A Rich Tradition of EAST Scholarship
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Oct. 27, 2011
A Rich Tradition of EAST Scholarship
Trinity University hosts Southwest Conference on Asian Studies to showcase program excellence, faculty expertise
By Andi Narvaez '08
SAN ANTONIO - More than 70 East and South Asia scholars visited Trinity University in late September and early October for the 40th Annual Southwest Conference on Asian Studies (SWCAS). The conference was founded in 1972 as the result of an informal meeting of seven regional scholars who recognized the need for a venue to provide networking and scholarship opportunities for its members.
SWCAS is part of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS). With approximately 8,000 members worldwide representing all the regions and countries of Asia in all academic disciplines, AAS is the largest organization of its kind and serves its regional chapters by offering resources and access to its community of scholars and academic publications.
The annual gathering is an opportunity to showcase excellence in East and South Asia scholarship. Stephen Field, J.K. and Ingrid Lee Professor of Chinese at Trinity University and co-director of the EAST Project, was this year's SWCAS local arrangements chair. He recognized the value of a regional organization of this kind during its early stages and has been actively involved in supporting it ever since.
"In 1980, while still a graduate student, I attended my second SWCAS meeting in New Orleans, and it was there that I met two Trinity University professors of Asian studies -Donald N. Clark and C. Mackenzie Brown. I thought it was interesting that Trinity had two scholars in what was a very nascent field at the time, and I admired their work very much," Field said. "So 10 years later when I saw that there was a position open at Trinity, I applied and got the job, and those professors became not only my colleagues, but my closest friends." Field founded the Chinese program at Trinity in 1990 and, in 1995, Trinity became the second of only two universities in Texas with a major in Chinese.
For many of the scholars who attended SWCAS, this was their first time at Trinity and San Antonio. On Friday, the group toured the Jade Exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Throughout the weekend, guests attended sessions in the Coates University Center and enjoyed lunch in the Skyline Room, overlooking the city of San Antonio.
Roundtable discussions and presentations at SWCAS were as diverse as the field itself. Scholars shared research that explored the cultural and political realities of Asian nations, Asian art and literature, history, and religion. One very well-attended panel shed light on the unique pedagogical challenges of teaching Asian studies at liberal arts institutions. Educators shared the innovations they are introducing in their courses to overcome this challenge.
"There are students with different academic interests and levels of fluency taking my course in Confucianism," Trinity University religion professor Randall Nadeau said. "I assign a creative project where students of Chinese pair up with religion students to translate content and make sense of the material, and religion majors give EAST students a more comparative and sophisticated perspective of what they're studying."
One of the conference highlights was a lunch keynote by Ted Bestor, AAS vice president and professor and chair of anthropology at Harvard University. Bestor spoke about the Japan 2011 Disasters Archive Project, an effort to catalogue digital material in the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan. Bestor invited SWCAS colleagues to contribute to the project to ensure that valuable data survives for future education and research on one of the most significant events in that nation's history.
Opportunities such as these are why Xiaobing Li, professor and chair of history and geography at the University of Central Oklahoma, attends SWCAS.
"Asian studies is a still a new area of study at many universities. SWCAS provides interaction, connection, and exchange opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and access their unique areas of expertise," Li said. "The conference also offers professional development for students via essay contests and calls for papers."
For 40 years, SWCAS has enabled scholars to achieve and showcase excellence in East Asian studies through collaboration and connections that help them gain a better understanding of the various aspects and disciplines in the field.
Trinity professors were proud to bring an event of such high prestige to campus as part of ongoing efforts to cultivate the University's rich EAST Program tradition and internationalize the curriculum and student body. Trinity hosted the 5th annual meeting of SWCAS in 1977 under the direction of J. Norman Parmer, emeritus professor of history.
Text and photos provided by Andi Narvaez '08 of Austin, Texas. She graduated from Trinity University in May 2008 with a degree in communication and business administration. She is a freelance writer.