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Duke EAS Attends Regional AAS in Richmond

On a sunny Friday afternoon in January, twelve intrepid Asian Studies scholars embarked on a journey to Richmond, VA, to attend the 62nd annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies. The conference theme was “Asia: Challenges and Opportunities.” The organizers, Prof. Gengsong Gao and Prof. Dan Chen, facilitated a series of events including academic panels as well as social and academic networking opportunities.

This was the first time in ten years that a delegation from APSI participated in an AAS event, and it was exciting to see the graduate students (and one postdoctoral scholar) engage in multiple lively discussions over the course of the three days.

People sitting at a table in a library-style room watching a remote presentation on a screen
Discussion at Dr. Linshan Jiang's panel

Two members of the group had been invited to present their research during the organized panels. During the first morning session, Dr. Linshan Jiang, a postdoctoral scholar in the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies department, presented her paper, "Mobilizing Shame: Literary Representations of Wartime Sexual Violence," during a panel on "Latent Wounds: Translating Wartime Asia in History, Literature, and Philosophy" chaired by Emily Wilcox of the College of William and Mary.

Woman gesturing towards a projector screen, people sitting around a table and in chairs by a wall
Mingkang Hao shares her research

Later, in the first afternoon session, first-year EAS MA student Mingkang Hao presented a portion of her thesis project, "Challenging the Legal Norms and Boundary in the Republic of China: A Case Study on the Tao-Liu Homosexual Homicide Case, 1932." The panel's theme was "Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism," and was chaired by Selta Altan, assistant professor of history at Randolph College. Following the session, several members of the audience remarked that not only were Mingkang's paper and engaging presentation examples of thorough scholarship and effective public speaking skills, they would also make an outstanding true crime novel or screenplay.

Since the events fell over the course of the Lunar New Year holiday, APSI made sure to support a number of social activities. Several members of the group made an evening excursion to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an institution with a broad array of paintings, sculptures, and artistic artifacts from around the world representing antiquity through modern times. Others made time to explore Carytown, a neighborhood with a distinctly bohemian nature offering an eclectic mix of restaurants and stores.

People sitting around a table with food and drinks
Food is an essential part of APSI events

Before returning to Durham, the entire group fortified themselves with a visit to a Richmond landmark: the Proper Pie Co., a local favorite featuring New Zealand-style pies with sweet and savory options.

We asked several of our participants to share their thoughts about their experience. This is what they said:

"The conference itself was smaller than I imagined, but the perk was that I really got to know some of the presenters who shared a similar research interest, and this helped me to connect with people from other programs. Besides that, I got a basic understanding of how an academic conference usually works, which is also motivating for me. But the best part came from the APSI community - I had never found myself so close with my cohort before (even though some of us were in the same class last semester). This trip provided me the chance to have some in-depth conversations with my APSI friends, not only in terms of academic life but also about personal experiences. All my classmates had fantastic stories to share - I was very much touched by this finding, and I treasure this community a lot." -Lingyi Chen, EAS MA student

"Visiting AAS with APSI was a great opportunity for me, especially as a prospective PhD student. Attending these scholarly talks provided me with a more in-depth understanding of the state of current scholarship and inspired me to work towards presenting one of my own papers at AAS next year. In addition, it was a good opportunity to get to know other members of my cohort outside of class." -Jackson Herndon, EAS MA student

"It is such a great experience to go for a conference with a group of familiar cohorts. Since the conference is right at the time of the lunar new year, it might be one of the best ways to celebrate the new year abroad." -Dr. Linshang Jiang, AMES postdoctoral scholar

"It provided me with a valuable opportunity to observe how people in my field of study do research and deliver a speech. To be specific, attending presentations of researchers from a variety of interests, I was allowed a fruitful time to rethink about my research in terms of both topics and methodologies. Another concern of mine this time was to find out the shared feature of 'good speeches.' Clearly, not all discussions in the conference deserve a lingering appreciation, and those of high caliber left me various insights on the quality of a good presentation. To conclude, I hope that graduate students in our department can benefit more from this kind of experience so that they enlarge their intellectual scope." -SeungHyeon Pyo, EAS MA student

"This trip gave me a chance to experience the professional academic world of Asian studies. Learning different disciplines and topics of knowledge on Asia, the conference is a place when I can connect to other people working on my topics of interest and be close to the scholar community. This is a great chance for a master’s student to closely see how life as a scholar and researcher in Asian studies may be, and how mature scholars think and have academic conversations with each other. Through this trip, I also got to know my cohorts more and feel more motivated to my academic work at Duke." -Chunxiao Yang, EAS MA student