Past Lecture Series

Steve Hochstadt: "Jews and Chinese in Shanghai: The Bond of Oppression and its Limits", 04/18/13

Speaker: Hochstadt, Steve
About 16,000 Jews who managed to escape from the Third Reich just before the war landed in Shanghai, the only place in the world which did not require a visa for entry. Their survival there depended on the attitudes of the Japanese, who controlled the city after December 1941. But the quality of their daily lives depended on their relationships with their Chinese neighbors. Instead of seeing the refugees as a despised race, as did antisemitic Europeans, or as another group of white colonial oppressors, the Chinese population of Shanghai saw Jews as fellow victims of persecution. Jews and Chinese in Shanghai developed friendly if somewhat distant relations. But after the war's end, many Chinese wished all whites to leave, and relations became tense. This lecture traces the shifting relationships between Jews and Chinese, as described by former refugees.

Deborah Davis: "Post-Socialist Marriages in China" 04/11/13

Speaker: Davis, Deborah
In the past thirty years economic reforms have changed almost every facet of Chinese society. Marriage is no exception. Today the divorce rate in the largest Chinese cities is comparable to that of the US and prenuptial agreements are increasingly popular. Dating often entails sexual intimacy and cohabitation is common. Since 2003 a scholar form the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has petitioned the National People's Congress to legalize same sex marriage. Yet there is almost no child bearing outside marriage, parents remain deeply invested in their children's choice of spouse, and intergenerational reciprocity remains strong. Thus post-socialist marriages are pulled in multiple directions. More fragile than in the Mao years, yet still highly valued and nearly universal

Richard Kagen: "Taiwan's Identity and Sovereignty" 02/21/13

Speaker: Kagen, Richard
Taiwan's Identity and Sovereignty Richard Kagan, Visiting Professor, History Department, Wesleyan University. A Question of Identity and Sovereignty. In 1987, the government of the Republic of China abrogated nearly forty years of martial law.

Jian Guo: "Writing Against Amnesia: A Legacy of Chinese Intellectuals", 03/07/13

Speaker: Guo, Jian
Writing against Amnesia: A Legacy of Chinese Intellectuals. Jian Guo, Professor of English University of Wisconsin-Whitewater History, paradoxically, is always current in China. It is a mirror against which the present is viewed. It is light that illuminates.

Nathaniel Isaacson, "Media and Messages: Blurred Visions of Nation and Science in Enzheng Tong's "Death Ray On a Coral Island", 02/07/13

Speaker: Isaacson, Nathaniel
Media and Messages: Blurred Visions of Nation and Science in Enzheng Tong's "Death Ray On a Coral Island." China's post-Mao era heralded a decade of renewed vigor in the popular media, through which the nation underwent a collective reassessment of China's relationship to the modern world and its own past. In this context, archaeologist, historian and sf writer Tong Enzheng's (1935-1997) "Death Ray on a Coral Island" (Shanhudao shang de siguang, 1978), was a sensation. The short story was adopted into a film (dir. Zhang Hongmei, 1980) and then into a radio drama, saw numerous incarnations as a pocket-comic, and was most recently reincarnated as a cell-phone video game. I critique this narrative and its multitude of media representations as an expression of China's unsteady relationship with the world at large and its own past through its pondering of the possibility of 'pure science' in the shadow of the atomic bomb. At the same time, the story enacts a critique of the relationship between global capital and scientific inquiry. Materially, I argue that the story's mass-media appeal is symptomatic of the cultural ferment of the 1980s.

Chris James, "China's Plans to Improve Air Quality", 10/25/2012

Speaker: James, Chris
Chris James, Senior Associate, Regulatory Assistance Project talks about China's plan to improve air quality. Sustained economic growth and the most significant rate of urbanization ever have transformed China in just a few decades. China's economic growth differs from that of the USA or Europe, as China has grown during a period when the science and public health data about air pollutants and their affects are robust. China. And with nearly every city in China exceeding public health standards for many air pollutants, aggressive actions are needed to reduce pollution. While the Beijing citizen's use of US Embassy air quality data was a cause celebre during the fall of 2011, China has announced plans to require major cities to substantially improve air quality by 2015. These plans now apply to areas covering over half of China's population and more than half of the GDP. require reductions of multiple pollutants at the same time, and a restructuring of the energy sector. What does China's attention to air pollution mean for its economic development? What can the USA or Europe learn from China's focus on environmental problems?

Amanda Seaman,"Sweet Mystery of Life: Pregnancy, Childbirth and Detective Fiction", 11/08/2012

Speaker: Seaman, Amanda
In 1994 Matsuo Yumi created a minor sensation with her series, Murder in Balloontown, which parodied the childbirth culture in Japan. Several years later, Aoi Natsumi created a detective series with a midwife detective. Through the exploration of these two series, I will explore changes in attitudes toward childbirth in low fertility Japan and offer some thoughts on why detective fiction is a genre which allows this kind of analysis.

Kyoko Omori,"Usher Unsilenced: Edgar Allan Poe, Benshi, and Modernist Narrative Art in Japan", 10/18/2012

Speaker: Omori, Kyoko
In this talk, I will focus on the emergence and development of tantei shosetsu (lit. sleuthing fiction), or horror/mystery fiction more broadly, as a case study in the development of modernism in early twentieth-century Japan. First, I will show how the genre served as a medium through which writers sought to explore and cultivate concerns and techniques historically identified with modernism as a global artistic phenomenon, including the complexities of personal psychology, challenging the epistemological assumption of realism, formal experimentation, and foregrounding the multiplicity of perspectives. Second, I will examine in particular the efforts of the leading benshi and writer, Tokugawa Musei and his benshi performance for French director Jean Epstein's silent film, The Fall of the House of Usher. In doing so, I will discuss some of the facets of Poe's complex reputation within modern Japanese culture, especially his role in the development of Japanese modernism as a multimedia phenomenon.

Danny Unger,"Tackling Tough Decisions in a Democracy: Natural Resource Policy Making in Thailand', 09/20/2012

Speaker: Unger, Danny
Democracy can be but is not always associated with stronger protections against environmental degradation. Thailand's environmental regime has become stronger over the past two decades and its policy processes more participatory over the last decade. The accompanying environmental gains, however, have been uneven and in some cases have been associated with authoritarian interludes rather than democratic politics

Vera Schwarcz: Chen Yinke (1890-1969) The Quiet Giant of China's Culture Wars 04/26/2012

Speaker: Schwartz, Vera
Vera Schwarcz, Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies & History: Historian and poet, Chen Yinke has been riveting the attention of Chinese intellectuals for the past two decades. In fact, his life and vast corpus of scholarly and literary output have become part of the heated debates centering upon the role of culture in Chinese history as well as the role of Western ideas, ideals and methodologies for the study of East Asian civilization. Fiercely non-political, Chen has become a politically contested cultural icon in the Chinese-speaking world. He remains relatively unknown in the West. This lecture explores the process through which a diminutive and blind man emerged as a visionary after his tragic death during the Cultural Revolution. After four decades of writing about modern intellectuals, Schwarcz is now exploring the poetry of Chen Yinke as a paradigm for the historian's conscience in China, and beyond.

Post 3/11 Japanese Economy

Speaker: Hoshi, Takeo
Takeo Hoshi, Professor/Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economics, University of California, San Diego

China's Frustrated Quest for Global Influence

Speaker: Krauss, Richard
Richard Krauss, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Oregon Amidst China's economic growth and new military might, Beijing also believes that Chinese arts should enjoy respect and influence abroad. But this goal has been elusive. This frustration is explained by several factors, including China's aesthetic distance from the West, ham-fisted initiatives from China's leaders, and the international system's begrudging recognition of cultural influence by any rising power.

Murakami Ryz and the Madonna Horror Complex

Speaker: Takahashi Harb, Sayumi
Murakami Ryu (b. 1952) is a prolific writer who has produced writings in a diverse array of genres, including his award-winning debut novel "Almost Transparent Blue" and his critically-acclaimed work "Coin Locker Babies". Takahashi Harb examines from a feminist perspective two seemingly disparate novels, "Kyoko" (1995) and "Audition"(1997), alongside their film adaptations directed by Murakami himself in 2000 and Takashi Miike in 1999 respectively. While the titular character of "Kyoko" is an innocent ingenue, the character of Asami in the horror-thriller "Audition" is anything but. However, they are ultimately manifestations of a certain shared concern and a recurrent motif within Murakami's work.

Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami & Disaster, Food, and Fishing: The Aftermath of March 11

Speaker: Yamashita, Mike
Mike Yamashita(Class of '71) Photographer, National Geographic Magazine Ted Bestor, Reischauer Institute Professor of Social Anthropology and Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Reshaping Collective Consciousness: Hebrew and Chinese Narrative on the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre (1960-1980) Feb 28, 2012

Speaker: Zhong, Zhiqing;
This presentation will survey how memories of historical trauma such as the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre were transferred into Hebrew and Chinese national literatures during the post-Holocaust and post-Nanking Massacre period. The focus will be upon how literature functions in reconstructing the national past and in the reshaping of collective consciousness. In both the Hebrew and Chinese contexts, the heroic myths created during the formative years of the statehood were eventually broken; in the 1960s in Israel and in the 1970s in China respectively. Historical landmarks during this period such as the Eichmann Trial, the Six Days War, the Yom Kippur War and Lebanon War in Israel and the Cultural Revolution in China will be shown to have brought about a dramatic change in narratives of collective memory of historical trauma.

Strange Times: Cannibalism and Capitalist Kitsch - Feb 16, 2012

Speaker: O'Neil, Dan;
Dan O'Neil, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley One of the major new voices in contemporary Chinese cinema, the director Fruit Chan first gained international notoriety with his film Dumplings (200). Set in the aftermath of Hong Kong's "Handover" (the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China), the film's self-reflective blend of the grotesque and kitsch not only marked an aesthetic turnabout in Chan's oeuvre, but also arguably expanded the critical potential of contemporary horror cinema. While exploiting some of the tensions linked to the perceived erosion of cultural identity precipitated by the "Handover", the film also forges something strikingly original, inspired as much by the jarring iconography of the grotesque as it is by the theatrical affectations of kitsch. By focusing on the desperate circumstances and perverse desires that unite Auntie Mei (a former doctor from PRC) and Mrs. Li (a Hong Kong bourgeois), I hope to explore the various ways in which the film engages with the problem of temporality, as it beckons back to a long sweeping mystical history of cannibalism in China, then charges forward to a contemporary Hong Kong rendered as a space of freewheeling capital, gradually building up to a bewildering finale that leaves us with a strange aftertaste of disgust, parody and social critique.

A Corpse Standing Straight Up in a Desperate Bid for Life: Exploring the Uncanny Body in Butoh - Feb 2, 2012

Speaker: Baird, Bruce;
Bruce Baird, Assistant Professor of Languages and Literature, University of Massachusetts Amherst Butoh defies description. Observers resort to verbal contortions to articulate what they see: "the grotesque and the beautiful, the nightmarish and the poetic, the erotic and the austere, the streetwise and the spiritual." One might also say that the body in butoh is simultaneously more present and pure and more estranged than in any other manifestation. In this presentation, I seek to understand the place of the body in butoh, using the idea of the cyborg and the monster as foils for understanding this performance art.

Keith Vincent - Whose Desire is Speaking: Cognitive Narratology and Homosociality in the Modern Japanese Novel - Dec 8, 2011

Speaker: Vincent, Keith;
Assistant professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature, Boston University Recent work in cognitive narratology has given us a new language with which to talk about the representation of consciousness in narrative. Rather than being localizable in a Cartesian interiority cut off from the world and from others-- what Virginia Woolf called "the dark places of psychology"--consciousness may in fact be "out there" in the web of intersubjective relations and "action-loops" criss-crossing multiple subjects and their environments. In this talk, I apply these insights about consciousness to the field of queer literary studies as a way of understanding of how sexual desire gets attributed to literary narrators and characters. Through close readings of 'homosocial narratives" by Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) and Mori Ogai (1862-1922), I show how desire circulates among multiple agents without ever being "owned" by any of them. This is surprisingly easily mapped in--and perhaps enabled by--literary texts, but may be true of "real life" as well.

On Naked, Eiko Otake - Nov 17th, 2011

Speaker: Otake, Eiko;
On Naked, Eiko Otake ,Artist-in-Residence Eiko will share videos from Naked and discuss the process of creating a durational performance and notions of intimacy between audience and performer. She will also reflect on the cultural perceptions of nakedness and nudity, referencing her upbringing in post-war Japan and current world affairs.

From Writer to Painter Zhang Jie - Nov 15th, 2011

Speaker: Jie, Zhang;
From Writer to Painter Zhang Jie: Nov 15th, 2011

Travels of Girls' Fiction Writer Yoshiya Nobuko: The Cosmopolitan Shtjt in Wartime Japan - Nov 10th, 2011

Speaker: Sarah Frederick, East Asian Studies, Wesleyan, Japan, Wartime
Travels of Girls' Fiction Writer Yoshiya Nobuko: The Cosmopolitan Shtjt in Wartime Japan Sarah Frederick, Assistant Professor of Japanese Boston University Yoshiya Nobuko (1896-1973) was one of 20th-Century Japan's most popular writers, with her girls' fiction, romance fiction, historical novels, and haiku read avidly. Her public persona included her success as a reader contributor to girls' magazine writing contests who then made it big as a professional writer. Also well-known was her relationship with her woman partner Monma Chiyo, who she later adopted in order to form a legal family unit. In the 1920s she wrote of her travels to France and America, while moving into the 1930s and early 40s she traveled to Asia as a reporter for the magazine Housewife's Friend. I will talk about her writings during that time which help us think about the culture of women and issues of sexuality during Japan's imperialist expansion in Asia.

Environmental Activism in China Today - Sept 27th, 2011

Speaker: Jun, Ma;
Ma Jun, Director, Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, Beijing. The IPE developed the China Water Pollution Map. This is the first public database of water pollution information in China. He also serves as environmental consultant for the Sinosphere Corporation.

Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition - Oct 6th, 2011

Speaker: Sheng, Hao;
Hao Sheng, Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art, Museum of fine Arts, Boston. Fresh Ink presents ten of China's leading artists who have created new works in direct response to the collections of the MFA Boston. The artists' selections from the Museum collection range from an ancient Chinese bronze to a drip painting by Jackson Pollock, in addition to masterpieces of ink painting. Their new responses are as diverse, revealing timely relevance and generating fresh insights in familiar works.