My affinity with IIAS began in 2018, when I first met Philippe in New York. I was then completing my doctoral dissertation (finally!) and seeking postdoctoral opportunities outside the United States. Having spent several years in North America, I craved new experiences on another continent.
Philippe’s pleasant disposition attracted me to IIAS – if the Director were already so personable and visionary, what about his comrades-in-arms and the like-minded fellows whom the institute has hosted over the years? I was curious to find out more about whom I could meet and what I could achieve at IIAS, so without a second thought, I applied to become a research fellow the following year. I had never even been to the Netherlands, even though I was remotely fascinated with the country’s history as the superpower of the seventeenth century (yes, I am the quintessential historian) and its economic achievements of recent times. Growing up in Singapore exposed to Dutch (or Dutch-related) brands such as Heineken, Shell, and Unilever, I wanted to know more about the Netherlands. Shortly after my arrival, I discovered another of the nation’s great innovations: IIAS. Friends and collegial peers often asked what my deliverables were at IIAS, and my answer perplexed most when I said “nothing!”
I appreciate the beauty of what I would call the “IIAS mode” – providing its fellows with not only facilities but also, more importantly, the latitude in conducting their own research. Not having to teach, help out with administrative work, or even deliver a lecture for IIAS, I was able to churn out many journal articles and book chapters during my stint there. With IIAS’s blessings, I was also able to complete visiting fellowships in Taiwan and Thailand. IIAS is truly “international” and “Asian.” Through its programs, I made my maiden trip to Africa, attending the “Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge” conference in Tanzania (I am so looking forward to participating in the next one in Senegal). I also expanded my professional network beyond North America to Africa, Europe, and Asia, which allowed me to reciprocate the institute’s support. I gathered a team of contributors for an edited volume in one of IIAS’s book series (Asian Cities), which examines the politics of space in Cold War Asia. I also convened a selection committee for the ICAS Book Prize 2023 (Chinese Language Edition) when I was appointed as the secretary of this edition. I am honored to contribute to the IIAS cause of connecting knowledge and people for a more integrated understanding of Asia, and I am forever grateful to Philippe, my friends at IIAS, and colleagues from all over the world for enriching my life with their expertise and kindness.
Ying-Kit Chan, National University of Singapore