Duke's global centers & initiatives

Global Asia Initiative

Mission Statement

The Global Asia Initiative (GAI) at Duke has its origins in the efforts by groups across the world to articulate a new paradigm that looks at Asian nations, cultures, and civilizations in terms of their connections, interactions, and interdependencies in both historical and geographical space. The motive for such an exploration derives from contemporary research that exposes the entangled relations between countries in East, Southeast, South and West Asia not only in contemporary affairs, but also in the distant past.

Summary of 2019-2020 Programs

The Global Asia Initiative (GAI) is a trans-regional and inter-disciplinary program to study Asian connections in the context of a rising Asia, and equally, one where regional – particularly environmental –problems abound. GAI has just completed its fourth year of operation under the Duke Center for International and Global Studies umbrella. GAI sponsored several events and co-sponsored several more.

GAI conducted and planned several events concerning its core project of Environmental Humanities and the broader field of Inter-Asian studies.  Last summer, GAI together with Duke Kunshan University held a workshop entitled “Rivers in the Anthropocene.” The conference resulted in a planto host a plenary meeting at the Association for Asian Studies under the presidency of Prof Duara and publish a set of essays on wetlands in India and China entitled Amphibious Histories and Wetland Cultures:  Rivers as Pulse and Flow in India and China.  Unfortunately, the event scheduled for late March 2020 had to be cancelled, as was Duara’s keynote to the Association.  Even though the bulk of our scheduled activities were cancelled or postponed because of COVID 19, we did succeed in hosting several events.

In October 2019, the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Elizabeth Economy spoke on Xi Jinping’s Third Revolution and the Future of U.S.-China Relations. Later in the fall, GAI supported the conference Getting China Right: Perspectives on the Challenge of China in the World.  In December, Jun’ichi Isomae, a Professor of Religious Studies at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, presented a lecture and slides called the Ghosts of Fukushima reflecting on the personal and spiritual impact upon the survivors of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

The Spring of 2019-20 began with a series of events that hewed closely to the theme of Environmental Humanities. Mayumi Fukunaga of Tokyo University lectured on “Futuring Salmon: Dreams of Marine Ranching Amidst the Ruins of the Anthropocene” and Jonathan Schlesinger presented “Always Already Global: A History of Ivory Carvers, Taste, and Global Interaction in Early Modern China”. Members of the Duke community across the university interested in the environment attended both events.  Later in February and early March we held a talk by SSRC-GAI fellowship recipient, Natalie Koch entitled Asian Entanglements in Arid Lands: Arizona, Arabia, and Desert Geopolitics. Meanwhile, with support from the von der Hayden Fellows Fund, GAI was able to co-sponsor two talks on contemporary India by noted Indian writer and public intellectual, Ramachandra Guha.

Unfortunately, soon after spring break, GAI had to cancel a significant number of scheduled events or postpone them to a later date.  Nonetheless, members of GAI are continuing to present and publish their research.  Jeff Nicolaisen together with SSRC-GAI fellow Ambika Aiyadurai have submitted the final version of the special issue called “Trans-species Listening and the Rights of Nature: Legal Persons Beyond the Human” (ISLE-2020-093) with five essays and an Introduction. The essays will appear as a special issue of the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. Director Prasenjit Duara also submitted a working paper entitled the Chinese World Order in Historical Perspective to DUCIGS Global Working Paper Series. His keynote to the AAS “The Art of Convergent Comparison: China and India in Modern Times,” was made available as a narrated slideshow, accessible through the AAS 2020 online program.

2019-2020 Notable Programs

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