The Association for Asian Studies is moving quickly to embrace a robust public role

Historians in the News

Dear Colleagues,

As President of the Association for Asian Studies and Editor of its flagship periodical, respectively, we’re writing this message to share our excitement about some initiatives underway relating to the annual meeting and the Journal of Asian Studies. Our hope is that these initiatives will help us continue to serve the needs of a wide range of people concerned with Asia, from K-12 educators to independent scholars, librarians to museum curators, and of course graduate students and faculty in colleges and universities around the world.

Here’s a top-five list of things we thought you might like to know about. Each reflects the Association’s commitment to maintaining traditional areas of strength, while also adapting to current needs by increasing the international reach and real-world relevance of what we do. Some of these initiatives represent truly novel departures from past precedent, while others build upon groundwork laid in recent years by our predecessors, the organization’s Councils, and the AAS Secretariat in Ann Arbor.

Keynote Addresses

To underscore the links between academic work and policy concerns, the annual meeting in Chicago (26-29 March 2009) will feature, for the first time in many years, keynote addresses by high-profile public figures. There will be two: one by Secretary Christopher Hill, a key figure in the Six-Party negotiations with Pyongyang on nuclear issues; the second by Professor Han Sung-Joo, former Korean Ambassador to the United States and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea. We expect that such keynotes will henceforth be a regular feature of AAS annual meetings.

Special Panels including Journalists and Public Intellectuals

Thanks to a generous grant from the Luce Foundation, the 2009 annual meeting will also feature two special panels that will include journalists (from major international publications) and public intellectuals (from across the Pacific). One of these will be a retrospective on Asian Olympics past, which will also include China specialist Susan Brownell and Koreanist Bruce Cumings. The other, to be chaired by sociologist Ezra Vogel, will explore Asian responses to the global economic crisis. Northeast Asianist Gilbert Rozman, who serves as program-committee chair in 2010, is spearheading what we hope will bring major transformations in the AAS annual meetings; he will be seeking your input in proposing many more innovative panels in the coming year.

Topical Essays in the Journal of Asian Studies (JAS)

Complementing these novel features of the March annual meeting, the Journal of Asian Studies is launching a new feature, “Asia Beyond the Headlines.” Linked to topical issues and written by respected scholars who draw upon years of specialized research, these short, accessible essays will speak across areas of specialization and will likely be informative to all AAS constituencies, including K-12 educators and policy makers. The first, forthcoming in the February 2009, issue is titled “Thai Politics as Reality T.V.” It is by Duncan McCargo, a specialist in Southeast Asian politics, who was in Bangkok when the protests there began heating up last September. It is illustrated with a two-page collage of color photographs that this Southeast Asianist took on scene. Upcoming pieces include economist Pranab Bardhan’s reflections on development and governance in China and India.

The Journal’s Internationalization

The ability to make greater use of color images (on both the cover and accompanying pieces) and to have an online presence have been two big pluses of the Journal’s recent move from being self-published to working with Cambridge University Press. Another advantage has been to increase the Journal’s international reach, thanks to that publisher’s global networks. Matching this have been other forms of internationalization. Even though the JAS has always been open to submissions from around the world, those coming from Asia have increased dramatically in recent years, as have the geographical spread of the editorial board. The Board has often had one member affiliated with an institution located outside of North America, generally in Europe, but now it has three, including one based in Melbourne and another in New Delhi.

Internationalization of the Annual Meetings

The AAS annual meetings have always attracted scholars from different parts of the world, but this year’s will be unique in including a contingent of Koreanist social scientists from Latin America, whose visit is funded by a generous grant from the Korea Foundation. Their visit is a fitting symbol of our ongoing efforts to “cross borders,” whether disciplinary or geographic or between the realms of scholarship and pedagogy and outreach (as shown by the Association’s ongoing commitment to Education about Asia and other publications that move between these realms). It also reflects the sense many of us have that it is important to take stock of how Asian issues look when viewed from different vantage points in an increasingly globalized world.

If we hadn’t decided to stick to just five points, we could bring up many other things. We could mention efforts underway to explore ways to showcase work by economists at future annual meetings, plans in the works for a joint AAS-University of Michigan conference on Asian urbanization, or the unusually wide range of disciplines now represented on the JAS Board of Editors (running the gamut from history, literature, and anthropology to sociology and political science). But we hope that this note has at least given you a brief sense of new things brewing at a venerable organization. The AAS will be marking its 70th anniversary in 2011 and we will soon be announcing a special expansion of the annual meeting, which will bring many more participants to the meeting and offer a variety of new panel formats. By the way, if you would like more information on the AAS, or want either to become a new member or to renew your membership, please consult our website www.asian-studies.org.

Best wishes,

Robert Buswell (UCLA), President, Association for Asian Studies

Jeffrey Wasserstrom (UC Irvine), Editor, Journal of Asian Studies

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