Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies

Dr. David Chu Distinguished Visitor Series

The Program will invite one or at most two Distinguished Visitors per year. These distinguished visitors are speakers of rare stature in Asia-Pacific Studies, whose work transgresses the boundaries of conventional area studies and disciplinary formations, and who have had an international impact far beyond their area specializations.


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Benedict R. O'G. Anderson

Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor of International Studies (Emeritus), Cornell University

Cutting Off History at the Pass: The Rise of Homogenous Empty Time in Asia and its Consequences

Monday, October 21, 2013

This talk concerned the fascinating nexus between Time and Nationalism in the late 19th century and especially in the colonized world. This was the time when suboceanic telegraph cables, owned by huge private corporations, spread fast across the globe, thereby creating a new consciousness of global simultaneity outside the control of colonial governments. Nationalist movements, sometimes influenced by Social Darwinism, began to compare themselves with each other, in the framework of an accelerating world-time staring at the Future and the Past. The futurism was what gave nationalism a new utopian side, and separated itself from ethnicism. But it also created a mythologized ancient history, turning once geographically peripheral communities into “backward” proto-citizens, who were to be pushed into a time-machine that would quickly make them modern like the ‘rest of us.’ One significant contribution to the pervasive desire to “catch-up” on the autobahn of the Future was the appearance of a new form of fiction, which juggled with Time. One could write futurist novels, relocating current developments in Europe into the colony, and written in the past tense. Or one could imagine, from the colony, a dark vision of a violent colonial present transposed into a yet-to-come Europe.

Benedict R.O’G Anderson is the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor of International Studies (Emeritus) at Cornell University. Professor Anderson is renowned for his highly influential study of the origins and spread of nationalism, Imagined Communities (1983), which has been translated into more than 20 languages. His work on nationalism is widely read across the social sciences and humanities and has been particularly influential in the fields of political science, history, anthropology, geography and comparative literature. In addition to his work on nationalism, Professor Anderson has also published extensively on the culture and politics of Southeast Asia, and their place in the broader world. His books on these topics include: Java in a Time of Revolution (1972), In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era (1985), Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia (1990), The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, SE Asia, and the World (1998), Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-colonial Imagination (2005), Why Counting Counts: A Study of Forms of Consciousness and Problems of Language in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo (2008), and The Fate of Rural Hell: Asceticism and Desire in Buddhist Thailand (2012). Professor Anderson is the recipient of numerous honours for his work, including the Association of Asian Studies Award for Distinguished Scholarship, the Fukuoka Prize for Studies on Asia, the Albert Hirschman Prize in the Social Sciences, a doctorate honoris causa from the Pontifical University of Peru in Lima, and the Asian Cosmopolitan Prize (Nara, Japan).

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Naoki Sakai

Goldwin Smith Professor of Asian Studies, Cornell University

The West and the Rest in Knowledge Production

Monday, February 25, 2013

Is it possible to talk of theory that is particularly Asian? Then, what is Asian theory like? Is the question a blatant oxymoron, or an intellectual anomaly? What is at stake in this inquiry is not the character of Asia at all. Rather, what makes the pairing of Asia and theory somewhat strange or unexpected is our presumption that theory is something we normally expect out of Europe or the West.

Just like any civilization, Europe produces knowledge, but it was distinguished from other civilizations by its unique mode of operation in knowledge production. Until recently, particularly in the fields of human sciences or the Humanities, Europe was proud of itself for its commitment to theory – or philosophy at large: it constantly reflected upon, and criticized and transformed its own manner of knowledge production. The Europeans regarded themselves as an exceptional kind of humanity capable of theory, and they called themselves humanitas in contrast to other types of humanity, anthropos, who were incapable of reflecting upon and criticizing their modus operandi in knowledge production. However, it is increasingly difficult to sustain this exceptionalist notion of the West or European humanity. Through an examination of the crisis in European humanity, I will discuss what the status of theory can potentially mean for us in relation to Asian humanity today.

Naoki Sakai is Goldwin Smith Professor of Asian Studies at Cornell University. He teaches in the departments of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies and is a member of the graduate field of History. He has published in a number of languages in the fields of comparative literature, intellectual history, translation studies, the studies of racism and nationalism, and the histories of semiotic and literary multitude – speech, writing, corporeal expressions, calligraphic regimes, and phonographic traditions. His publications include Translation and Subjectivity (in English, Japanese, Korean, German forthcoming); Voices of the Past (in English, Japanese & Korean); Japan/Image/the United States: The Community of Sympathy and Imperial Nationalisms (in Japanese and Korean); The Stillbirth of the Japanese as a Language and as an Ethnos (Japanese and Korean); Hope and the Constitution ( in Japanese; Korean forthcoming). Naoki Sakai serves as an associate editor for the project of TRACES, a multilingual series in four languages – Korean, Chinese, English, Spanish and Japanese (German will be added in 2013) – whose editorial office is located at Cornell, and served as its founding senior editor (1996 – 2004). In addition to TRACES, Naoki Sakai serves as a member of the following editorial boards including positions east asia cultural critique (in the United States), Post-colonial Studies (in Britain), Tamkang Review (in Taiwan), International Dictionary of Intellectual History (Britain and Germany), Modern Japanese Cultural History (Japan), ASPECTS (South Korea) and Transeuropéennes and Multitudes (in France).

Wang Hui

Professor of Literature and History, Tsinghua University and Director, Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences

The Beginning of China’s Twentieth Century: Revolution and Negotiation in the Era of “Awakening of Asia”

Monday, March 18, 2013

As the twentieth century came to an end, Eric Hobsbawm defines the “short twentieth century” as a period from 1914 to 1992, beginning with the eruption of the First World War and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hobsbawm terms this period as “the age of extremes”. In his earlier work, Depoliticized Politics, Wang Hui defines the twentieth century of China as from 1911 to 1976, as part of the “long revolution”. Piecing together these two overlapping versions of “short twentieth century” that were made from different angles, Wang Hui raises two questions for his inquiry on China’s short twentieth century: How should the “continuity” between the empire compound and the sovereign state in the age of revolution at the beginning of this short century be explained? How should the “continuity” of revolution and post-revolution in the great transformation at the end of this short century be interpreted? The Chinese revolution of 1911, as the beginning of this “long revolution”, is not only the beginning of China’s “short twentieth century”, but also the most significant among the chain of events that marked the “awakening of Asia.” This lecture was a revisit to this beginning.

Wang Hui is Professor of Literature and History at Tsinghua University, and Director of Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. His research focuses on Chinese intellectual history and literature. He is the author of a large number of books and articles. Among his books in English are China’s New Order: Society, Politics and Economy in Transition (Harvard University Press, 2003), The End of the Revolution: China and the limits of Modernity (Verso Books, 2009 and 2011) and The Politics of Imagining Asia (Harvard University Press, 2011). His four-volume work, The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought, is widely regarded as one of the most significant achievements across a number of fields within the last few decades.

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