Reaching the Headphoned Masses: Introducing the East Asia for All Podcast

By Melissa A. Brzycki and Stephanie Montgomery

In April 2016, Paramount Pictures released a photo of Scarlett Johansson cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi for the new live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, based on the Japanese manga series of the same name (Kōkaku Kidōtai). A heated discussion of race and the Hollywood whitewashing of Asian culture ensued across multiple social media platforms throughout pre-production and following the movie’s release in March 2017. For many fans, it felt as though the world of Ghost in the Shell—a cyberpunk futurist landscape of genderbending cyborg bodies—was stripped of its meaning to become a dazzling CGI backdrop for a mundane Hollywood plot. In the process of “translating” this beloved media franchise for an English-speaking audience, something had obviously been lost. As academics with training in East Asian language, culture, and history, we felt we could contribute to discussions like these. The Ghost in the Shell controversy finally motivated us to begin a project that we had been discussing for months: a podcast bridging academia and the mainstream public, which we named East Asia for All.

East Asia for All is a public history podcast that provides thoughtful discussion and context to English-speaking fans of East Asian popular culture. Many of these fans may have a sophisticated knowledge of the particular film, cartoon, or work of literature that has captured their interest, but don’t know as much about the broader landscape of pop culture in East Asia. At East Asia for All, we bring not only our own academic knowledge and training to these conversations, but also frequently have expert guests who lend their own specialized insights. We hope that this level of deep research and discussion will help fans appreciate the nuances and depth of East Asian pop culture and media. In our current moment of intense engagement with online media—dubbed the “podcast renaissance” by some—podcasting has become a media form ideally suited to bringing academic knowledge and frameworks to a broader audience.

In the past, we regarded podcasts as a form of entertainment that was occasionally edifying but which rarely overlapped with our professional and intellectual lives. There are many good podcasts about China, like SupChina’s Sinica Podcast, but for the most part they are solidly non-academic, and focus only on one country. When we came across New Books in East Asian Studies, hosted by Carla Nappi [a #AsiaNow Associate Editor], we started to contemplate the possibility of doing a podcast situated at the boundary between academia and the wider community. Once we began to consider the possibility that we could create a podcast as a part of our academic careers, East Asia for All was born.

We hope that podcasting will enable us to reach a wide audience outside academia, but still allow us to have in-depth, “long-form” discussions. Consumable anywhere, podcasts are also emerging as an important medium for cultural discussions. Their conversational style encourages audience participation, which we further bolster by using social media and posting show notes on our website for listeners who want even more information about each topic. Through the interactive and collaborative medium of podcasting, we sense a novel opportunity to bridge the gap between academic and public discussions, especially for disciplines such as the humanities, whose human-centered approaches lend themselves particularly well to storytelling and personal engagement.

Podcasts are also an important medium for delivering complex, in-depth context in an online environment that is saturated with material to consume. Given that pictures, lists, and video clips are becoming the most easily consumed and shared types of content, and that casual readers rarely make it to the bottom of an article, it can be difficult to communicate rich stories and background information to a popular audience. In this case, podcasts provide a platform for conveying more in-depth ideas and discussions in a format in which people expect to devote considerable time and attention. Many people won’t read all of an article shared on their Facebook feed, but they will listen to an entire episode of Radiolab on their morning commute.

As a part of our daily lives and routines, podcasts are unique in that they often create a “special sense of intimacy.” Audiences listen to the conversations and voices of podcast hosts just like they might an interesting conversation among friends. It’s a form that lends itself to audience interest and interaction. In a moment in which instant information has also had chilling effects on our relationship to “truth” and “facts,” we hope that East Asia for All will contribute to the rich and growing body of rigorously researched, educational internet media for a broad and diverse audience.

So far, we’ve released episodes on Chai Jing’s Under the Dome documentary and the life and work of Japanese novelist, singer, and political figure Nosaka Akiyuki, as well as a “minisode” on fascism. Tune in soon for our episode on Ghost in the Shell!

You can find episodes of East Asia for All on our website and Soundcloud, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to our newsletter, and subscribe on the iTunes Store. Google Play access coming soon!

Melissa Brzycki and Stephanie Montgomery are both Ph.D. candidates in history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They’ve lived, traveled, and worked together in China throughout their graduate careers, and share a love for spicy peanuts, binge-watching television, and debating the finer points of China’s 5,000 years of history with taxi drivers. 

Launching the New Timor-Leste Initiative at AAS

By Richard Fox


Image 1: Roundtable discussion on the future of Timor-Leste studies, with Lisa Palmer, Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes and Susana de Matos Viegas, and chaired by Elizabeth Drexler.

The 2017 conference in Toronto marked the beginning of an ambitious two-year initiative devoted to raising the profile of Timor-Leste studies—both at AAS and in the wider North American academy. With generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Southeast Asia Council’s (SEAC) Indonesia and Timor-Leste Studies Committee (ITLSC) hosted a series of special events, including an all-day pre-conference workshop attended by senior scholars, students and public intellectuals from Timor-Leste as well as North America, Australia, Europe and other parts of Asia.

Looking ahead, the ITLSC is planning a similar series of events for 2018 in Washington, D.C. Let us know if you’d like to get involved and help to shape the future of TL studies at AAS—additional information and contact details are included below.


Image 2: Excerpts from two of the photographic exhibits presented in Toronto, Fataluku Death and Life (left) and The 30th Anniversary of East Timor Activism in Toronto (right).

Highlights from Toronto

Among the many exciting developments at this year’s conference was the launch of a North American chapter of the Timor-Leste Studies Association (TLSA), which also has chapters in Melbourne (Australia) and the capital city of Dili in Timor-Leste. The ITLSC is looking forward to working closely with the TLSA to help develop and support TL studies at AAS and beyond.

The pre-conference workshop was an important first step in this direction.

Highlights from the workshop included an outstanding series of photographic and ethnomusicological exhibits, alongside a series of well-attended panels and roundtables. A detailed program of events can be downloaded here.

Image 3: Aaron Pettigrew prepares the interactive musical exhibition (left), with a screenshot from the accompanying website (right).

The first photographic exhibit was entitled The 30th Anniversary of East Timor Activism in Toronto, and was organized by David Webster. Through an evocative sequence of photos and related images, local activism in Canada was linked up with more global developments in the struggle for Timorese independence. Photographs and other materials from the exhibit can be accessed online.

Rui Graça Feijó and Susana de Matos Viegas organized a second exhibit, called Fataluku Death and Life. Accompanied by an essay prepared by David Hicks (which we hope to make available online soon), the photographs presented in Rui and Susana’s exhibit were divided into two parts—the first examining Fataluku tombs, with a primary focus on the juxtaposition of traditional funerary posts and Christian crosses; the second exploring the iconographic practices associated with graves and memorials dedicated to the martyrs of the Timorese struggle for independence.

Image 4: A well-attended panel discussion on Religion, Culture and Tradition.

Accompanying the photographic exhibits, Aaron Pettigrew and Philip Yampolsky set up an array of iPads and headphones to provide workshop participants with access to an innovative online exhibit surveying scholarship on Timorese musical traditions. Although some of the material was only accessible on the day of the workshop, Aaron and Philip are continuing to develop the online component of their exhibit for use as an Open Access research and teaching resource.

Image 5: Continuing the discussion over lunch at a local eatery.

The more discursive component of the workshop centered on a pair of panels focusing respectively on issues of (i) Religion, Culture & Tradition and (ii) Polity, Economy & Society. This was followed by a roundtable discussion of priorities for the future of Timor-Leste studies—with Lisa Palmer, Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, and Susana de Matos Viegas, and chaired by Elizabeth Drexler (see Image 1, above). Input from participants in the roundtable will figure centrally in the planning for TL events at next year’s AAS conference in Washington, D.C.

Additional events in Toronto included a book launch for Michael Leach’s new volume on Nation-Building and National Identity in Timor Leste (Routledge 2016), and a SEAC-sponsored panel on the Transformation of Religion, Culture and Society in Timor-Leste.

Image 6: David Hicks (far right) acting as discussant for the SEAC-designated panel on The Transformation of Religion, Culture and Society in Timor-Leste; other panelists include, from left to right, Josh Trindade, Rui Graça Feijó, Michael Leach, and Lisa Palmer.

Background: History & Challenges

Albeit valuable and interesting in their own right, the Timor-Leste events in Toronto were directed to a broader purpose—namely developing TL studies both at AAS and in the wider academy. The study of Timor-Leste is woefully underrepresented in North America. The number of scholars working in TL studies is growing internationally. But comparatively few of those teaching and conducting research on Timor-Leste had their primary training in North America—where, at present, there is a dearth of pertinent in-country experience in the humanities and social sciences. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that there would be little if any attention to Timorese issues in undergraduate courses in Asian Studies. This has had a knock-on effect in the deficit at graduate level, and so in the interests and foci of young faculty. And the process has been recursive, preventing TL studies from gaining wider traction. With critical support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the new initiative at AAS aims to reverse this process by raising the profile of TL studies—through conference activities in the first instance, followed by efforts to cultivate a broader and sustained engagement with Timorese history, culture, and society.


Image 7: From a photo taken by David Webster.

Looking to the Future

The two-year initiative at AAS will serve as the foundation for the future development of a wider-reaching program directed to developing and supporting TL studies at all levels of the academy—from liberal arts to graduate education, and more advanced research. In addition to building up a scholarly network here in North America, this will require strong and sustainable relationships with institutions of higher learning in Timor-Leste. Among other organizational activities, our plans for the future include running competence-building workshops at the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL, Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e) and the National Center for Scientific Investigation in the capital city of Dili. These workshops will focus on the preparation of academic grant applications and conference panel proposals. The immediate aim of the latter is to facilitate Timorese involvement as conference participants, and especially as organizers of their own panels and related scholarly endeavors. But, taking the longer view, this is also meant to establish a more participatory and collaborative approach to the study of this important Southeast Asian nation.

Get Involved!

The Timor-Leste studies initiative is just getting underway, and we’ve now begun planning for next year’s AAS conference in Washington, D.C. If you would like to get involved, or simply learn more, please contact the Chair of the ITLSC, Richard Fox, at

April 2017 AAS Member News & Notes

The Philippine Studies Group of the Association for Asian Studies is pleased to award the Grant Goodman Prize for 2017 to Michael Cullinane for his substantial contributions to Philippine historical studies. Cullinane is the Associate Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he teaches as a Faculty Associate. After being introduced Cebu while a Peace Corps volunteer, Cullinane has made that island province the focus of much of his scholarly research. In addition to the book Ilustrado Politics: Filipino Elite Responses to American Rule, 1898-1908 (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2004), Cullinane has authored twenty book chapters and articles on a wide range of historical topics, periods and geographical areas. The most numerous of these publications explore Cebuano topics such as its Chinese mestizos, both the Spanish and American colonial periods, and prominent Cebuano leaders such as Sergio Osmena. His other publications have explored topics that include demography, transportation strikes, Manuel L. Quezon, basketball and culture, and Hilario Moncado and local Filipino history in Hawaii. Cullinane has continued his productive service to Philippine history and in 2014 he published two more major works, both based on his Cebuano research interest: The Battle for Cebu (1899-1900): Andrew S. Rowan and the Siege of Sudlon and Arenas of Conspiracy and Rebellion in Late Nineteenth-Century Philippines: The Case of the April 1898 Uprising in Cebu. As was the case of Ilustrado Politics, these recent titles were published in the Philippines, which increase the availability of his work to the Filipino scholarly community. He has at least two forthcoming articles and is working on two on-going book projects that will further deepen his already extensive contribution to Philippine history. All of these publications were produced despite demanding administrative responsibilities for the Southeast Asia programs at the University of Michigan and now in Madison. Additionally, Cullinane works with the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute programs on those two campuses, has ongoing teaching responsibilities, and is involved with oral history and archival projects, while also presenting papers at a long list of international conferences.

Photo: Michael Cullinane (left) receives the Grant Goodman Prize in Philippine Historical Studies from Paul Rodell (right), chair of the nominations and awards committee for the Philippine Studies Group.

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Congratulations to Journal of Asian Studies Advising Editor Ian Johnson, who has been named recipient of the 2017 Shorenstein Journalism Award by Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. The award recognizes Johnson for his outstanding reporting on Asia and the contribution he has made to increasing understanding of the region among readers.

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March was a busy month for the announcement of many grant and fellowship awards. Congratulations to the following AAS Members who have received support for their projects!


March 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Grants:

David Fedman (University of California, Irvine) “Forestry and the Politics of Conservation in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945”

Sue Kim (University of Massachusetts, Lowell) “The Southeast Asian Digital Archives”

Adriana Proser (Asia Society) Exhibit planning grant for “Interpretations of Hell in Ancient and Contemporary Asian Art”


Ruth Mostern (University of Pittsburgh) “World-Historical Gazetteer”


2017 American Council of Learned Societies Fellows:

Aaron A. Gerow (Yale University) “The Theory Complex: A History of Japanese Film Thought” (ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow)


William C. Hedberg (Arizona State University) “Embracing the Margins: Translation, Nation, and Chinese Fiction in Early Modern Japan”


Rian Thum (Loyola University New Orleans) “Islamic China”


Thomas A. Wilson (Hamilton College) “Historical Constructions and Ritual Formations of the Cult of Confucius” (Supported in part by the Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr. Fund for Chinese History)


National Humanities Center fellowships:

David Gilmartin (North Carolina State University) “Exploring Democracy at the Intersection of Law, Politics, and Sovereignty: The Legal History of Elections in India” (NEH Fellowship; Founders’ Fellowship)


Harleen Singh (Brandeis University)Half an Independence: Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India” (ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship)


Rian Thum (Loyola University New Orleans)Islamic China” (Trustees’ Fellowship)


Robin Visser (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)Bordering Chinese Eco-Literatures (1984–2014)” (NEH Fellowship; Walter Hines Page Fellowship of the Research Triangle Foundation)


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Two AAS regional conferences are currently accepting proposals for their fall meetings:


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The AAS thanks all who donated to the association in 2016; click here to see a list of donors. If you wish to support the AAS with a tax-deductible donation, please visit our “Donate” page.


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We hope that all 3,292 attendees and exhibitors at our 2017 annual conference in Toronto found the weekend both pleasant and productive. We have compiled a summary conference report and will post photographs from the weekend to our Facebook page as soon as they’re ready. If you’re planning ahead, check out our recently updated list of future conference dates and sites through 2021.


And, don’t forget about AAS-in-ASIA, which will be held June 24-27 at Korea University in Seoul. Registration is now open and a preliminary schedule is available at the conference site.


We welcome submissions for the AAS Member News column, so please forward material for consideration to Please note that we do not publish book announcements in this space; new books by AAS Members will be announced on the association’s Twitter feed (@AASAsianStudies). 

The Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Membership

—and the Importance of YOUR Membership in AAS to You and to the Field of Asian Studies

The following post is a revised version of AAS Executive Director Michael Paschal’s column from the December 2016 issue of the Asian Studies E-Newsletter.


Traditionally the benefits of membership in the Association for Asian Studies could be measured in tangible terms, whether discount member rates for conference registration and other association products or in the number of print publications received. The latter have included at various times over the years the print Journal of Asian Studies (JAS), the Newsletter, Education About Asia, the annual conference program, and the AAS member directory. With the onset of the digital age however, many of these publications are now available to members through institutional subscriptions or via the AAS website. Some members might view the traditional print versions of the above as somewhat of a dubious benefit or even a liability when trying to find shelf space to store their full runs of the JAS. Of course, the costs to produce and distribute traditional print publications also continue to increase, which ultimately impacts the AAS operating budget and our ability to invest resources into other programs and initiatives. To address these issues, we would like to point out that members who no longer wish to receive the printed JAS may choose to “opt-out” and only receive the digital JAS (for instructions, see the JAS webpage).


With fewer print publications being provided or desired, what then are the benefits of membership in the AAS? This has been an ongoing issue of concern to the leadership of AAS and other scholarly membership associations for several years. Financial incentives of membership remain of course, but does a younger generation of scholars appreciate and value the same benefits derived from association membership as their predecessors, or have research methods, online resources, and other changes in the field reduced the appeal and benefits of membership? Have greatly increased communications made possible through technological advances and social media lessened the need for face-to-face networking that has been so critical for career development? This does not seem to be the case according to membership statistics. Over 1000 new members joined the AAS in 2016, and more than half were students. Obviously attracting new generations of scholars bodes well for the future of the association, but overall member numbers have continued to slowly decline in recent years despite the infusion of new blood.


It is apparent that many AAS members allow their memberships to “lapse” in years when they are not planning to attend the annual conference and do not need to take advantage of member registration discounts. Although this is a rational financial decision from a personal standpoint, it unfortunately also affects the AAS financially, and negatively impacts our ability to maintain ongoing services or undertake new initiatives to benefit members and strengthen the field of Asian Studies. Operating revenue for the AAS originates from three primary sources: membership dues, conference registration fees, and to a much lesser extent, advertising and sales of publications. Money from all these sources is not restricted to the same activity or area from which it is generated, but rather placed in a general fund that is used to support all AAS activities. Unfortunately, steadily rising costs of doing business combined with slowly declining member revenue make it increasingly difficult to balance the operating budget, much less initiate new programs, without acquiring significant outside funding support. Members who selectively come and go rather than maintaining the currency of their memberships therefore jeopardize the ability and overall effectiveness of the AAS to deliver programs and initiatives essential to the field.


Rather than considering only the tangible member benefits noted above, I would like to emphasize the intangible benefits derived from membership. Of course there are many benefits for individuals joining and participating in the various activities of professional membership associations, especially for younger scholars. Joining and taking advantage of networking opportunities and building professional relationships is still an essential element of career development. Being eligible for first-book publishing subventions, or student travel subsidies to attend and participate at the annual conference, are additional obvious benefits. But members also should consider their participation in AAS as contributing to the strengthening of the field and “paying forward” the benefits and opportunities that were provided to them by earlier generations of scholars, much as their own academic research undoubtedly is built upon the work of earlier scholars. The AAS member dues structure is based on this philosophy, i.e., that established scholars with higher incomes pay proportionally higher dues to enable younger scholars to become integrated with the association and established in their careers, and who in turn, eventually will do the same. This relationship supports everything the AAS does, and ultimately contributes to the growth and strengthening of the field of Asian Studies. So much of what we do relies on the volunteerism of members, but we also need your continued and consistent financial support to help the field of Asian Studies thrive. I ask that you please keep this in mind when renewal time rolls around.


#AsiaNow Speaks with Anna M. Shields

Anna M. Shields is Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University and the author of One Who Knows Me: Friendship and Literary Culture in Mid-Tang China, published by Harvard Asia Center (2015) and winner of the 2017 AAS Honorable Mention for the Levenson Book Prize (pre-1900).


To begin with, please tell us what your book is about.

My book explores mid-Tang [Dynasty] literature in order to understand the complex value mid-Tang writers discovered in friendship―as a rewarding social practice, a rich literary topic, a way to negotiate literati identity, and a path toward self-understanding. I look at the evolution of the performance of friendship in a wide range of genres, including letters, prefaces, exchange poetry, and funerary texts, and I translate and explicate dozens of texts. The book follows the life-course of mid-Tang literati men, from youthful competition in the exams through career vicissitudes to death and commemoration.


What inspired you to research this topic?

I was first drawn to the topic of friendship through my work on the “matching” poetry of mid-Tang poets Bai Juyi and Yuan Zhen—I saw how they used poetry as literary and social competition, and I began to read more of their work about each other and friendship. I quickly realized that friendship among mid-Tang writers beyond the Yuan-Bai dyad was a prominent topic, far more so than ever before in medieval China, and I wanted to figure out why that was true.


What obstacles did you face in this project? What turned out better/easier than you expected it would?

Tackling the voluminous scholarship and difficult texts of the intellectual history of the mid-Tang and understanding how writing about friendship intersected critical mid-Tang epistemological and aesthetic questions were some early challenges. Learning to read and translate funerary texts well was another hurdle—there is still very little scholarship on funerary genres as literary forms, so I was to some extent writing a new scholarship. One of the joys of the project, however, was seeing how well some contemporary research on friendship from the fields of social psychology and sociology seemed to speak to my topic. Friendship practices seem to have some deep underlying structures that may transcend cultures, despite their culturally different forms across time and space.


What is the strangest/funniest/most outrageous/most interesting story or scrap of research you encountered in the course of working on this book?

There was one critical early moment in the genesis of the book, when I first began to read the “prayer texts” written for dead friends. I was reading the piece that Bai Juyi had written for Yuan Zhen, a text that is completely over the top in every way, unlike any other prayer text in Bai’s corpus, longer and more complex than most such texts in the Tang—it’s sentimental, boastful, varies from high to low register, and incredibly melodramatic—but I was moved to tears. My first response was, “what the heck is going on here?” Then I wanted to understand what he was trying to accomplish in literary, social, and even religious terms by composing such an unusual text.


What are the works that inspired you as you worked on this book, and/or what are some other titles that you would recommend be read in tandem with your own?

An essential work for my book is called simply The Friend, by the late early modern English historian Alan Bray (Chicago, 2003). Bray was a masterful reader of an extraordinary range of texts, including funerary inscriptions. He showed how and why writing about friendship signified in the public sphere, and his exploration of the social and political dimensions of what might seem to be purely private relationships was an eye-opening model for me, and it gave me hope that I could achieve what at first seemed like a project out of left field. Though we’ve seen some great work on friendship in late imperial China come out in recent decades, there is almost no scholarship on friendship in earlier periods—as I explain in detail in the first chapter, friendship has historically been marginalized in the family-centric discourses of the Confucian state—and I had to carve out a space, as Bray did, for my work.


What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a book that traces the way the Tang dynasty literary legacy was shaped and transmitted in the Five Dynasties and Northern Song periods. I’m not as much interested in the formation of a stable “Tang canon” as I am in the scholarly, interpretive work that affected the circulation and reading of texts in the centuries after the fall of the Tang. I’m studying biographies of Tang writers from the Old and New Tang Histories, anthologies of Tang texts, and anecdote collections about Tang writers and their works. I have two articles from this research coming out this year, in the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture and T’oung Pao. Exploring the literature and scholarship of the Northern Song is daunting—so many more texts than in the Tang!—but it’s exciting to be working in a new period.

New Titles from “Key Issues in Asian Studies”

In addition to its two periodicals, the Journal of Asian Studies and Education About Asia, the Association for Asian Studies publishes several book series, including “Key Issues in Asian Studies.” Edited by Lucien Ellington (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), the “Key Issues in Asian Studies” series produces short texts intended for advanced high-school and undergraduate classroom use. We now have two new titles, as well as two revised and updated books, available for purchase:


NEW Chinese Literature: An Introduction, by Ihor Pidhainy

In this brief yet thorough introduction to the key features and important names of Chinese literature, Ihor Pidhainy covers Chinese writings from oracle bones to the internet. Contextualizing the literature within political, historical and cultural frames, Prof. Pidhainy also provides a smorgasbord of examples from the authors noted. Written with a college freshman (or senior in high school) in mind, the book combines an introduction to the key features of Chinese literature, the names of outstanding writers and movements, and some interesting anecdotes that will leave students amused and curious for more. Grounded in historical and cultural contexts, the book also includes sufficient excerpts that will allow instructors freedom from supplementing the text. It may thus be used as a standalone text in a literature class or a supplementary text in a history course.

Read Ihor Pidhainy’s Education About Asia essay about Chinese Literature: An Introduction.

NEW The Mongol Empire in World History, by Helen Hundley

“An accessible, succinct, and interesting account of both the historical, and particularly, in the case of Central Asia, the contemporary legacies of Mongol rule that continue to influence human life and action. Students and instructors who read this book will understand that the emergence of what we think of as the modern world cannot be fully comprehended without consideration of the role played by the Mongol empire. This volume is a welcome augmentation for college, university, and high school World History courses.” (From the Editor’s Introduction)

Read Helen Hundley’s Education About Asia essay about The Mongol Empire in World History. 


REVISED AND EXPANDED Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia, by Michael Peletz

Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia addresses topics of importance for students and scholars of multiple disciplines—including anthropology, sociology, gender studies, Asian studies, religion, geography, political science, and history. This engagingly written booklet—designed for use in undergraduate humanities and social science courses—has great potential for use in the classroom. It will also appeal to specialists in the field owing to Peletz’s ability to present sophisticated yet accessible discussions of a broad range of topics.


REVISED AND EXPANDED Japan and Imperialism, 1853-1945, by James L. Huffman

This lively narrative tells the story of Japan’s experience with imperialism and colonialism, looking first at Japan’s responses to Western threats in the nineteenth century, then at Japan’s activities as Asia’s only imperialist power. Using a series of human vignettes as lenses, Japan and Imperialism examines the motivations—strategic, nationalist, economic—that led to imperial expansion and the impact expansion had on both national policies and personal lives. The work demonstrates that Japanese imperial policies fit fully into the era’s worldwide imperialist framework, even as they displayed certain distinctive traits. Japanese expansive actions, the booklet argues, were inspired by concrete historical contingencies rather than by some national propensity or overarching design.

Wrapping Up AAS 2017

Bob Snow, who will retire in June from his position as the AAS Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives, receives a commendation for his ten years of service from AAS President Laurel Kendall at the President’s Reception on Saturday, March 18.

As the 2017 annual conference enters its final hours, here are your AAS Sunday highlights:

Panel sessions run from 8:30am to 12:45pm.

The Exhibit Hall is open between 9:00am and noon—and many publishers will be offering deep last-day discounts on their books! 

Graduate students interested in submitting their presented papers to the Area Councils for consideration in the “Best Graduate Student Paper” competitions must do so by the end of the day. See your individual Area Council page on the AAS website for more information.

Graduate students eligible for travel stipends who have not yet picked them up should visit the Vide office on the Lower Concourse to do so; stipends are available during registration hours this morning (8:00 to 11:30am).

If you’re interested in doing some Toronto tourism before you leave, check out our guide to the city, written by York University scholars Josh Fogel and Joan Judge, for ideas about what to do. For those heading to the Royal Ontario Museum, show your conference badge to receive 20% off the price of admission. (You can also get the discount if ordering ROM tickets online; simply type in the promo code AAS2017.)

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s conference! We’ll have several wrap-up posts here at #AsiaNow in the days ahead, so please look out for those. See you next year at AAS 2018 in Washington, D.C.!

Saturday Happenings at AAS 2017

AAS Executive Director Michael Paschal and the AAS officers at Friday’s Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony. Seated, L-R: Laurel Kendall (President), Tim Brook (Past President), Katherine Bowie (Vice President), and Mrinalini Sinha (Past Past President).

Toronto’s weather forecast calls for snow today—AAS snowball fight, anyone? 

If there aren’t any takers for that, here are the highlights of today’s conference schedule, all of which are happening inside where it’s warm and dry:

Panel sessions and the AAS Film Expo both begin at 8:30am. 

The Exhibit Hall will be open from 9:00am through 6:00pm. Between 2:30 and 3:00pm, we’ll have a coffee break in the Vide lobby outside the Exhibit Hall on the Lower Concourse, so grab a cup to sip while you browse the many offerings of our exhibitors.

Two editors of AAS publications will be available at the AAS booth (#201) in the Exhibit Hall beginning at 9:00am to meet prospective authors. Those interested in writing for Education About Asia, the teaching journal of the AAS, are invited to meet EAA editor Lucien Ellington to discuss ideas for articles. Lucien also edits our “Key Issues in Asian Studies” series of classroom texts and will be happy to discuss potential proposals for new titles. Bill Tsutsui, editor of the “Asia Shorts” and “Asia Past & Present” series, will be available to meet with anyone who would like to talk over topics for either of those series.

At 10:45am in the Dominion Ballroom North (2nd floor), join us for the second of our Asia Beyond the Headlines roundtables, this one a discussion of “U.S.-Asia Relations under the Trump Administration.”

A reminder that the AAS Area Councils each offer prizes for “Best Graduate Student Paper” presented during the 2017 conference. Graduate students who wish to have their papers considered for these prizes must submit them to the appropriate Area Council by Sunday, March 19 (that is, tomorrow!). See the individual Area Council pages on the AAS website for more details and instructions for submission. 

We’ve been so pleased to see that conference participants are having a blast in the new Selfie Booth. If you haven’t visited the Selfie Booth yet, it’s on the Lower Concourse level (near the base of the escalators)—stop by to snap a shot and post it on social media with the #AAS2017 hashtag. 

We’ll continue tweeting and re-tweeting throughout the day, so follow @AASAsianStudies and #AAS2017 on Twitter to keep up with the conversation!

AAS 2017: Friday Highlights

Dr. Zhang Longxi delivering the opening keynote address for AAS 2017 on Thursday, March 16.

Good morning, and welcome to the first full day of AAS 2017 in Toronto! A few of the notable happenings in the hours to come:

Our Exhibit Hall will be open on the Lower Concourse level (today’s hours: 8:30am-5:00pm). 

Screenings at the AAS Film Expo continue between 8:30am and 8:00pm.

Between 8:30 and 9:00am, join us for a coffee break in the Vide lobby on the Lower Concourse level, take a spin through the Exhibit Hall, and then make your way to the Grand Ballroom Centre by 9:00 for the Awards Ceremony and Presidential Address. AAS President Laurel Kendall will give a talk titled “Things Fall Apart: Material Religion and the Problem of Decay with examples from Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar.” See the list of AAS Book Prize winners here.

Panel sessions begin at 10:30am and run until 7:15pm. Special panels on today’s schedule include an Asia Beyond the Headlines discussion on “Participatory Publics: Civil Society, Pluralist Discourses, and People Power in Asia,” as well as the annual “JAS at AAS” roundtable, the topic of which is “The Flow of Migration beyond the Nation.”

At 7:30pm, head to the Grand Ballroom East for the AAS Member Reception. Grab a few of your friends and snap a group shot in our new Selfie Booth—and don’t forget to tag your post with the #AAS2017 hashtag!

A reminder to graduate students who qualify for travel stipends that those can be picked up in the Vide lobby on the Lower Concourse level during registration hours (today: 8:30am-6:30pm).

Remember, you can always keep up with events throughout the day by following @AASAsianStudies and the #AAS2017 hashtag on Twitter.

Welcome to AAS 2017!

We’re ready to kick off AAS 2017 in Toronto and hope that everyone traveling today has a smooth journey!

Have you downloaded the conference app yet? Don’t forget to check out our list of 10 cool features the app offers!

Highlights of Thursday’s program:

The registration counters will open at 12:00 noon on the Concourse level of the Sheraton.

Film Expo screenings begin at 12:30pm in Maple West (Mezzanine Level). Please note that this is a change of location from what is listed in the printed program book.

At 6:00pm, Dr. Zhang Longxi of City University of Hong Kong will deliver the keynote address, “Asian Studies, Interdisciplinarity, and Comparative Work,” in the Grand Ballroom on the Lower Concourse.

Panels will start at 7:30pm. Tonight’s program includes a special roundtable for graduate students, “Beyond the Academy: Careers for Asianists,” in City Hall (2nd floor).

The graduate student reception will run from 9:30 to 11:00pm in Dominion Ballroom South (2nd floor).

Visit the Selfie Booth in the Networking Lounge on the Lower Concourse level and post a photo of yourself from AAS 2017!

Don’t forget to keep up with the conversation by following @AASAsianStudies and the #AAS2017 hashtag on Twitter. 

We look forward to seeing you in Toronto!

Ten Useful Features in the AAS 2017 Conference App

We first introduced an AAS conference app at the Chicago meeting in 2015 and have been working hard to improve it each year since. Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback on previous versions of the app—hearing from conference attendees is how we learn what about the app is useful and what we can make better in the future.


This year’s app, built using the Guidebook platform, is bursting with features that will enhance your conference experience. We’ve put a huge amount of information—about panels, exhibitors, meetings-in-conjunction, films, the weather, restaurants, and more—in the palm of your hand. The AAS app should be a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know while attending this year’s conference. Are we missing a feature? Let us know and we’ll see if we can add it to the 2018 app.


The AAS app is available in both desktop and mobile versions. While the desktop version has all the important menu items, the mobile app offers a couple of features for communicating with other conference-goers that aren’t available on the web interface. There are also some minor differences in how the two versions look and operate; since we anticipate most people will be using the mobile app in Toronto, all descriptions below refer to that version.


Note: Use of some features is only possible by creating an account and logging into the app (whether on mobile or desktop). Those features are marked with an asterisk in the discussion below.


So, what can the AAS 2017 app do? Here are ten features we think everyone should know about.


1. Build your schedule for the weekend: While the conference program is glossy and colorful and will make a nice souvenir of this year’s meeting, who wants to carry it around? (Besides, you’ll need your arms free to carry books purchased in the exhibit hall!) Keep track of the sessions you plan to attend, as well as receptions and business meetings, by building a personalized schedule within the app.


* You can build a schedule on one device and sync it to another, but you must first create an account and then log in on both devices to make this happen. Otherwise, the schedule will only get saved to the computer/phone/tablet on which it’s created.


How to do it: Select either the “Schedule” tab or “Sessions by Geographic Area” and start scrolling through the list of sessions. If you already know that you definitely want to add a particular session (such as one you’re presenting in), just tap the plus sign (+) next to it. If you’re browsing through sessions, when you come to one that interests you tap on the title for more information, including a list of the panel participants and the panel abstract. If you decide that you want to attend the session, hit “Add now” at the bottom of the page. Any time you add a session, you’ll have the option of setting a reminder to alert you prior to its start time; reminders can be set on the desktop version but will only work on a mobile device (give the app permission to send you push notifications). Multiple sessions in the same timeslot pique your interest? No problem—you can add them all now and choose later.


Mobile extra: On the mobile app, you can also add your own appointments (coffee dates, dinner arrangements) to your schedule. Select the “My Schedule” tab, then tap the plus sign at the top of the page and enter the appointment details, then save.


2. Find your meeting room using floorplans: We’ve all spent more time than we’d like to admit wandering a maze of hotel hallways searching for that elusive meeting room. Navigate the Sheraton Centre Toronto easily using the hotel maps available in the app. Simply tap on the “Floorplans” tab, then use the drop-down menu at the top to pick the hotel floor of the room you’re looking to find and get the map you need. Tap on the name of the room for a complete list of everything taking place there during the conference.


3. Make a to-do list and/or notes: Did you promise a colleague you’d send her the article draft you two were discussing? Spot a book in the exhibit hall that you think a friend will find interesting? Hear about a nearby restaurant that you want to check out? Don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember everything; instead, use the “To-do List” in your app to keep track of tasks and the “Notes” feature to jot down important ideas.


* As with the personal schedule, you must log in to sync To-do List and Notes entries between different devices; otherwise, they’re just saved to the device on which they’re created.


4. Find a restaurant: If you’re salivating for sushi or pining for a pizza, check out local restaurant offerings. We’ve added listings for places that are within a reasonable walk or short taxi ride from the Sheraton (more coming soon!).


5. Check the weather: Don’t head out unprepared—tap on the app’s “Weather” tab and you’ll be taken to the current forecast for Toronto so you’ll know whether to pack an umbrella or extra set of mittens.


6. Review the Film Expo screenings: Curator Jason Finkelman and his team of reviewers have selected 22 movies for screening at this year’s AAS Film Expo. They look for works that will both be of interest to scholars and useful in the classroom, and ensure that the Film Expo covers a variety of topics and locations. In many cases, the film’s director(s) will participate in an audience Q&A after the screening ends. Information about all the movies, plus their screening times, is available under the “AAS Film Expo” tab.


Can’t make it to a scheduled screening? We’ll also have a screening-on-demand option available. Talk with an on-site Film Expo staff member to arrange for a personal showtime (then add it to your app schedule!).


7. Connect on social media: You can post to Twitter and Facebook from within the app. Don’t forget to use the #AAS2017 hashtag!


8. *Communicate with other app users: If you’re blown away by a panelist’s presentation and want to let him/her know but don’t have time to hang around after the session ends—just send a message instead! Both parties need to create accounts and log in to use this feature, which is only available on the mobile version of the app.


How to do it: If you aren’t yet acquainted with the person you’re writing to, use the “Messaging” tab and then tap on the pen and paper image that appears at the top of the screen. Search for the intended recipient by tapping the plus sign in the “To” field. Write your message, then send it.


If you do know the person and want to chat with him/her within the app, use the “Attendees” tab and search for his/her name (again, this only works if the person has created a user profile and checked in on the app). Tap the plus sign to connect with that person; once he or she accepts your invitation, look under the “Connections” menu within “Attendees” and tap on the person’s name to start a chat conversation.


9. Find an exhibitor: Tap on the “Exhibitors” tab to find a complete list and booth information for the companies and organizations that will be in our exhibition hall. If the exhibitor is holding a special event during the conference, information about it is included in their listing.


10. Follow #AsiaNow: We’ll be updating the blog throughout the conference, so don’t miss a post! Tap on the “#AsiaNow” tab to keep up with the latest.

Technical problems? Check to see if your question is addressed in the app user guide; if you still need assistance, email Guidebook or find an AAS staff member on-site in Toronto. 

Animals, Anniversaries, Archives, and Food: A Few AAS 2017 Panels I Wish I Could Catch

The following is a revised and expanded version of an article that first appeared in the December 2016 E-Newsletter.


This is my first year working for the AAS rather than being an attendee at the annual conference. Although there are plenty of good things about my job, the one downside is that I most likely won’t have time to catch many panels. Still, old habits die hard, and as soon as the conference program arrived in my office I sat down and read through it—impressed, as usual, by the breadth and depth of the Asian Studies field.


Panel topics at AAS always cover an enormous range of time periods, geographic places, and academic fields of study. Some topics are perennial ones, discussed anew each decade in light of the latest archival discoveries or turn in scholarly perspective. Others, however, are less common, representing entire new sub-specialties or a periodic focus on events that otherwise do not receive a great deal of attention.


In looking over the panel sessions for our 2017 conference in Toronto, I noticed that a few interesting sets of notable groupings emerged, often on topics that cross national and temporal boundaries. Our conference program booklets always have an index of panels by discipline, but the sub-categories listed below aren’t big enough to appear in that index (at least, not yet); instead, I’m drawing your attention to them here. I probably won’t be able to attend any of them, but if you do, please share your notes with me!



A post by Dan Vandersommers for the American Historical Association’s AHA Today blog last November outlines an “animal turn” in historical scholarship that has become evident as scholars give greater consideration to nonhuman actors in the past. I definitely see more animal-related topics appearing on the AAS conference program as well, led by a three-part panel on “Power, People, and Animals in Asia” (sessions 57, 98, and 147). Other panels to catch if you’re interested in animal topics are “Animals and Empires: Negotiating Nonhuman Actors and Imperialism in Northeast Asia” (session 156); “Interspecies Intimacy: Evolving Human-animal Socialities in Asia” (session 215); and “Japanese Literature and the Animal in Person” (session 260).



Anniversary years offer us a natural opportunity to pause and assess the long-term effects of important events or social movements. In 2017, China marks one hundred years since the publication of Hu Shi’s proposal for literary reform; session 25 will discuss the resulting New Literature Movement and its relevance a century later. Six decades have elapsed since China’s tragic anti-rightist campaign of 1957, which will be the subject of session 197. In the more recent past, it has now been twenty years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis; session 158 will consider its effects on South Korea’s economy and society.



With the growth of digital resources and increasing ability of scholars to buy research materials online via sites like Ebay, our understanding of “the archive” is constantly changing. Five panels feature scholars who will take a step back from their research to talk about the formal and informal archives in which that research is conducted. These panels will discuss archives of interest to specialists in Southeast Asia (session 61), the People’s Republic of China (session 100), colonial India (session 229), eighteenth-century Korea (session 266), and the Chinese diaspora (session 370). In session 319, “Archives in Between,” panelists will conduct an interactive workshop introducing attendees to the creation and curation of digital archives.



Asia, of course, has many wonderful cuisines to enjoy—one of the perks of specializing in the region. Some scholars, however, are not only concerned with the food on their plates, but also with the place of food in history, literature, and society. In Toronto, single-country panels about food will cover “Banqueting in Chinese Art, Literature, and Religion” (session 67), “Food and Collective Identity in the Korean World” (session 89), and “Eating Japan” (session 10). A comparative panel, “Food Safety and Security in China and Japan” (session 110), will examine this important and timely topic in East Asia, while a panel on “Horticultural Practice and Gastronomical Perspectives in Tea History” (session 165) will put Asia’s most popular drink in a global perspective.

Introducing the Gender Equality in Asian Studies Group

By Denise Ho, Margaret Mih Tillman, Brigid Vance, and Shellen Wu

One woman nearly broke down in tears as she described her travails attending a previous Association for Asian Studies conference as a new mother. At the time, AAS provided no nursing facilities during the annual conference. She could not find a place to pump in the conference space and in desperation had to track down and borrow a friend’s hotel room. Others had stories of their experiences doing research in Asia (where they were frequently asked, “Who is taking care of your husband!?”) and the difficulties women in particular encounter in doing fieldwork. Someone else mentioned the frustrations and lack of mentorship that come with working in departments of mostly older men. The outpouring of stories was a wake-up call and made us realize the real need for an advocacy group and network for women in Asian Studies. We hope to not only provide a forum to share our experiences and advice, but also to create a platform to push for change in the field.

The Gender Equality in Asian Studies Group began in 2014 at an informal gathering at the AAS annual conference in Philadelphia, where Shellen Wu and Denise Ho convened a long-running lunch meeting that was mainly attended by young women who circled in and out of the conversation. That discussion quickly revealed some common interests and concerns about gender equality in Asian Studies in Europe, the United States, and Asia. In 2015, the Historical Society for Twentieth-Century China provided part of the allotted space and time for their business meeting for a gathering of interested conference attendees. This widely attended event attracted an even larger group of men and women, who shared the stories described above. As a result of the 2015 meeting, we forwarded concerns about the lack of nursing facilities to the AAS program committee, which responded to these requests by providing a nursing room for the annual conference beginning in 2016. At the 2016 AAS, we hosted a discussion about publishing with the managing editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and an acquisitions editor from Stanford University Press. At each meeting, we have attempted to address a different facet of the various forms of structural bias women and minorities commonly encounter in academia.

This year we became formally affiliated with AAS. We hope to carry forward an effort first started nearly thirty years ago. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Association for Asian Studies Committee on Women in Asian Studies convened meetings that included such foundational leaders as Mary Elizabeth Berry, Dorothy Ko, Dorinne Kondo, Sheldon Garon, Sally Hastings, Gail Hershatter, Emily Honig, Sucheta Mazumdar, and Margery Wolf. Together, they helped to promote gender analysis in Asian Studies, and provided a platform for academic discussions of the subject. We are especially excited to welcome some of the original members of the AAS Committee on Women in Asian Studies to this year’s event. At the 2017 Toronto AAS meeting, we have invited Gail Hershatter (UC Santa Cruz), Matthew Sommer (Stanford University), Anne Feldhaus (Arizona State University), and Sally Hastings (Purdue University) to share their advice about professional development. Our goal is to pool advice for best practices for graduate students, early and mid-career academics, as well as those holding senior positions of leadership in the field. In addition, we hope to start a discussion about new trends and directions in the profession, and how we might best promote diversity and gender equality.

As beneficiaries of the groundwork laid back in the 1980s and 90s, our group seeks to address some practical issues that early career professionals are now facing, especially as they pertain to issues of gender equity and diversity on college campuses. 

We welcome questions and suggestions regarding further events at AAS meetings. Please contact Denise Ho (, Margaret Mih Tillman (, Brigid Vance (, or Shellen Wu (

The Gender Equality in Asian Studies Group meeting will be held on Saturday, March 18 from 1:00 to 2:30pm in the Linden Room on the Mezzanine level of the Sheraton Centre Toronto. Please note that the meeting is listed in the conference program under the name “Holding Up Half the Sky.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this blog post mistakenly stated that childcare subsidies for attendees at the annual conference were not provided before 2016. They were in fact made available by the AAS in 2009, and the post has been corrected.

March 2017 AAS Member News & Notes

AAS Member Harleen Singh, associate professor at Brandeis University, is the recipient of a Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars. Dr. Singh will spend the 2017-18 academic year in residence at the National Humanities Center working on her research project, “Half an Independence: Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India.”

* * *

Eight AAS Members are among the 21 new fellows who have been selected by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations for the fifth cohort of its Public Intellectuals Program. Congratulations to Denise Ho (Yale University), Aynne Kokas (University of Virginia), Liu Sida (University of Toronto), John Osburg (University of Rochester), Johanna Ransmeier (University of Chicago), Maria Repnikova (Georgia State University), Shellen Wu (University of Tennessee-Knoxville), and Xu Bin (Emory University).

* * *

Congratulations to the seven AAS Members who have been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities for the following research projects:

  • Amy Borovoy (Princeton University) “Organ Donation and Medical Practices in Modern Japanese Culture”
  • Haydon Cherry (Northwestern University) “Dao Duy Anh (1904–1988), Vietnamese Intellectual: A Biography”
  • Kate Merkel-Hess (Pennsylvania State University) “The Warlords: Familial Relationships and Power in Modern China”
  • Aaron S. Moore (Arizona State University) “Engineering Asian Development: The Cold War and Japan’s Post-Colonial Power in Asia”
  • Dawn Odell (Lewis & Clark College) “Chinese Art in Early Modern Europe and America”
  • Anna Shields (Princeton University) “Construction of the Tang Dynasty Literary Legacy by Scholars in the Five Dynasties and Northern Song”
  • Philip Yampolsky (Independent Scholar) “Documenting Vaihoho, a Form of Sung Poetry in Southeast Asia”

* * *

The Hamako Ito Chaplin Memorial Award is conferred yearly, administered through the Association for Asian Studies. In accordance with the wishes of the Chaplin family, each year a prize of $1,000 is awarded to either a graduate student or a full-time instructor of Japanese for excellence in Japanese language teaching. The selection committee is pleased to announce that this year’s recipient is Dr. Junko Tokuda Simpson (Lecturer of Japanese, University of California, San Diego). Dr. Tokuda Simpson has demonstrated that she is a highly effective teacher and leader in the field of Japanese pedagogy. She has actively participated in numerous professional development courses and workshops that have resulted in successful pedagogical projects such as creation of flipped classrooms and student-centered courses that integrate the development and implementation of the 21st century skills. In addition, she has also been a keen advocate of Japanese language education in the K-16 circuits as well as in the local communities around her. Given Dr. Junko Tokuda Simpson’s solid teaching skills, strong passion and leadership capacity, the committee feels confident that she will make important contributions to the field of Japanese pedagogy. 

* * *


Paul van der Velde, Secretary of the International Convention for Asia Scholars (ICAS), has been named Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Dr. van der Velde has received this honor in recognition of his many efforts to promote scholarly activities and exchanges, which in addition to his work at ICAS include co-founding the journal Historisch Nieuwsblad, participating in the establishment of the International Institute for Asian Studies, and founding the ICAS Book Prize.


* * *


AAS Members who are preparing their first single-authored books for publication are invited to apply for the AAS First Book Subvention Program. Please see the AAS website for eligibility criteria and instructions for applicants; the next application deadline is September 1, 2017.


* * *


Deceased Asianists


James W. Gair (1927-2016), professor emeritus of linguistics at Cornell University. Announcement via Cornell University.


Jeffrey Hadler (1968-2017), associate professor of South & Southeast Asian studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Announcement via UC Berkeley Center for Southeast Asian Studies.


David Keightley (1932-2017), professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Berkeley. Announcement via MCLC.


Elliot Sperling (1951-2017), associate professor emeritus of Tibetan studies at Indiana University. Memorial essay by Tenzin Dorjee published at the Huffington Post.


Jack Wills (1936-2017), professor emeritus of history at the University of Southern California. Announcement via USC; memorial essay by Tonio Andrade published at H-Asia.

In Memoriam


It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Kota Inoue, an assistant professor of Japanese literature at Washington State University at Pullman who died in a car accident on December 14, 2016. Born and raised in Chiba Prefecture, he graduated from Rikkyo University before moving from Japan to the United States to pursue graduate work in American Studies and earning a master’s degree from the University of Alabama. This degree would come in handy as he increasingly recognized that the study of modern Japan meant understanding the full might of pre- and postwar American imperialism. Changing his field of study to Japanese literature at the University of Arizona where he received his M.A., Kota completed his studies with a Ph.D. at UC-Irvine and then secured a tenure-track position at the University of Redlands. His achievements there included winning their Professor of the Year award in 2011.


Professor Inoue’s publications focus largely on Japanese colonialism and literature in work that is distinctive in addressing with erudition and imagination complex state, private, and cultural expressions that converge in the formation of non-Western colonial practices. That Kota excelled in producing both critically informed essays and adroit translations of Japanese works into English reflects a self-conscious effort to situate himself within Western academic protocols while resisting and subverting longstanding racial and culturalist politics that continue to shape the practice of Japanese Studies in the West. Moving to Washington State University in 2012, he continued to teach with distinction while working on the latter stages of a manuscript exploring the relationship of colonialism to suburban space in interwar (1920s and 30s) Japan. His most recent work increasingly addressed the ecological implications of capital and imperialism. Kota was a committed scholar-critic-activist well ahead of the curve in urging fellow faculty and students alike to urgently foreground eco-environmental concerns in their work and in everyday life. The force of his ideas, his unmatched integrity, and his singular dedication to his students earned him the fierce loyalty and appreciation of faculty and especially a large number of students throughout his academic career. He is survived by his partner, Nancy Mcloughlin, family members in Japan, his beloved cat Commie, and a remarkable array of friends ranging from academic colleagues, fellow ecologists, and war resisters, to farmer’s market vendors, co-op members, and a legion of students who mourn the passing of a gentle and profoundly engaged soul. 


James Fujii

East Asian Languages and Literatures, UC Irvine


We welcome submissions for the AAS Member News column, so please forward material for consideration to Please note that we do not publish book announcements in this space; new books by AAS Members will be announced on the association’s Twitter feed (@AASAsianStudies). 

Toronto Highlights

By Josh Fogel and Joan Judge

There are only a few weeks left before the AAS annual conference begins in Toronto on March 16. Five years ago, when our meetings were last held here, many people wrote to ask about things to do and places to eat. We responded in a catch-as-catch-can manner, but this time AAS Executive Director Michael Paschal has asked us to prepare something more organized. One thing to note: the weather here in March can be unpredictable, usually cold, around freezing, although five years ago it was in the low 20s C (around 70 F). The best advice is to assiduously check weather reports before packing.

The Sheraton Centre (note the alien spelling) Toronto Hotel, the conference venue, is located at 123 Queen Street W. As you go west from the hotel “Queen Street” becomes increasingly funky, Toronto’s answer to Soho: a number of unique shops and restaurants (although it is becoming gentrified). A fun place to stroll, shop, and eat, barring inclement weather. Incidentally, the U.S. dollar is now extraordinarily powerful vis-à-vis the Canadian dollar (aka the northern peso).

Toronto has, like many cities south of the border, become a fabulous place for foodies. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites together with those of our foodie friends (one of them a chef herself) that are within walking distance of or a short taxi ride away from the Sheraton. The following list is not exhaustive by any means, but it does include some extraordinary places. Check the websites for details on cost and to make reservations.  Personally, if any of these look interesting, we’d advise reserving pronto. As noted, this is now a certified foodie town.

There are other things to do besides eat in Toronto if you have the time. You can explore the city using public transit (TTC, or Toronto Transit Commission). The subway system is easy to use, but a bit limited geographically. The Sheraton is close to Osgoode Station on the north-south line.

Our four favorite museums (there are many more) are:

  • Royal Ontario Museum, or ROM, the oldest and grandest, with a fine East Asian collection
  • Gardiner Museum, across the street from the ROM, especially well known for its collection of ceramics
  • AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), a fine collection of Canadiana (if that’s a word), excellent rotating world-class exhibits, and much more (including a great restaurant)
  • Bata Shoe Museum, a niche collection of shoes from around the world

It would be best to check these websites to see what shows will be on during the time you’re in Toronto. All are within healthy walking distance or a short cab or subway ride from the Sheraton.

Feel free to contact us with any specific questions ( or Looking forward to seeing you all here soon.

Even more ideas for your time in Toronto—plus some special deals and discounts—are available at the Tourism Toronto page for AAS 2017 attendees.

Image via Wikipedia and used under a Creative Commons license.

The Futures of Asian Studies

I begin this final President’s column in a moment when the word “future” takes on a particularly uncertain cast. There is no doubt that Asia will loom large in the American future in the coming months and years, and that whatever stands in front of us cannot be navigated without expertise and the wisdom of experience. But will such expertise be sought? Heard? Valued? By whom, and in what fora? I use the plural “futures” in my title with careful intention. Forward motion assumes a strong contingent of young Asianists working on many fronts. Support for this cohort is a primary responsibility of the Association for Asian Studies.

Two of our core programs—the annual meeting, and the publication of a high-profile journal—give professional visibility to new work and new faces. Many of us gave our first professional papers as graduate students in the more intimate and supportive atmosphere of AAS regional meetings, and this tradition continues. Medium-sized AAS-in-ASIA meetings are another opportunity to present new ideas, gain visibility, and network, and mentoring sessions with AAS officers have become a part of these programs. For several years, AAS Dissertation Writing Workshops, held around the national meeting, have helped cohorts of graduate students to hone their arguments into well-defended theses, some of which ultimately developed into first books. Our program in Emerging Fields also encourages the participation of junior scholars in broad intellectual projects which also foster networking across institutions and disciplines. In other words, AAS has a good idea of how to nurture scholarship, and will continue to support and develop projects that enhance the intellectual growth and professional viability of young academics. We should do this, and we will. Where AAS falls short is in the recognition that many young Asianists, however brilliant and well-trained, will not find employment in the academy. 

Tenure-track positions have shrunk, there is little ground for optimism that they will return, and many young Asianists are seeking jobs outside the academy. This is not easy. University advisors and mentors know how to train a student to do research and write a creditable paper. The academy offers advice on how to make an effective scholarly presentation and give a creditable academic job interview. But most academic Asianists are clueless about how to prepare for non-academic employment, and some of us are tempted to feel betrayed when a carefully-nurtured student breaks with academe, feelings that sometimes translate back to the student as a lack of sympathy and support.

AAS must do better. Last year, when we interviewed Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, our new Digital Media Manager, and asked her about the future of AAS, she spoke passionately to the issue of younger scholars in her own cohort, well-trained in scholarship but facing precarious futures. Maura is an effective communicator. She made us recognize that if AAS is to have a future, many of our standard-bearers will not be academic Asianists. In fact, throughout our history as an association, many of our longstanding members and some of our best-informed voices have had non-academic careers as diplomats, foundation people, NGO workers, and in business. Some have found careers that have been more interesting, personally rewarding, and/or better remunerated than had they continued on the academic track. 

But to assume a more active role in supporting Asianists seeking non-academic careers, we need to brainstorm with those of you who are on the front lines, and we need to learn from the experiences of peer organizations. We need to become better informed of and get out the word about programs like Mellon/ACLS’s Public Fellows Program, which offers recent humanities and humanistic social science PhDs a two-year internship in government and the non-profit sector.


At the Toronto meeting, AAS will be taking one small step in the direction of a possible larger initiative by hosting a roundtable, “Beyond the Academy: Careers for Asianists,” drawing on the expertise and willingness to share experiences that some of our membership will provide. David Janes is Director of Foundation Grants and Assistant to the President at the United States-Japan Foundation, the largest private foundation focused on U.S.-Japan relations, where he oversees all aspects of the Foundation’s grant-making program in the U.S. and Japan. Helena Kolenda is Program Director for Asia at the Henry Luce Foundation, with a career track that includes a degree in Chinese Language and Literature and a stint as an attorney before joining Luce, initially as a Program Officer. Christian F. Murck, Chair of the Yale-China Association, has been President of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Vice Chairman-Asia, Chief Executive Officer-Asia and Managing Director of APCO Worldwide, and before joining APCO, he was the Managing Director and Senior Country Officer of the Chase Manhattan Bank in Beijing. Margaret Scott, a journalist, was Cultural Editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and writes about Indonesia for The New York Review of Books from her current base at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. Krisna Uk was most recently Executive Director, Center for Khmer Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia. During her tenure she strengthened CKS’s major exchange programs and developed institutional partnerships with American, Cambodian, Southeast Asian, and European academic institutions, while creating funding and academic network opportunities for Cambodian scholars; she previously worked on various consultancies. Our participants will all speak briefly about how their careers intersect with Asianist knowledge, giving us their sense of what they did right in making these moves and what they might have done differently had they known what their futures would hold. The session will be chaired by Maura Cunningham, and there will be ample time for questions and discussion.


Please join us at 7:30pm on Thursday, March 16 in the City Hall room, 2nd floor of the Sheraton. The Graduate Student reception is immediately after this session. The conversation that is begun in this roundtable will continue well beyond the Toronto meeting.

To maximize time for Q&A, audience members should submit questions in advance (email them to  

Introducing #AsiaNow

On behalf of the Association for Asian Studies, I’d like to welcome you to #AsiaNow, our first-ever born-digital publication.

We’ve created this space to provide Asianists a venue in which to analyze current affairs, share notes from the field, and keep up with the latest news from the AAS. #AsiaNow won’t replace the Journal of Asian Studies, Education About Asia, or our various monograph series. Instead, #AsiaNow is a new type of venture for the AAS—one that will encourage scholars of Asia to bring their expert knowledge to non-academic audiences and provide informed analysis of events and trends in Asia. It will also facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas across the Asian Studies field in an effort to fight the tendency for scholars to fragment into clusters of sub-specialists. We want #AsiaNow to be a place for broader conversations.

#AsiaNow also enables us to provide timely association updates to AAS members. At the blog, you’ll see information about the annual conference and AAS-in-ASIA, messages from the AAS officers, member spotlight features, and other association news. The blog platform provides us with a more flexible and readable format than the cumbersome PDF E-Newsletter did, and also makes it easier for readers to share posts on social media or via email.

Right now you’re seeing #AsiaNow in its “beta” version, a preview of what’s to come. Over the next few weeks—that is, between now and the March 16-19 AAS annual conference in Toronto—we’ll mostly run posts linked to that meeting, such as a President’s Column by Laurel Kendall about this year’s special panel on non-academic careers for Asianists, a guide to Toronto restaurants and museums prepared by local scholars Josh Fogel and Joan Judge, and an introduction by Margaret Tillman to the newest AAS affiliate organization, the Gender Equality in Asian Studies Group.

After the conference, we’ll expand to feature a wider range of content: commentary and analysis, field notes, interviews with authors, and more. If you have an idea for a potential #AsiaNow post, please see the instructions for contributors for how to proceed with a pitch.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who submitted ideas for the blog name when we asked for suggestions last year. We received over one hundred submissions, which the AAS board and staff reviewed and discussed before narrowing down the field. In the end, we combined two ideas: “#Asia” (submitted by Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations) and “AsiaNow” (suggested by three people: Jon Wilson, AAS Publications Manager; Eileen Hsu, Independent Scholar; and Ann Hill, Dickinson College). We liked the idea to add a hashtag to the blog’s name, conveying its digital nature, and the immediacy of “AsiaNOW.” And thus, “#AsiaNow” was born.

Much more to come, so please stay tuned. Once again, welcome!