Fall 2019 Speakers

We will be welcoming Amy Olberding, Maria Heim, and Daniel Asen — please check back for titles, times, and places. Updated information will be on the Lectures page.

Robyn Magalit Rodriguez to speak on February 20

Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (Dept. of of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis)
“Service Workers or Servile Workers? Migrant Labor and Contemporary Global Racial Capitalism”
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 5-6:30pm, Wilson 142
Dinner will be served
rodriguezposterFINALThere is a racialized dynamic to global forms of labor demand that require critical examination. That many migrants around the world today work in service jobs, as racialized others in the contexts where they are employed, and perform labor that reproduce relations of servility is noteworthy. Indeed, it is important to note how frequently activist epistemologies use the terms “bondage” or “servitude” to characterize migrant work.  The frequent use of terms such as bondage and indentured servitude in descriptions of migrant workplaces indicates both the nature of workplace conditions and the power dynamics that exist in these relationships. In her talk, Dr. Rodriguez examines these dynamics through a case-study of the experiences of migrants from the Philippines.

Ken Liu Speaks on November 8, 5 pm (Nau 101)

liu posterOn Thursday, November 8, at 5 pm, we are very pleased to welcome award-winning author and translator Ken Liu, who will speak on the challenges of translating science fiction, both into Chinese and from Chinese, in the context of contemporary translation theory.

Liu is the translator of the Hugo-winning novel, The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, and the author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie.


Heekyoung Cho lecture on November 1

Heekyoung Cho (University of Washington)

“Rethinking World Literature through the Relations between Russian and East Asian Literaures”

November 1, 2018, 4 pm, Wilson 142

Based on the historical and cultural connections between Russia and East Asia, this talk discusses how the literary relations between these regions complicate current discussions concerning “world literature.” The case of Russia and East Asia and their leftist literary relations refute the diffusionist model of world literature and the perspective that sees literary works as embedded in the competitive relations of national literatures. Through a discussion of recent world lite
rary theories,  Cho argues that we would be better served by thinking of world literature less as an entity made up of certain literary works which must, by its nature, operate by inclusion and exclusion or a single diffusionist network defined by hierarchical and competitive relations than as a totality of entangled literary and cultural relations and processes through which new meanings and implications are generated. Rethinking world literature as a
methodology, not merely as an object to know, also provides new perspectives that allows us to understand the world better through literatures and their connections.

Heekyoung Cho is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Washington. She is the author of Translation’s Forgotten History: Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature (Harvard University Asia Center, 2016). Her articles discuss topics on translation and the creation of modern fiction, translation and censorship, serial publication, and webcomics. She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. Her current research focuses on seriality in cultural production both in old and new media including digital serialization and transmedial production

Supriya Gandhi to speak September 20, 4 pm in Wilson 142

gandhi poster

A Tale of Two Translations: The Sirr-i akbar and its afterlives in South Asia

In 1867, the Hindu reformist, Kanhaiya Lal Alakhdhari, completed an Urdu translation of fifty Upanishads. Alakhdhari, who later played a key role in establishing the Arya Samaj in the Punjab, expressed a concern that Hindus, unlike Muslims and Ch

ristians, were unfamiliar with their sacred texts. His translation was based on the Sirr-i akbar, an earlier Persian translation produced by the Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh, in 1657. Dara Shikoh argued that the Upanishads constituted a divinely revealed scripture, which held the key to the Quran’s mysteries. How did a seventeenth-century gesture of cross-cultural translation within an Islamic interpretive frame come to inform a sectarian Hindu project in the nineteenth-century? This talk examines these two moments of translation as a lens for exploring issues of scripture and language during the emergence of modern Hinduism. 

Supriya Gandhi works on the interface of Islam and Indic traditions in South Asia. She completed her doctorate at Harvard University, and has also studied in Delhi, Tehran, London and Damascus. She teaches in the department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

Welcome to Asian Cosmopolitanisms!

We are starting a lab on Asian Cosmopolitanisms in order to reconceptualize the study of Asia across the disciplines of the humanities and interpretive social sciences. A focus on Asia is particularly timely given the changing geopolitical landscape and rise of economic powerhouses in the region, the worldwide influence of multiple different Asian cultures, and Asia’s complex role within the Global South. The central work of the Asian Cosmopolitanisms Lab will be to redefine Asia from its Cold War understanding as particular nation-states within a geographical region, to a new conception as multiple networks and flows that touch upon all parts of the world. We speak here of cosmopolitanisms in the plural to insist upon a non-monolithic understanding of Asia, one that has been invented within Orientalist discourses from the early modern period and reinscribed in modern Asian self-identities. Furthermore, drawing upon Kuan-Hsing Chen’s “Asia as method,” we argue for the recognition of conceptual frameworks that emerge out of Asian systems of thought and social practice, and how these frameworks complicate and enrich the hegemonic theoretical discourses in the work of contemporary humanities.

Cosmopolitanism names the belief that all human beings belong to a world community and maintains that there are deep interrelationships, shared rights, and mutual obligations that exist at multiple and shifting registers, from the profoundly local to the intensely distributed global, and in the many spaces in between. While the concept of cosmopolitanism in the West emerges from ancient Stoicism and was elaborated by Enlightenment thinkers, there is also a long history of cosmopolitan thought within Asia that has largely gone unrecognized; this history includes early Chinese philosophy , what Sheldon Pollock has termed “the Sanskrit cosmopolis,” and also Buddhist traditions. W e argue that cosmopolitanism is not synonymous with globalization, or universalism, or transnationalism, or multiculturalism, though it engages with each of these discourses. Rather, we understand cosmopolitanism as a relationship of the many local and regional identities and communities to differing visions of the global, rejecting the notion of a monolithic global by insisting that one location or perspective does not preclude another but exists in mutual, dialectical relationships of understanding.

Our insistence on cosmopolitanism also functions as a “corrective virtue” (citing Victoria Costa), a counterpoint to identities focused on nation, religion, or local community . As such, cosmopolitanism troubles both area studies and the traditional configuration of the modern academy . Area studies in the United States emerged out Cold War concerns with national security , and has focused on languages and political units. To this end, literature and culture were often positioned in service of security interests. Further, the modern academy is divided into disciplines that emerged out of Anglo-American and European epistêmes, and these do not accurately represent cultures of knowledge at the global peripheries and counterspaces (such as the Global South). This lab will provide a space for Asian studies within the academy that argues against imperial, colonial, or nationalist commitments and legacies, aiming to address the ways in which the post-Cold War university’s institutional and disciplinary silos separate the study of Asia proper (creating isolated entities such as Asian languages, literatures, religions, and histories) from other work associated with American Studies or African American Studies (often focusing on contemporary questions of race and ethnic studies, diaspora, and identity), while simultaneously reifying universalizing disciplinary regimes (English literature as the site of literary studies).

The core work of the lab will take place through three closely interlocking research clusters that will interrogate how Asia is imagined in traditional academic disciplines:

  1. Asia Translating (led by Charles Laughlin, East Asian Languages and Cultures) — focuses on translation as a key mechanism through which ideas, texts, and practices are circulated and reimagined.
  2. Asia Diasporas (led by Sylvia Chong, English and American Studies) — focuses on Asian diasporas and migrant networks, and how these human flows figure in terms of identity and cultural formation
  3. Politics of Knowledge (led by Natasha Heller, Religious Studies) — examines the politics of knowledge, from the disciplinary construction of “philosophy” itself to the broader diffusion of Asian concepts as they travel across multiple contexts

To join our endeavors, please send an email to XXX to be added to our mailing list.