Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series: Lecture 1 | Rethinking Area Studies within a Global Framework: The Case of Asian Studies

On September 20, 2019, Prof. Tansen Sen from New York University Shanghai as the keynote speaker, Prof. Arunabh Ghosh from Harvard University as the reviewer, and Prof. Cao Yin, Associate Professor from Tsinghua University as the host, brought the lecture of “Rethinking Area Studies within a Global Framework: The Case of Asian Studies” to the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University, which is also the first session of the Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series.

First of all, Prof. Tansen Sen reviewed the history of area studies in the United States, focusing on the process and reasons for its rise and fall in the 20th century. After that, he put forward his prospects and advices on academic development and scholar training in area studies based on his experience. He believed that future area studies should break through traditional boundaries and conduct more cross-regional research. As to scholar training, he emphasized the importance of fieldwork, and at the same time pointed out that interactions and exchanges with the academic community in the West should be strengthened and it is also important to cooperate with local universities to establish an efficient training mechanism.

Prof. Arunabh Ghosh added that scholars of area studies should read more literatures from the European and American academic communities to maintain academic sensitivity to the forefront of research development in Europe and the United States. He also suggested that everyone should deliberately cultivate critical thinking and constantly update their knowledge base through knowledge archeology.

At the end of the lecture, three professors and the doctoral students at IIAS continued to discuss the future development of area studies based on their respective research fields.

The Glocal Asian Studies Lecture Series hosted by IIAS of Tsinghua University was launched in Fall 2019. It aims to provide scholars participating in the events with a platform of dialogue and learning with top scholars studying Asia history and culture from all over the world. China’s area studies have been vigorously developed in the context of the “Belt and Road” Initiative in recent years. However, the current area studies are often a rigid superposition of country studies and lack intra-regional and inter-regional connections and comparative studies. The root cause is the missing of a long-term historical/cultural perspective in current area studies in China. The lecture series will invite top-notch and young scholars in the field of Asia studies at home and abroad to give special lectures on their latest research findings and communicate with participants. This will serve as an opportunity to cultivate area researchers’ transnational and global perspectives, and encourage them to reflect on the traditional research paradigm based on country.

By Cheng Yao