Year-long China Seminar Series Commences
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 02:09
Debuting with its first installment yesterday, the yearlong, interdisciplinary “China Watching Series”—organized by the history department’s assistant professor Rev. Jeremy Clarke, S.J.—will study the complex relationship between the East Asian country and the rest of the world.
“The seminar series, commemorating over 40 years of ongoing relationships between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China, will both explore the manner in which people have observed China over time—foreigners and Chinese alike—as well as the manner in which the Chinese critically observe their own world,” Clarke said in an email.
Through a number of cross-disciplinary lectures and events, the series’ purpose is to “confuse students’ categories about China, such that they can then actually begin learning about China,” Clarke said.
“It consists of a number of cross-disciplinary activities ranging from lectures given by Chinese studies experts on topics like Chinese art and Chinese law to a documentary dramatic performance based on oral histories collected and written by students,” he said.
Speakers for these activities have all been contacted, and some of them have already been booked to speak on specific dates. “In many cases,” Clarke said, concerning the scheduling and selection of the speakers, “the guests are not only professionals involved in this important and fascinating field, but are also friends, as well as friends of friends.”
In the spring semester, Sue Trevaskes, an associate professor at Griffith University, will lecture on the role of law and the death penalty in contemporary China, and Lois O’Connor, an acclaimed photographer, will present on modern Chinese photography.
The series also intends to feature an ongoing Chinese language corner, focusing on Mandarin acquisition skills, as well as a student gallery at ArtsFest, “displaying the east-west cultural exchange in the modern period.”
Future events for the fall semester include a lunchtime special seminar and an evening lecture by former ambassador Nicholas Platt—he will speak about life in Beijing from 1972 to 1973, covering the immediate aftermath of Nixon’s visit with Mao Zedong.
The first event of the series, a lecture by Nancy Berliner, Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, took place on Wednesday at noon in Robsham Theater. Berliner discussed how China interacted with the rest of the world, detailing “the global influences it made through art.”
Using art as a starting point to understanding the extensive, worldwide impact of Chinese culture, Berliner encouraged students to look at “the objects in the MFA’s Asian collection very carefully, analyzing their general shapes, but also their specific details—their texture, their color—and thinking about where those things might have come from.”
In order to actualize this event, as well as the others, Clarke reached out to various departments across campus, such as the Fine Arts Department, the Theatre Department, and the History Department. The Institute for Liberal Arts awarded a grant to fund the program, and he planned the “China Watching Series” by working with a range of BC experts, including professors Sheila Gallagher, Patricia Riggin, Mary Crane, and Robin Fleming.
Clarke said that the content of the series was something that had always been of interest to him. “This series has come about through the fact that I have been studying Chinese culture, history, and language since I was a high-school student in Australia,” he said.
Emphasizing the universal importance and relevance of the series’ subject matter, Clarke said, “China—its history, politics, and economy—continue to loom ever larger on both the world and the domestic stage … This is one of the U.S.’s most important relationships, and thus, anything that can better inform BC students and the broader public about China can only be a good thing.”