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Asian Studies Department News

Pengfei Li receives Course Improvement Grant from the Office of the Provost for “Empowering students through digital games”

Read more here!

Asami Nakano Receives CFT Course Improvement Grant

Asami NakanoTeam Japan is on a roll! Asami Nakano joins Nozomi Imai in being spotlighted for teaching innovations she has worked on with the support of a Course Improvement Grant from the Center for Teaching. She is featured on the CTF blog post for November 4, which includes an interview of her describing the ways she has incorporated Japanese cultural experiences within language teaching. You can check out it here

Congratulations, Asami!




Nozomi Imai Receives CFT Course Improvement Grant

Nozomi ImaiTo support further innovations in Japanese language teaching that she devised during the 2020-2021 academic year, Nozomi Imai has been awarded a Course Improvement Grant from the Center for Teaching. She was recently interviewed for the CFT blog to discuss how she adapted to online teaching last year and what from that experience has proven effective to implement for a flipped classroom format. You can watch the interview here and information about CFT teaching grants can be found here.

Congratulations, Nozomi!




Vivian Shaw Joins Department; Asian American Studies Launches

Vivian ShawThe Asian Studies Department is elated to welcome sociologist Vivian Shaw among its ranks in a three-year appointment as Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies. Dr. Shaw earned her PhD at University of Texas at Austin and comes to Vanderbilt via Harvard University where she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Weatherhead Center for International Relations’ Program on U.S.-Japan Relations from 2018-2019 and a College Fellow in the Department of Sociology from 2019-2021. Her research and teaching interests embrace issues of race, gender, sexuality, and culture, particularly in the contexts of disasters, the  environment, human rights, and social movements, which she studies within global-comparative frameworks. She is also the Lead Researcher (co-PI) for the AAPI COVID-19 Project, a multi-method investigation into the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of Asian American and Pasifika communities, housed in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. Her hire represents the first step in establishing an Asian American & Diaspora Studies track in the Department in support of its Global Asia Initiative.

Welcome Vivian!



Rob Campany Awarded Endowed Chair

Rob CampanyFresh off of his Guggenheim Fellowship, Rob Campany has been named Gertrude Conway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities, the first for the Asian Studies Department. The award is based on the strength of his distinctive, broad-ranging, methodologically innovative, and widely influential oeuvre of six monographs in the history of religion in early medieval China. His scholarship has had international impact across Asia and Europe to the extent that, according to one testimony, some Chinese scholars know Vanderbilt only as "the place where Robert Campany works." The Asian Studies Department is very proud to count him as one of its own. Congratulations, Rob!




Yoshi Igarashi Publishes Third of Postwar Japan "Trilogy"

Japan, 1972

Yoshi Igarashi's third book on postwar Japanese history—Japan, 1972: Visions of Masculinity in an Age of Mass Consumerism—has just come out from Columbia University Press (May 2021). It completes a splendid trilogy that started with Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture 1945-1970 (2000) and continued with Homecomings: The Belated Return of Japan's Lost Soldiers (2016). Maybe it will become a tetralogy? In any case, congratulations, Yoshi! From the press pageBy the early 1970s, Japan had become an affluent consumer society, riding a growing economy to widely shared prosperity. In the aftermath of the fiery political activism of 1968, the country settled down to the realization that consumer culture had taken a firm grip on Japanese society. Japan, 1972 takes an early-seventies year as a vantage point for understanding how Japanese society came to terms with cultural change.

Yoshikuni Igarashi examines a broad selection of popular film, television, manga, and other media in order to analyze the ways Japanese culture grappled with this economic shift. He exposes the political underpinnings of mass culture and investigates deeper anxieties over questions of agency and masculinity. Igarashi underscores how the male-dominated culture industry strove to defend masculine identity by looking for an escape from the high-growth economy. He reads a range of cultural works that reveal perceptions of imperiled Japanese masculinity through depictions of heroes’ doomed struggles against what were seen as the stifling and feminizing effects of consumerism. Ranging from manga travelogues to war stories, yakuza films to New Left radicalism, Japan, 1972 sheds new light on a period of profound socioeconomic change and the counternarratives of masculinity that emerged to manage it.



Department Statement on March 16 Shootings in Georgia

Dear Vanderbilt Community,

We, the members of the Asian Studies Department at Vanderbilt University, strongly condemn the shootings in Atlanta, on March 16, 2021, that claimed the lives of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. We view these killings as anti-Asian hate crimes that intersect with patriarchy and misogyny following a year of heightened xenophobia wrongfully blaming Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic. These killings are the latest in a series of events endemic to the United States’ history of racialization and violence against Asian Americans. Public discourses and cultural representations in the US have routinely dehumanized and sexualized Asian/Asian American women as subservient objects of male desire and violence. The events in Atlanta are a tragic reminder that such discourses and representations can circulate with deadly consequences.

We mourn the loss of lives and grieve with the victims’ families and communities. Each of the murdered victims was denied the right and support to live their lives in safety and peace, to live according to their hopes and loves. We know that this incident has caused fear, frustration, and anger among Asian, Asian American, and APIDA communities, including our own colleagues and students. We will work with our communities, allied individuals, and organizations so that our fears, frustrations, and demands are heard and addressed. We join other organizations and activist groups in the calls of support and protection for Asian, Asian Americans, and APIDA members of Vanderbilt and middle Tennessee—and in the struggles for justice against all forms of racism.

We support the Vanderbilt students who have been organizing for the establishment of an Asian American Studies major and center at Vanderbilt. As a department we are committed to developing a curriculum that centers histories of anti-Asian discrimination and APIDA-led resistance movements in the United States and globally. To study these histories is to understand more accurately the racist foundation of the United States, the core of European imperialism, and Asia since the sixteenth century. Taken together, these pasts and ideologies constitute our present. To this end, the Asian Studies Department has initiated a search for a Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies. While being only a three-year non-tenure track appointment, it will immediately provide more course offerings in Asian American history and culture and serve as the initial steps towards expanding tenure-track faculty appointments in support of an Asian American Studies program.

We will continue this advocacy for resources and program-building for Asian American Studies, while working with students, colleagues, departments and programs toward an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable curriculum and pedagogy.

Protect Asian Lives Vigil in Nashville; Action on Campus

Protect Asian Lives VigilOn the evening of March 21, a coalition of state and local organizations—the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, API Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee-National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Tennessee Chinese American Alliance, and the Greater Nashville Chinese Association—hosted a Protect Asian Lives vigil to memorialize the victims of the March 16th shootings in Georgia and to stand against racism and violence against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Vanderbilt Divinity School graduate Pastor Serim "Sam" Huh opened the event with a prayer, followed by a series of speakers from the local Asian American community, including Vanderbilt student Angie Liang ('21) whose hometown is Atlanta (pictured here top right with other supporters). Hers was an especially personal and powerful address. Nashville-via-Beijing guzheng virtuoso Wu Fei performed a stirring piece and two monks from the Thai Buddhist temple in Murfreesboro also chanted a prayer.

Asian Studies Department Chair Gerald Figal and many others from the Vanderbilt community were among the audience that numbered several hundreds. Another vigil is being held at Vanderbilt on March 25, and an installment of Peabody College's Crucial Conversations series addressing the history and current state of anti-Asian racism in America is taking place on March 24.

As part of its educational mission, the Asian Studies Department has partnered with the Asian American Studies Initiative being led by Vanderbilt students and has begun a search for a three-year Mellon Assistant Professorship in Asian American Studies that will serve as the first step to building a long overdue Asian American Studies program at Vanderbilt.


Tony Stewart Awarded  2021 Coomaraswamy Prize

MarvelsTony Stewart, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies, has been awarded the 2021 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize for his 2019 book, Witness to Marvels: Sufism and Literary Imagination. The Coomaraswamy Prize  "honors a distinguished work of scholarship in South Asian Studies that promises to define or redefine the understanding of whole subject areas" and is the top award for a publication in the field. The award will be presented at the 2021 AAS Virtual Conference on March 24. The entire Asian Studies faculty toasts Tony on this well-earned honor!

About the book from the UC Press website:

There is a vast body of imaginal literature in Bengali that introduces fictional Sufi saints into the complex mythological world of Hindu gods and goddesses. Dating to the sixteenth century, the stories—pir katha—are still widely read and performed today. The events that play out rival the fabulations of the Arabian Nights, which has led them to be dismissed as simplistic folktales, yet the work of these stories is profound: they provide fascinating insight into how Islam habituated itself into the cultural life of the Bangla-speaking world. In Witness to Marvels, Tony K. Stewart unearths the dazzling tales of Sufi saints to signal a bold new perspective on the subtle ways Islam assumed its distinctive form in Bengal.



New Faculty Join Department

Mabel Gergan Pengfei Li Ji You Whang

The Asian Studies Department welcomes three new additions for 2020-21, pictured from left to right: Mabel Gergan, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies; Pengfei Li, Lecturer in Chinese; and Ji You Whang, Lecturer in Korean. Bravely joining us in the midst of the pandemic, their on-boarding and starts at teaching have been non-traditional, to say the least, but they are gradually acclimating themselves to Nashville and Vanderbilt and are enthusiastic about being here. We intend a proper welcoming reception for them toward the end of this challenging academic year. To learn a little more about each of them, please check out their pages linked to their names above.

In Recognition of Kamala Harris as US Vice President

Harris Swearing InThe Asian Studies Department and South Asian Language Program congratulate Vice-President Kamala Devi Harris on her historic ascendancy to the second highest office in the government of the United States of America. We are proud to see the achievement and recognition of an individual whose family originates in region of the world to which we have dedicated our careers.Her accomplishment reminds us of the tremendous opportunity we have to rise to important and meaningful work. Her image compels us to remember our responsibility to protect those opportunities for all people, to open and maintain the paths to success, and to provide support and encouragement to all people who chose to walk those difficult and rewarding roads. We are glad to see this representation and wish Vice-President Harris a successful term. வாழ்த்துக்கள் !



Rob Campany's Latest Book Published


Rob Campany's latest monograph, The Chinese Dreamscape, 300BCE - 800CE is out from Harvard University Asia Center this October with an appropriately cool cover for a cool topic. From the press page:

Dreaming is a near-universal human experience. But there is no consensus on why we dream, or how we should approach dreaming. This book investigates what dreams meant to people in late classical and early medieval China. It maps a common dreamscape—an array of divergent ideas about what dreams are, and how they should be responded to—that underlies texts of diverse persuasions and genres over several centuries. These include manuals of dream interpretation, scriptural instructions, essays, treatises, classics, poems, recovered manuscripts, histories, and anecdotes of successful dream-based predictions.

What was thought to happen when we dream? Do dreams foretell futureevents? If so, how might their imagistic code be unlocked to yield predictions? Could dreams enable direct communication between the living and the dead, or between humans and animals? By answering these questions, The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE sheds light on how people in a distant age negotiated dream experiences. Yet it also brings Chinese notions of dreaming into conversation with studies of dreams in other cultures ancient and contemporary. Ultimately this book investigates how Chinese people wrestled with—and celebrated—the strangeness of dreams, and reflects on how we might reconsider our own notions of dreaming.

Congratulations Rob!


Asian Studies Program Moves to Department Status

After 53 years as first the East Asian Studies Program and then the Asian Studies Program, Asian Studies officially moved to Department status on July 1, 2020. This change reflects the dramatic growth in Asian Studies over the past five years, which has seen an overhaul of the major, the addition of Hindi-Urdu and Korean Language Programs, and corresponding minors in South Asian Language and Culture and Korean Language and Culture. It has also added new tenure-track faculty specializing in Korea and South Asia along with additional lines in Japanese and Korean language, both of which have had significant increases in students. Asia-related course enrollments and the number of Asian Studies majors and minors are at an all-time high. Now firmly established as a department and one of the fastest growing units in the College of Arts & Science, Asian Studies looks forward to furthering its expansion and profile at Vanderbilt.

Rob Campany named 2020 Guggenheim Fellow

Rob Campany, Professor of Asian Studies, is one of 175 scholars, artists and scientists in the United States and Canada to be awarded 2020 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships. Campany was selected from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants in the foundation’s 96th competition. Guggenheim Fellows are chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. John Geer, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Vanderbilt, says, "Robert has become a prominent researcher in Chinese religious and literary history by blending his expertise, methodological savvy and intellectual creativity to produce many highly respected works. He has played an important role in bringing more global attention to the study of Chinese religions and culture.” Congratulations to Rob!

Read more about Rob and the Guggenheim Fellowship here

Guojun Wang's First Book Published

Wang Cover

Guojun Wang's first monograph, Staging Personhood: Costuming in Early Qing Drama , is officially out from Columbia University Press and it looks stunning. From the press page:

"Staging Personhood uncovers a hidden history of the Ming–Qing transition by exploring what it meant for the clothing of a deposed dynasty to survive onstage. Reading dramatic works against Qing sartorial regulations, Guojun Wang offers an interdisciplinary lens on the entanglements between Chinese drama and nascent Manchu rule in seventeenth-century China. He reveals not just how political and ethnic conflicts shaped theatrical costuming but also the ways costuming enabled different modes of identity negotiation during the dynastic transition. In case studies of theatrical texts and performances, Wang considers clothing and costumes as indices of changing ethnic and gender identities. He contends that theatrical costuming provided a productive way to reconnect bodies, clothes, and identities disrupted by political turmoil. Through careful attention to a variety of canonical and lesser-known plays, visual and performance records, and historical documents, Staging Personhood provides a pathbreaking perspective on the cultural dynamics of early Qing China.

Hear Guojun discuss Staging Personhood with Sarah Bramao-Ramos, PhD candidate in History and Easy Asian Language at Harvard, on the New Books Network podcast.

For more about the book, check out Guojun's blog about it on the Columbia University Press website.

Congratulations to Guojun!


New Team Japan Moving Forward from Fall 2019

The Asian Studies Program is excited to welcome a new team of full-time Japanese language instructors following the retirement of Keiko Nakajima and the departure of Michiru Ichihara Lowe. Asami Nakano, who had been teaching part-time for the past two years, is now a full-time Lecturer. She is joined by Senior Lecturer Dr. Hideko Shimizu, who is returning to Vanderbilt after nearly twenty years teaching in Colorado and Tokyo, and by Lecturer Nozomi Imai, who is coming from Indiana University where she completed her Masters degree in Japanese  Pedagogy in Spring 2019.

Divya Chaudhry Joins Growing Hindi-Urdu Program

After single-handedly jump-starting the Hindi-Urdu Program two years ago, Dr. Elliott McCarter will finally have a much-needed colleague to meet the needs of an expanding South Asian languages and culture program. Dr. Divya Chaudhry left her position at Rice University to join the Asian Studies Program faculty at Vanderbilt as full-time Lecturer in Hindi-Urdu. Divya received her PhD in Linguistics and Certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the University of Florida in 2016. With her teaming up with Elliott, the Program can now offer Sanskrit and South Asian culture courses in addition to Hindi-Urdu language.

Korean Language Teaching Fellow Arrives for 2019-2020

Student response to the introduction of Korean language courses in 2018-19 was so overwhelming for sole Senior Lecturer Dr. Seok Bae Jang that the Program has established a Korean Language Teaching Fellowship with Yonsei University's graduate program in Korean Language Pedagogy to help meet demand. Our first Korean Language Teaching Fellow, Ha Eun Choi, will be teaching part-time in the beginning level courses this year. Ha Eun received an M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the USC Rossier School of Education and she is currently pursuing an M.A. in Korean Language and Literature with Korean Language Teaching Certification at Yonsei. Stop by and say hi to her—she'll be in Prof. Guojun Wang's this year while he is on research leave.

Korean Language and Culture Minor Kicks Off Fall 2019!

Beginning in Fall 2019, Vanderbilt students can minor in Korean Language and Culture within the Asian Studies Program. Details on requirements are available on the Minors page.

Buddhism Scholar Joins Religious Studies Department

Adeana McNicholl, who focuses on early South Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism, has joined the Department of Religion as an Assistant Professor on the tenure track. Professor McNicholl's research and teaching examines the relationship between religion and the body and embodied identities, including race, gender, and sexuality. She will be among the Interdepartmental Faculty of the Asian Studies Program and her courses will generally be eligible for credit within the Asian Studies major and South Asian Language and Culture minor.