September 2017 AAS Member News & Notes

Congratulations to the AAS Members who have received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support research and teaching projects. Evan Dawley (Goucher College) and Tosh Minohara (Kobe University) have received a collaborative research grant to hold a symposium entitled “Beyond Versailles: Reverberations of World War I in Asia.” Richard Davis (Bard College) will organize a three-week seminar for college and university faculty on “The Bhagavad Gita: Ancient Poem, Modern Readers.”


The Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) is pleased to announce that the Usha Mahajani Memorial Prize for 2017 has been awarded to Annika Yates. The Prize is a memorial to Professor Usha Mahajani, whose scholarship on Southeast Asia was brought to an abrupt end by her tragic death in 1978. Professor Mahajani, a native of India, received her PhD in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University. She was the author of Nationalism in the Philippines and The Role of Indian Minorities in Burma and Malaysia and numerous articles on Southeast Asian politics and international relations. At the time of her death she was Professor of Political Science at Central Washington State University. The prize was established by a gift from her husband to the Association for Asian Studies. SEASSI administers the competition for the prize on behalf of the Southeast Asia Council of AAS.

Annika Yates, the 2017 recipient of the Usha Mahajani Prize, completed her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in Philosophy, and is currently pursuing an M.A. degree in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, with an emphasis on Vietnam. At SEASSI, Annika was awarded the Mahajani Prize for her achievements as a language learner in first-year Vietnamese, for her contributions and commitment to the Vietnamese language program (in and out of class), and for her potential as a scholar of Southeast Asian studies. She was selected from a group of six other highly qualified nominees for the prize out of 91 SEASSI participants.


The Northeast Asia Council of the AAS is currently accepting applications for the fall round of its small grants program. In Japan Studies, grants provided in conjunction with the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission are available for research travel within the United States, short-term research travel to Japan, seminars on teaching about Japan, and small scholarly conferences on Japanese Studies. Korean Studies grants, provided in conjunction with the Korea Foundation, are available to support research travel (in North America or Korea, or elsewhere with special approval) and workshops/conferences. The deadline for all grant applications is October 1, 2017.


The AAS is soliciting proposals for its August 2018 Emerging Fields workshop on “Asia and the Anthropocene.” Proposals are due by October 2, 2017.


The CFP for our AAS-in-ASIA 2018 conference at Ashoka University in New Delhi is now open, with panel proposals (no individual papers will be considered) due by November 15.


The Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs is holding its 66th annual meeting September 15-16 at the University of Notre Dame, with keynote addresses by AAS President Katherine BowieRochona Majumdar (University of Chicago), and Guobin Yang (University of Pennsylvania). Registration information and the full schedule are available at the conference website.


The Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ) has issued the call for proposals for its 2018 conference at International Christian University in Tokyo. ASCJ will accept proposals for full panels, roundtables, and individual papers during a period extending from September 15 to October 15. Also, ASCJ has a new web address, so please update your bookmarks accordingly.


We would like to call the attention of AAS Members to the many grant and fellowship competitions offered by the American Council of Learned Societies. Some of the competitions are specifically Asia-focused, while others have a strong track record of funding Asia-related projects. Deadlines vary among competitions, with the earliest falling on September 27.


The North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources (NCC) would like to announce the following important deadlines for 2017-18 Proposals for Multi-Volume Sets Grants:

Prescreening Deadline: November 1, 2017

MVS Final Application Deadline: January 15, 2018

MVS Grant Notification: March 1, 2018

For more information, please see the full Call for Proposals or go directly to the application page.

The NCC Multi-Volume Sets Grants (MVS) were created to cooperatively develop a national collection of unique and expensive Japanese research materials, held by institutions of all sizes and in all regions, circulating throughout the United States via Interlibrary Loan. Funded since 1992 by the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, MVS receives supplemental support from Japan Publications Trading Company, Ltd. (JPT), which manages the program in Japan. The MVS Collection now contains more than 45,000 items, held in 41 public and private institutions in all parts of the U.S. MVS makes grants for the purchase of expensive multi-volume sets of Japanese language materials (those costing more than ¥100,000 per set). Second-hand copies are now eligible for the program, making it possible for applicants to construct a set through a combination of used and new volumes if necessary. The MVS committee considers each applicant institution’s 1) areas of specialization, unique character, and collection development traditions; 2) research, teaching and documented patron demand for the requested sets; and 3) readiness to freely share the funded sets locally and nationally, through ILL. Since 2015 MVS has also started accepting applications for a new MVS Grant strategy to fund the purchase of rare materials to be immediately digitized and made available freely online.


The National Humanities Center seeks applicants to its 2018-19 residential fellowship program. Applications are due by October 18, 2017.

Deceased Asianists

Charles Fredric Blake passed away on April 19, 2017 in Honolulu. Born in El Paso and raised in St. Louis, Fred was a cultural anthropologist specializing in China. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Blake taught at the University of Hawaii at Manoa from 1974 to 2017. He was still teaching only weeks before the sudden onset of hepatic amyloidosis that led to his unexpected passing.

Fred considered anthropology a calling and a way of life. His intellectual development was strongly shaped by his experiences growing up in the American Midwest, his participation in the Civil Rights Movement, and his Peace Corps service in Agrigan, Marianas from 1966 to 1967.

His academic work aimed to explain how people make meaning in their lives, which he explored through phenomena such as gender, mortality, fetishism, sacrifice, and alienation. He pioneered new research areas on China with his 1981 ethnography Ethnic Groups and Social Change in a Chinese Market Town,which was based on ethnographic fieldwork among Hakka-Chinese in the 1960s. With this monograph, Fred was among the first to address the issue of ethnicity among the “Han Chinese” and others. In the 1970s, he studied the social history and the origins of Chinese communities in the Midwest and published the first study of a Chinese cemetery using gravestone epitaphs to reconstruct the original pioneer Chinese community (1993). Fred also pioneered a re-examination of the custom of foot-binding, in which he considered the custom as an historical system of economic production and reproduction, arguing that it was embedded in the complex mother-daughter relationship (1994). His next project explored another long-standing Chinese custom, the ritual of burning “paper money” for the dead, and he explored the nature of value and the reification of “sacrifice.” This produced his monograph Burning Money: The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld (2011), which integrated Chinese dialectics and Western analytics. Fred published widely in not only the U.S., but also in China, the U.K., and Germany.

Fred was a teacher and mentor of great knowledge, humility, and encouragement. In 2016 he was recognized by the East-West Center for his significant contributions over the years in mentoring many students from Asia. In addition to his contributions at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Fred also served as a bridge between Chinese and American scholars. From 1990 to 2013, he taught as visiting professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Central University for Nationalities. Fred also was active in Chinese anthropology, lecturing and publishing articles, as well as leading a project to translate classical American ethnographies into Chinese including The Forest People by Colin Turnbull and The Crow Indians by Robert Lowie (2008, 2009).

Fred always felt that a life combining reflection, teaching, research and writing, was a blessing. His unassuming passion can still be seen in the epitaph he composed for himself in his final days:

I was always driven by the question of what is the meaning of a being that is human? What is the meaning of human being? I looked for answers in the social relationship of production and exchange. I approached death as I approached life, with a sense of comedy and irony.

Fred will continue to be lovingly appreciated by those who studied with him, worked with him, and shared life with him.

(Written and submitted by Li W. Blake and Margaret B. Bodemer)

We welcome submissions for the AAS Member News & Notes 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) and Facebook page (@AASAsianStudies).