Faculty, Student, and Alumni News

The University of Pittsburgh Marks Signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesian College of Performing Arts with a Free Public Concert

A memorandum of understanding will be signed Oct. 10 between the University of Pittsburgh and the Indonesian College of Performing Arts in Bandung, West Java, launching a partnership designed to further the two schools' common objectives of research and study in the field of Indonesian music and culture.
To mark the new relationship, Pitt's Department of Music is hosting for several days a delegation of 20 administrators, scholars, musicians, and dancers from West Java, many of whom will witness the document signing.
The private signing event will take place between 12:30 and 2 p.m. in the main dining room on the first floor of the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, 4215 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Guests include Budi Bowoleksono, the ambassador of Indonesia to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.; Hon. Ghafur Akbar Dharmaputra, consul general of the Republic of Indonesia in New York; Indonesian College of Performing Arts director Een Herdiani, as well as eight of the school's faculty members. A representative from Pittsburgh's Office of the Mayor also will attend.
The visiting performers will present a free public concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 11.
"Music and Dance of West Java: The Past, Present, and Future of Sundanese Performing Arts" will take place in Bellefield Hall’s auditorium, 315 S.
Bellefield Ave., Oakland.
The group also will conduct private workshops for Pitt students taking courses in world music and gamelan, a musical ensemble students may participate in for credit through the Department of Music. Gamelan is a large orchestra that includes tuned gongs, metal-keyed instruments, and drums.
Pitt's Department of Music owns two gamelan sets, and the University Gamelan Ensemble holds a major concert every year that includes guest performers from Indonesia.
Department of Music Chair Andrew Weintraub, who has collaborated on projects with the Indonesian College for 30 years, says the partnership will bring about an exchange of students and creative artists and will enhance the exploration and understanding of Sundanese culture and performing arts, a core strength of Pitt's ethnomusicology program.
"Stronger relationships lead to better understanding of cultural diversity, and vice versa," he said. "A formal agreement between Pitt and the Indonesian College will facilitate better communication between the two schools. Our goal is to generate collaborative research projects, a student exchange at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and, eventually, the development of a Pitt in Indonesia study abroad program."
Prior to their visit to the Pitt campus, the group of scholars and musicians will visit Washington, D.C., where some will perform and participate in a mini symposium at the Smithsonian Institution.
The celebration marking the signing of the memorandum is sponsored by the Department of Music, the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Pitt's Asian Studies Center, the Indonesian government, and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Washington, D.C.
(Text of press release by Sharon Blake)

Dr. June Hee Kwon (PhD in Cultural Anthropology, Duke University, 2013) joins Anthropology department as Postdoctoral Fellow

Please welcome Dr. June Hee Kwon, the new Korea-Japan Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asian Studies Center. She is currently teaching Global East Asia in the department of Anthropology.

Dr. Kwon’s research and teaching focus on transnational migration and development; anthropology of exchange; kinship, ethnicity and relatedness; affect and compassion; aid and humanitarianism. Her area expertise spans China, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan—post colonial and post Cold War East Asia inter-connections.

Currently Dr. Kwon is working on a book entitled, Rhythms of Circulations: Korean Chinese Living on Transnational Time and Money. She examines the remittance-driven-everyday life as Korean Chinese move back and forth between Yanbian (the Korean Chinese Ethnic Autonomous Prefecture), China and Seoul, Korea. Her project analyzes how remittances and visa regulations reshape life, transnational subjectivity, and the ethnic border zone of Yanbian. Korean Chinese migrant workers under the new spatiality and temporality have fashioned a mobile ethnicity as a way to deal with the contingencies of contemporary economic reform and their own neoliberal status as self-responsible subjects. This form of self-fashioning has sealed these workers into a circuit of migration, and has left them (as well as Yanbian’s economic development) vulnerable to the unstable flow of remittances.

Her next book project, Bargaining Food: Aid Economy and Humanitarianism in North Korea, examines the new economy and sociality that are emerging from the great famine and constant food insecurity in North Korea. The great famine of the late 1990s was caused by natural disaster (flood) but also by the government’s inability to handle food security. Despite the North Korean’s stubborn ideological foundation of self-reliance, the food crisis led to North Korea’s reliance on foreign aid and humanitarian support. The famine displaced North Korea’s population across the death line. Drawing from ethnographic research in China, Japan and South Korea, Dr. Kwon looks at the multi-layered aid economy -- from kinship aid to religious organizations’ support, to humanitarian intervention – to shed light on the implication of bargaining food in shaping a new connectivity between North Korea and the world, triggering the North Korean’s urgency for the transition to a market economy.

September 15-October 15, 2014: Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941): An Exhibit of Storyboards and Artifacts

The story of Jewish refugees in China during World War II is something that relatively few people understand or know about in the overall history of Jewish immigration and settlement. As many as 16,000 Jews fled Europe during WWII to live and work in Shanghai. This exhibit is in collaboration with the Jewish Refugees Museum of Shanghai and consists of 45 storyboards outlining the process of immigration from Europe to China, the various struggles and cultural adaptions, and the personal stories of survivors and their families. The exhibit offers a unique perspective on the lives and struggles of individuals who lived in China during the war and emphasizes the cross-cultural intersections of both Chinese and the Jewish settlers during a chaotic and significant historic period.
This exhibit is being generously underwritten by the University of Pittsburgh Confucius Institute and Hanban, the Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Jewish Studies Program, and the University of Pittsburgh Asian Studies Center.
The opening reception on September 17 will feature a keynote lecture by Dr. Steve Hochstadt, Professor of History at Illinois College and author of Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich. For more information on the opening reception, including how to register, please visit the Pitt Confucius Institute's website.

Certificate Student Zeba Ahmed Wins Fulbright Research Award

Zeba Ahmed flies into Pittsburgh from Japan just in time for graduation after studying abroad in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture during spring semester 2014. A short four months later, she will return to Japan to take up her recently awarded Fulbright Research Assistantship.

The Fulbright grant allows Zeba to conduct ethnographic research on the roles that Japanese community-based organizations and nonprofits play in fostering a sense of community. She will explore the ways that these organizations serve as third spaces—places that are not home or work—for social interaction.

“Residents often lack social bonds with their neighbors and withdraw into their personal lives,” says Zeba Ahmed, describing the need for third spaces. “It is most prevalent in communities where the majority of residents are newcomers rather than the traditional, stable intergenerational mix of people.”

Zeba Ahmed graduates from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Sociology and a Certificate in Asian Studies. Following her Fulbright research, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in East Asian Studies.

Robert Drennan concludes five-year field research project in northeastern China

Robert Drennan has concluded a five-year field research project in northeastern China, funded by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation, in collaboration with Lu Xueming (Renmin University), Christian Peterson (University of Hawai'i), and Zhu Da (Liaoning Province Archaeology Institute). The aim of regional survey, intensive surface collection, and excavation in the Upper Daling region has been to reconstruct the social and economic organization of Hongshan period (4500-3000 BC) communities at local and regional scales. Final results of regional-scale work have just been published, and analysis of local-scale results is underway. Work has begun on the next five-year stage of research with the same collaborators in the nearby Niuheliang region.

Provost Beeson and UCIS Director Feick break ground for joint engineering partnership between Pitt and China's Sichuan University

The joint engineering partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and China’s Sichuan University reached its groundbreaking milestone on July 2, 2014.  Provost Patricia Beeson was joined by Xie Heping, president of Sichuan University, and members of the leadership teams from both institutions, to announce the beginning of construction.  

The $40-million project will establish the Sichuan University Pittsburgh Institute, a 100,000-square-foot building on Sichuan’s campus, which will educate undergraduate engineering students and foster collaborative research.  The Institute will enroll its first class of students in fall 2014.

Joining Provost Beeson at the event are Pitt’s Larry Feick, senior director of international programs; Greg Marcus, section chief at the US Consulate in Chengdu; and Prof. Gerald Holder, dean of the Swanson School of Engineering (fourth through second from the right).

May 2014: Pitt hosts "Empire, Ethics, and Tradition: An International Conference on the Han Dynasty"

This conference brought together an international group of scholars from North America, Europe, Australia, and Mainland China to present their latest research on the Han dynasty in early China. The conference drew participants from universities such as the University of Sydney (Australia), Peking University (China), the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and the University of California at Berkeley. The eighteen presentations from the fields of history, art history, philosophy, and religions fostered an interdisciplinary discussion on the important, yet understudied, history of the Han. Co-organized by Vincent S. Leung (University of Pittsburgh) and Michael Ing (Indiana University Bloomington), this conference was largely made possible by the Yu Chi-Chung Lectureship in Early Chinese Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Asian Studies Center and the Center for International Law Education to host the Law and the Legal Profession in China Conference, February 27-28, 2015

The Asian Studies Center and the Center for International Law Education join together to sponsor a conference entitled "Law and the Legal Profession in China," February 27-28, 2015. Over the past two decades the profession of law within China has undergone tremendous change. China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization, massive foreign investment, and an increasingly cosmopolitan middle class have forced both the central government in Beijing and the country’s practicing attorneys to grapple with new clientele, new areas of practice, and an increasingly nuanced popular response to legal issues. This conference will bring together an international panel of multidisciplinary experts to examine the development and current practice of the legal profession in China, including a keynote by Donald C. Clarke, David Weaver Research Professor of Law, George Washington University, titled "Is Chinese Law Different? The Perils of Occidentalism." For more information, including a the program and a list of speakers, please see the conference website.