Faculty, Student, and Alumni News

Thomas G. Rawski and James Cook recognized for outstanding contributions to China studies

Professor Thomas G. Rawski (Economics) and James Cook, Associate Director for the Asian Studies Center, have been recognized for their contributions in the field of China studies. Professor Rawski has been named by the China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) as one of America’s “Top 20” China Experts.  CFAU is the leading diplomatic school in China, and it ranks American China experts based upon a complex metric that assesses knowledge and their “ability to present a reasonable and accurate picture” of China and Chinese-American relations.  The report naming Professor Rawski stressed the deep understanding of the People’s Republic that all finalists displayed through their own first-hand research in China.

Professor Cook was named by the China’s Ministry of Education as a “Distinguished Overseas Educator”.  Nominated by Shaanxi Normal University, Dr. Cook has completed several grants sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the China Medical Board in cooperation with the Center for Historical Environment and Socioeconomics Development of Northwest China and the Center for Experimental Economics in Education at Shaanxi Normal.  His work brings Chinese and American researchers together to solve critical environmental and public health issues in northwestern China.

In Memoriam: Dr. Albert Van Dusen

Dr. Van Dusen was an extraordinary leader at the University of Pittsburgh for nearly three decades. He traveled the globe establishing international partnerships in program development and exchange opportunities. Around 1970, Dr. Van Dusen, then Secretary of the Board of Trustees, ventured to Japan along with the Director of Asian Studies to appeal for the program. Through his remarkable advocacy, he was able to secure program development funds from C. Itoh and then $1 million each from the Japan Iron and Steel Federation and the Mitsubishi group, thereby creating the enduring Japanese studies endowment funds at the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he embarked on a grand sweep of Asia fostering relationships with universities in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea.  The Asian Studies Center continues to thrive and grow due to the seeds of support he generously cultivated in many parts of Asia. He will fondly be remembered as a gentleman of exceptional kindness, wisdom, a role model for hard work, and a great sense of humor.

Pitt hosts the Pittsburgh Asian Consortium's third annual Undergraduate Asian Studies Research Conference, Saturday, February 21, 2015

On February 21, 2015, the University of Pittsburgh will host the Pittsburgh Asia Consortium's (PAC) third annual Undergraduate Asian Studies Research Conference. The conference, located in the Cathedral of Learning, will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Asia Consortium (PAC) Undergraduate Research Conference is a one-day, interdisciplinary event for students from PA, WV, OH, MD, NY, NJ, and DE with an interest in any geographical region of Asia, including the Middle East. Students will give a 15-minute presentation on Asia-related research topics from any discipline, with faculty from PAC overseeing each student panel. First time presenters are welcome!

Students will meet other undergraduates and faculty with an academic interest in Asian Studies from throughout the region, and enjoy a keynote presentation by Michael Meyer, author of Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed and In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China and assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. A banquet lunch will be provided. Registration is free, but required at http://tinyurl.com/PAC-UGRC-2015. The deadline is February 13.



Pitt's Asian Studies Center receives Title VI funding for Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships from the US Department of Education

Pitt’s Asian Studies Center has received funding from the US Department of Education for six graduate and four undergraduate academic-year Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships, as well as seven Summer FLAS awards to be used for intensive language study equivalent to a full academic year.  The academic year Fellowships cover full tuition and provide stipends of $18,000 (for graduate students) and $5,000 (for undergraduate students).  The Summer FLAS language awards cover $5000 of the awardee’s tuition at an approved program overseas or in the US, and also offer a stipend of $2500.

The aim of the FLAS Fellowship program is to develop a pool of international experts to meet the national needs of the United States, and as such, these fellowships may only be awarded to US citizens or US permanent residents.  To be eligible for these awards, academic year Fellows must be enrolled in a language course as well as an area studies course related to their language of study, in each of the two semesters of the Fellowship.  Summer FLAS applicants need to have their chosen programs approved by the Asian Studies Center. 

ASC FLAS Fellowships will be awarded for the study of Chinese and Japanese at the third-year level or above, and for the study of Korean and Uzbek at the first-year level or above.  Information and application forms are posted on our Asian Studies Center website.

MJ Akbar visits Pitt

The Asian Studies Center was pleased to welcome leading Indian journalist, prolific author, and spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Mobashar Jawad "MJ" Akbar during the fall 2014. The former editor of The Telegraph, The Asian Age, and The Sunday Guardian, Mr. Akbar met with student and faculty groups and presented a lecture entitled "India After the 2014 Elections" to a large audience. His speech focused on the deep unhappiness fo India's youth (54% of the population), and how the BJP is working to reform the decades-old administrative system that has governed India since independence. He asserted that the development of a secular society focused on new opportunities developing in Asia is one key to India's future happiness.

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.