“The Art of Convergent Comparison”: Prasenjit Duara’s AAS 2020 Presidential Address

Each spring, the AAS President concludes their term in office with the delivery of a Presidential Address at the Annual Conference. The cancellation of our Boston conference meant that 2019-20 President Prasenjit Duara (Duke University) was not able to give his address as originally planned. Instead, Duara’s talk, “The Art of Convergent Comparison: China and India in Modern Times,” is now available as a narrated slideshow, accessible through the AAS 2020 online program.

In “The Art of Convergent Comparison,” Duara introduces his work on “circulatory histories,” focusing on China and India to highlight global cultural circulations and how states respond to and manage those. Describing these circulatory processes as “like oceanic cross-currents,” Duara examines how ideas, practices, cultural expressions, and more flow from one point to the next, in each location mixing with other local and trans-local forces. The products of those convergences then move on to new sites while also traveling back to previous ones—sometimes recognized as iterations of what came before, but at other times viewed as entirely new cultural forces.

While Duara uses examples from China and India to illustrate his points, he also seeks to de-center narratives of history that focus on nation-states and national sovereignty. Instead, he argues, those national and institutional histories must also be discussed in relation to their interactions with global networks and cultural flows. Duara urges us to work toward an understanding of history as a “shared collective and planetary heritage.”

To watch Prasenjit Duara’s Presidential Address, please visit the online program and create or log in to your AAS 2020 account. Search for “Presidential Address,” click on the presentation, and then select “Slides and Audio.” If you encounter any technical issues, please contact AASConference@asianstudies.org.

References and Links

Duara, Prasenjit. The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Duara, Prasenjit. Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asia Modern. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

Scholarship of Jack Goody (1919-2015), social anthropologist.

Perry, Elizabeth J. “Reclaiming the Chinese Revolution.” Journal of Asian Studies 67, no. 4 (November 2008): 1147-1164.

Scaria, Gigi. Any Parallel?