Celebrating Regional Conferences

Political events across the globe, not the least of which include the recent efforts by the Chinese government to censor scholarship, remind all of us of the important role academic organizations such as the Association for Asian Studies can play. As soon as AAS learned of the efforts to block articles in the Journal of Asian Studies, we expressed our opposition on behalf of our members and defended the importance of academic freedom. Keeping AAS strong involves varied initiatives, each providing opportunities for membership participation in actions ranging from writing short blogs for #Asia Now to organizing panels for the annual conference

In this column I would like to highlight how participation in our regional conferences helps keep AAS strong. Nine regional conferences are affiliated with AAS; one is held annually in Japan and the remaining eight in locations across the U.S. AAS helps support these conferences and their affiliated outreach workshops for K-12 teachers. Each regional conference has a representative on the AAS Council of Conferences (CoC); the CoC meets each year at the annual AAS meeting. AAS presidents—current, past or incoming—attend the regional conferences and give a keynote.  

You do not have to be a member of AAS to participate in the regional conferences. Furthermore, you do not even have to live in the region which is hosting a given conference (although certain conferences have some regional restrictions, e.g. for students to be eligible for certain prizes they must attend a university located in the region). International scholars are also welcome to submit papers or simply attend.

Regional conferences are dedicated to building supportive communities of Asianists. Attending them is a great way for Asia scholars to find out who else is working at nearby institutions and to build networks that can be useful in so many ways, be it to meet colleagues with whom to organize future panels, consult with current or future research ideas, etc. I know many AAS members often feel frustration when their panels are not accepted for the large annual meeting. Let me assure you that AAS presidents, including myself, have had their panels rejected (although I must confess that the annual AAS meetings are often more enjoyable when one can actually have time to wander through the book exhibits, attend panels, and meet colleagues without the looming pressure of having to worry about finishing one’s own paper!). Regional conferences provide yet another important venue for scholars to present their work and are convivial venues for students and junior scholars to actually meet and talk with senior scholars, including AAS presidents, in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Some even have their own publications. 

Regional conferences are particularly welcoming venues for students, many offering prizes for outstanding undergraduate and graduate student papers, so I would encourage all faculty and students to learn about their regional conference prizes. AAS dedicates a panel at the annual meeting to the CoC for selected prizewinners to present their papers, and prizewinners also receive a free one-year membership in AAS. Encouraging student presentations is a great way for these students to build their resumes and for the field of Asian studies to support the next generation of Asian scholars. 

Consequently, I would like to encourage everyone to visit the AAS website for more information about the regional conferences. For your convenience, I list below each of the nine regional conferences, providing a little background and their upcoming conference schedules. If you have missed deadlines for paper submission, you can still attend this year and plan ahead for next year! With a little advance planning, these regional conferences provide a great way to visit friends and family across the country while also building your academic networks.

Brief Overview of Regional Conferences: 

Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ) is held in Japan, but emphasizes interdisciplinary scholarly exchanges on Asia more broadly. They offer student prizes. The call for papers (in English-language format) will close October 15, 2017 for their next conference, which will be held at International Christian University in Tokyo from June 30-July 1, 2018.

Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast (ASPAC) members come from the West Coast of the United States of America, Hawaii, and Guam, as well as from Canada, Mexico, and Asia. ASPAC normally holds its annual conference in June and offers student paper prizes. Their next conference will be held June 8-10, 2018 at Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, so watch for their call for papers.

Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies (MAR/AAS) serves the mid-Atlantic region from New York City down to Washington, D.C., including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It has some travel assistance for graduate students and international scholars (up to $100) and has a graduate student prize competition, as well as its own publications. This year’s conference is being held in Philadelphia October 6-8.

Midwestern Conference on Asian Affairs (MCAA) is based in the Midwest region. MCAA has as many as 5-6 prizes for graduate and undergraduate papers and also publishes a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Studies on Asia. This year’s conference is at the University of Notre Dame September 15-17, 2017, so if you’re not attending that this weekend, stay tuned for announcements about next year’s conference.

New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) draws its membership primarily from New York State, but welcomes participation from anywhere in the world. The annual conference, which often includes cultural performances, is held on a different New York campus each year in the fall. NYCAS awards annual student prizes. The 2017 conference will be hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges September 22-23, so watch out for the call for papers, venue, and dates for next year.

Southwest Conference on Asian Studies (SWCAS) is based in the southwestern region. This year’s annual meeting will take place on November 17-18, hosted by Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

The Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (WCAAS) was founded in Salt Lake City and bases itself in the Intermountain West. This year’s conference is being held in conjunction with SWCAS in Dallas.

The Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (SEC/AAS) will hold its next conference at the University of South Carolina in January 2018; paper and panel proposals are due by October 31, 2017.

New England Association for Asian Studies (NEAAS) does not yet have its next conference scheduled, but its members can participate in the other regional conferences.

The AAS Secretariat is closed on Monday, May 29 in observance of the Memorial Day holiday