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In Memoriam: Wm. Theodore de Bary (1919-2017)

Wm. Theodore “Ted” de Bary passed away on July 14 at the age of 97. Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and author of some of the most important foundation texts in the field of Asian Studies, de Bary was a longtime member of the AAS and served as President in 1969-70. I asked Columbia professor Carol Gluck if she would write a tribute to de Bary for #AsiaNow; she not only agreed to share her own memories of being his student and colleague, but also enlisted two others who had known de Bary to contribute to the post as well. Below, you’ll find Carol Gluck’s essay, “W. Theodore de Bary, Doctor of Humane Letters,” followed by remembrances by Donald Keene, longtime friend of de Bary’s and Professor Emeritus of Japanese literature at Columbia, and Larry Chengliang Hong, Columbia College class of 2017, a student in de Bary’s final seminar this past spring. Thanks to all three of them for sharing with #AsiaNow readers their thoughtful reflections on the lif ...

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EnviroLab Asia: A Liberal Arts Approach to Studying Environmental Issues in Asia

By Karin Mak In May 2017, the undergraduate consortium of five liberal arts colleges collectively known as the Claremont Colleges (Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Pomona College, and Scripps College), received a $1.4 million grant to support “EnviroLab Asia,” an initiative aimed to create spaces that generate new knowledge about environmental issues in Asia. Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation’s Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) Program, EnviroLab Asia encourages humanities and social science faculty to work closely with faculty from the sciences to produce new research and classes on environmental issues in East and Southeast Asia. It embodies a liberal arts approach to learning about Asia and the environment. The cross-disciplinary framework, close collaborations between faculty and students, and experiential learning are hallmarks of the program. EnviroLab Asia is led by Albert L. Park (History, Claremont McKenna College ...

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Smartphone Baraka: Technological Transference

By James Edmonds Indonesians reach to touch Habib Syech’s hand, drink from his cup, and interact with his presence. I had already sat for several hours, gently sweating, as thousands of people arrived at an open-air building in Solo, Indonesia. The streets outside were full of pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, buses, and the smell of fried tofu. People pressed into the building; some took seats close to the front, while others went to the second level to rest after a long twelve-hour trek, and some stood, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the man they had come to see. Unceremoniously, Habib Syech bin Abdul Qodir Assegaf appeared. He began to walk through the crowds of people, heading toward the front of the building. Along the way, Habib Syech passed out small amounts of cash to the children, shook some hands, and slipped through the many others reaching to touch him. He eventually made it to the front of the building and sat down, immediately stoking the incense coals prepared for his arrival. Hab ...

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“Small Volumes with a Big Message”: Introducing Asia Shorts

By Bill Tsutsui Chair, AAS Editorial Board Like many faculty members these days, I am prone to fault college students (not to mention most of my fellow Americans) for their ever-shorter attention spans. 140 characters is, after all, not long enough for a decent subordinate clause, many cherished phrases of academic jargon, or some lengthy place names in Thailand. And yet, when I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I too become fidgety during 50-minute lectures, have been known to criticize two-hour movies as “just endless,” and tend to shy away from big, thick volumes on bookstore shelves. In our information-saturated lives, there is much to appreciate in the expression of complex ideas in forms that are focused, clear, and concise. Brevity need not mean superficiality, or suggest any lacking of ambition or effort. As the philosopher Blaise Pascal once famously stated, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” In recent years, the aca ...

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AAS Member Spotlight: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw Author of the middle-grades historical fiction book, The Last Cherry Blossom Your discipline and country (or countries) of interest: Historical fiction; Japan How long have you been a member of AAS? Two months. Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues? I want to be a part of a community that values Asian history and culture that I can learn from and contribute to. I visit with many schools to discuss my mother’s Hiroshima experience and The Last Cherry Blossom, and will be sure to mention the valuable information at #AsiaNow. How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Studies? I first became involved when my daughter was in 7th grade. Her class was studying World War II and she overheard some kids saying they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud” pictures. This deeply upset her and she asked me to visit her class and talk about the people under those now famous mushroom clouds— ...

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