A letter from Anne Feldhaus, President, Association for Asian Studies (2018–19)
We live in a world of lies and bombast, where “fake news” and “alternative facts” clamor for our attention while the censors’ scythes cut ever broader swathes, both behind the scenes and before our eyes. In such a world, it is increasingly, vitally important to create and preserve spaces for careful, thoughtful scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Particularly crucial is to foster the solid scholarly understanding of cultural and political life beyond Europe and North America, both in the past and in the present. For more than seven decades, the Association for Asian Studies has been at the forefront of the struggle to create and preserve the spaces for this kind of scholarship.
In the past year and a half, two events have significantly threatened the AAS’s ability to carry out its mission. In the summer of 2017, the Chinese government asked Cambridge University Press not to distribute certain Journal of Asian Studies articles in China; after the Press refused that request, most Chinese distributors withdrew their orders for the JAS as a whole. Our resistance to censorship was the right choice, but one consequence of it is that, for now, scholars based in China are deprived of access to our journal. In 2018, the Indian government denied a request to grant visas to Pakistani and Pakistani-origin scholars who had been selected to present their work at the AAS-in-Asia conference in New Delhi. The conference went on as planned, its otherwise great success limited by the absence of Pakistani scholars, the scholarly work they would have presented, and the contributions they would have made to formal and informal discussions.
Despite these setbacks, the AAS continues to forge ahead, taking the lead in fostering scholarship on and teaching about Asia. For example, during the past year we partnered with the Luce Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, Madison to develop a database of institutions able to provide distance language instruction in less-commonly-taught languages from inner Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. During this past year, the AAS organized a dissertation workshop on “Medicine, Science, and Technology in the Study of Asian Pasts and Presents” and an Emerging Fields in the Study of Asia workshop on “Asia and the Anthropocene”; a third Emerging Fields workshop, on “Law, Society and Justice,” will take place in summer 2019. The 2018 AAS annual conference featured a new kind of workshop: one designed to help mid-career scholars of Asia get through the daunting process of completing and publishing their second book. Our #AsiaNow blog attracts an ever-increasing number of readers, while the AAS communities on Twitter and Facebook continue to grow at a steady rate, with currently more than 5,000 Twitter followers and nearly 13,000 Facebook followers.
To a great extent, these and our many other valuable projects, including our annual conferences, are funded by AAS membership dues, registration fees, and grants from such sources as the Henry Luce Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Harvard Yenching Institute. Every year, the Association draws on the interest from its modest endowment as well. The endowment interest, which in the past was used to fund new initiatives, is increasingly needed just to keep current projects going and to support the day-to-day work of the AAS. As a result, the AAS is in greater need than ever of your support.
If you have already donated to the AAS this year, thank you very much. If not, please know that your gift of $500, $100, $50, or any other amount will help the AAS continue to preserve and expand the space for scholarship on and education about Asia. If you are able to contribute, please click on the link provided, and choose an area or fund to which to make a donation. Your contributions to the Fund for International Exchange and the Fund for Young Scholars, for example, will make it possible for AAS to continue to fund members from Asia and graduate-student presenters to attend the annual AAS conference. You may also choose to donate to a book-prize fund in your field, or to the de Bary-Embree Fund for Education and Outreach. A new fund that you can contribute to this year, the Annual Conference Childcare Fund, will allow young parents to attend the Annual Conference while assuring that their children are well cared for. Finally, contributions to the AAS Endowment Fund will help guarantee the Association's ability to support and expand the study of Asia far into the future.
In addition, if you are interested in joining the AAS Legacy Society, which is endowed through estate planning, you can find information here. Please contact Dr. Krisna Uk, Senior Advisor to the Board of Directors: Development and Strategic Initiatives at firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion.
Thank you again for your valuable support.
AAS President (2018-2019)
Professor of Religious Studies, Arizona State University