UB to Host New York State Asian Studies Conference Oct. 17-18

Release Date: October 7, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Asian Studies Program at the University at Buffalo will host this year's New York State Asian Studies Conference on Oct. 17-18 at the University Inn and Conference Center in Getzville.

The conference, titled "Walls in Asia," will examine how, over the centuries, the structurally simple but symbolically complex wall has become a symbol of Asia for Asians and non-Asians alike. It will feature workshops for teachers, a performance by the Beijing Opera, presentations by noted Asian scholars and an exhibition of Chinese maximalist art.

"The complexity of walls and their ubiquitous presence in the life of Asia -- both physical and abstract -- invite scholarly inquiry in a wide variety of disciplines and subject matter," says Thomas W. Burkman, director of the Asian Studies Program.

"In literal terms, the Great Wall of China, built to repel the Mongol invasion from Kyushu, comes immediately to mind, and in contemporary times, the 38th parallel Korea and the newly erected wall of barbed wire along the Indo-Pakistani border," he says, "but walls have many symbolic purposes beyond defense or security."

They are ubiquitous in Asian gardens and art, he points out, and are used as a signifier of distrust and disdain, community, security and belonging; walls also arise in the study of Asian cultures and languages, according to Burkman.

"Disciplinary boundaries have both defined the field of Asian studies and created tensions within it," he explains. "We are looking at how these boundaries are shifting. Divisions and rifts can play a positive role in the emergence of new thought and in our present work, so we will look at which demarcations we find to be most creative and productive. Another topic of interest is how the texts we read address questions of distance and intimacy."

Burkman says the conference will address the "walls" theme broadly and inclusively, and with diversity in approach and perspective. It also will introduce New York's Asianists to a major international thematic exhibition of contemporary Chinese art, also titled "The Wall," to be presented to international audiences in 2005 through the joint sponsorship of the UB Art Galleries and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

The conference will begin on Oct. 17 with "Asia in the Classroom," a workshop on China for teachers on best practices for teaching Asian studies in elementary and secondary classrooms.

The workshop will feature a demonstration and live interaction with a troupe from the Beijing Opera, followed by sessions on "Chinese Myths and Legends" led by P. Steven Sangren, professor of anthropology, Cornell University, and "State and Society in China since 1976," led by Anna Brettell, visiting assistant professor, in Cornell's Department of Government.

A lecture/performance of "The Monkey Knows No Walls," based on the Beijing Opera's interpretation of China's traditional "Monkey King" stories, will take place on Oct. 17 in the Center for the Arts, North Campus, followed by a reception for the art exhibition, "Chinese Maximalism," in the UB Art Gallery, also located in the center.

On Oct. 18, the conference plenary address, "Holes in the Wall: India's Partition Revisited," will be presented by Ayesha Jalal, professor of history at Tufts University and leading scholar on the India-Pakistan partition.

Events that day also will feature an address by James L. Watson, president of the Association for Asian Studies, titled "The Other Side of the River: Hong Kong's Border Saga, 1898-2003" and a roundtable on Asian studies in the State University of New York with John Ryder, director of the SUNY Office of International Programs, as well as a number of concurrent sessions.

Additional information and a detailed schedule of panelists, speakers and conference events can be found online at http://wings.buffalo.edu/asian/NYCAS03/.

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