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Duke students make a splash at 2024 SEC-AAS with support from APSI

For the second year in a row, students from Duke University attended the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (SEC-AAS). APSI began sponsoring the entire cohort of EAS-MA students to attend this annual event in 2023 as a means of promoting student research as well as opportunities to connect with peers at other institutions from around the country. From January 26-28, 2024, a group of students, scholars, and faculty represented the breadth of research in Asian Studies topics at Duke by presenting their work in organized panels and attending sessions on subjects of academic interest.

A person in a dark coat stands behind a computer, speaking to an audience, while information is projected onto a screen
Mingkang Hao presents her research

Six second-year EAS-MA students presented their work on five different panels. Mingkang Hao, who had previously presented at SEC-AAS during her first year in the program, shared her research on an emerging project, “Dams/Dykes as a Microecosystem: Rethinking Local Hydraulic Facilities from the Perspective of Human-Animal Interactions from the Late Imperial to 20th-century China,” as part of a panel exploring place, religion, and the environment.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Wake Forest, as it perfectly combined academic and community-bonding goals. I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to share my ongoing research project at the panel, and the support from my advisor, cohorts, and friends means a lot to me. The valuable comments and questions from the audience were also truly inspirational, serving as motivation for me to delve even deeper into my projects.” —Mingkang Hao (EAS-MA candidate 2024)

A person in a gray jacket looks at a computer while speaking to an audience

At the same time, Tina Liu, a CAH student, presented “The Socialist Soundscape Revisited: Sounds and Voices in Post-Cultural Revolution Documentary” on a panel discussing contemporary Chinese literature and film.

“Attending SEC-AAS gave me a chance to present my work and receive insightful feedback. It also allowed me to engage with the academic community outside of Duke.” —Tina Liu (CAH candidate 2024)

A person wearing a dark sweater stands while giving an academic presentation
Jackson Herndon presents his research during a panel on resonant sites

On Saturday morning, Jackson Herndon and Chunxiao Yang were part of the same panel on resonant sites. Jackson presented his project, “Utopian Frontiers: Legacies of the Commune in 20th Century China” while Chunxiao delved into “Postwar Taiwan Confucianism: State and Intellectuals.”

A person wearing a gray shirt and glasses looks toward a projector screen while presenting to a seated audience
Chunxiao Yang presents her research during a panel on resonant sites

At the same time, a nearly all-Duke panel on modern Taiwanese literature and film included presentations by Linshan Jiang, a postdoctoral scholar in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department, CAH student Qiwen Li, and EAS student Ruowei Wu. Jiang’s presentation was titled “Resilience and Belonging: Translational Identities and Nostalgic Memories of Guilin in Taiwan through Pai Hsien-yung, Chan Tah Wei, and Li Zishu.” Li presented on “Sinophone Buddhism: A Comparative Reading of Contempoary Chinese Identity.” Wu concluded the panel with her research on “Embodied Transgression in Taiwan Brothels - Focus on Hill of No Return and Sim Cheong, the Path of Lotus.”

A person wearing a light shirt and glasses sits behind a computer while giving a presentation to a seated audience

In the final session, in a panel on philosophy and political philosophy, Wenjin Fang delivered a strong presentation about her discoveries related to “Toqueville On/In China.”

A person in a light shirt sits at a table looking towards a projector screen while giving a talk to a seated audience

Seulbin Han, on a panel on cultural exchange in music in art, shared her research on “A Visit to the First Chapter of Korean Popular Music History: A Critical Introduction of Brother is a Street Musician by Zhang Eujeong.” Seulbin Han will also present her research on the international appeal of Korean popular music, “The Hidden Players: An Analysis of Diasporic K-Pop Consumer Groups in the U.S.,” this March at the national AAS conference in Seattle.

For the first-year EAS students, most of the time was spent attending panels and exploring the research and academic opportunities. Several expressed interest in the possibility of presenting their own work at next year’s conference. The students were particularly enthusiastic about the chance to meet with faculty and peers from other institutions who also have deep knowledge that sheds light on questions that are relevant for their own research interests.

“The trip was busy and fun. I attended all the panels that I was interested in: motherhood, Japanese feminist theory, PRC history… People are so vibrant and friendly. I love the intellectual sparkles in the air.” — Chenyi Huang (EAS-MA student)

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Professor Nicole Barnes speaks to a full room about teaching Chinese history in university classes

Duke faculty were also well-represented with Nicole Barnes (History) sharing insights from her experience on a panel dedicated to “Addressing Challenges and Opportunities in Teaching PRC History.” She noted that many of her classes have featured a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese students with varying levels of Chinese language proficiency, from novice to native. Similarly, she finds that many of them come to class with a range of prior knowledge, but all of them demonstrate a willingness to engage with the courses, even when delving into potentially controversial topics. One of her success strategies is securing credible primary sources; this is aided by her students’ language ability as well as her own capacity to translate materials for non-Chinese speakers.

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Professor Nayoung Aimee Kwon shares information about content that can be used when teaching historical conflicts in Asia in K-12 classrooms

Nayoung Aimee Kwon (AMES) gave a special presentation on “Teaching Historical Conflicts in Asia for K-12 Educators.” She challenged the teachers in the room, most of whom teach students in grades 6-12, to look beyond traditional narratives and textbooks used in the United States. She made a compelling case that comprehensive education at the upper elementary and secondary level needs to include the stories of all the people whose contributions and efforts shaped the development of the United States. She also contends that a frank assessment of the United States’ involvement in colonialism, particularly in Asia, must be neither overlooked nor forgotten. Understanding this history, she emphasized, is key to understanding current areas of contention domestically as well as internationally. One of the key points of her presentation was the legacy of global movements in the 19th and 20th centuries that created solidarity among and between people that crossed ethnic and national lines, giving rise to renowned figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sun Yat-sen, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Teaching history in this more comprehensive way, Kwon noted, will enable young learners to develop a deeper connection to the world in which they live.