Oct 01 2013

Reframing Asian studies

Philippe Peycam

The dust of ICAS 8 Macau has now settled, but it was a great success on all accounts! It was not just the number of participants and meetings, but also the quality of the roundtables and panel discussions, the numerous activities developed in association with the convention, and the new connections made thanks to a record number of Asian contributors (70%).

The Macau edition of ICAS also helped the convention to evolve into a truly transnational and indeed global platform on Asian studies; this was made possible thanks to, among others, the newly created ICAS International Council. Representatives from different parts of Asia and from world regions where Asia is being studied – Northern and Latin America, Africa, Australia and e urope – discussed ways for ICAS to help further ‘decentralise’ Asian studies, beyond the framing of the field in e uropean and Northern American institutions, beyond Western-originated intellectual trends and concerns. At the IC meeting, Asian studies were discussed as both an issue among scholars from the different countries and regions of Asia, and as a concern within specific world-regional contexts.

ICAS 8 also saw IIAS celebrate its twentieth anniversary. For the occasion, the institute organised or co-ran 16 round- tables. Their diversity reflected the multiplicity of projects and subjects covered by the institute. These events, which were all public, were designed to help the institute advance future research and cooperative agendas around its three research themes: Heritage, urban and Global studies in Asia. In all of the roundtables, efforts were spent to encourage a wide diversity of views, beyond geographic borders, but also outside the traditional boundaries marking the academic world. Think for instance of the roundtable on the Politics of Textile convened by Dr. Aarti Kawlra (see page 45), which brought craftsmen from Indonesia, Laos and India together with historians of material culture on Africa and Asia. Think also of Dr. Mehdi Amineh’s meeting addressing the trans-regional question of energy security and the impact of the rise of China.

The remaining months of this year will see more events marking IIAS’s twentieth anniversary. On 19 September, Prof. Carol Gluck from Columbia u niversity will give the institute’s Annual Lecture. In November, two other important events will take place in Leiden: on 11-13 November, an IIAS- Leiden u niversity conference will explore forms of pre-modern urbanism across places and times within Asia. Linked to the Urban Knowledge Network Asia (UKNA), the conference will benefit from the additional collaboration of the Netherlands’ Museum of Antiquities and the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies’ Archaeology u nit. A week later, 18-20 November, IIAS and ISEAS will again join forces for another event entitled ‘Framing Asian Studies’. Convened by Dr Albert Tzeng from Taiwan, it will echo some of the concerns discussed in Macau and address issues surrounding the economics of institutional knowledge production of Asian studies.

Meanwhile, IIAS and Leiden u niversity’s School of Area Studies have kept busy with the launch of an original trans-regional graduate programme on Critical Heritage Studies, comparing Asia and e urope, involving the collaboration of National Taiwan u niversity, u niversity of Gajah Madha and Yonsei u niversity. This fall will also see the three IIAS-LU Asian studies Chairs in Indian, Korean and Taiwanese studies being filled. The ‘season’ will end for IIAS by returning to Macau for an exceptional ‘Winter School’ organised in collaboration with Macau u niversity, on the subject of ‘Postcolonial urban hybridity’. And finally, the next issue of The Newsletter, appearing in December, will be a special anniversary issue to celebrate 20 years of IIAS.