by the Center for the Study of Asia, Pardee School of Global Studies

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