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Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Maggie McKenzie

November 8, 2018

For Undergraduate Research Week, we’re featuring interviews with our senior honors thesis students about their work in progress.

What encouraged you to get involved in research?

To be honest, I felt like it was the natural progression of my undergraduate career. I had taken a grad level research course with Dr. Ernst of religious studies in the past and loved it, and I’ve always enjoyed (weirdly enough?) writing papers and doing research.

Briefly, what is your research about?

I am looking at how King Abdullah II of Jordan articulates the national identity of Jordan from his position as head-of-state and symbolic monarch

What do you like most about your work?

I am genuinely and enthusiastically passionate about the topic of my research, and my initial research questions about Jordanian identity were actually questions that I left Jordan wondering about after studying there in the summer of 2018. It’s been really rewarding to get to dive deeply into complex questions I truly want to explore.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from this experience (so far)?

Developing an effective methodology is key, even when one’s research is not exactly empirical. You must be able to make sense of your notes on your sources and be consistent in the way you relay and produce knowledge for your readers!

What has been the most difficult part of your research experience (so far)?

As someone who is very “deadline motivated,” I find it difficult to stay consistent in the volume of work I’m doing on my thesis day to day and week to week. Keeping on track is key to completing the project, but it’s its own challenge!

What do you want to do as a career, and do you think you might want a career that involves research?

Though I plan first to go into NGO and nonprofit work, I would like to envision a career in academia later down the line. I love the university environment and could definitely see myself returning to teach and do research later in life.


The Department of Asian Studies statement on the Confederate monument at McCorkle Place

August 30, 2018

The staff and faculty of the Department of Asian Studies express their abhorrence for the toppled Confederate monument that formerly stood at McCorkle Place, and their support for the students and community members who performed the ethical act of civil disobedience that brought down the statue, a hateful symbol of white supremacy on our campus, on August 20, 2018. We further urge Chancellor Folt, the UNC Board of Governors, the North Carolina Legislature, and the district attorney to refrain from levelling charges against any of the protesters of the monument. We also register our support for Maya Little, a former teaching assistant in Asian Studies, who has played a prominent role in sustaining the protests against Silent Sam.

 The faculty of Asian Studies teach students to understand and respect other cultures and perspectives. We also routinely teach and research the relationship between power and the right to write history and create knowledge. Many of the regions and cultures of Asia and the Middle East have suffered from a history of colonialism and its legacies. Among those legacies is an ongoing racialized imbalance of power between the Global North and the Global South, which manifests itself in an imbalance in the power to name, to narrate, and to represent. What we do in our classrooms is not divorced from events outside the classroom, including the types of monuments that stand on the UNC campus. For more than 100 years Silent Sam celebrated bigotry and valorized the racism that made both slavery and colonialism possible. Its removal facilitates our work, as well as that of UNC as a whole, whose mission “to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society” we share.


Olivia Holder named 2018 Yenching Scholar

July 19, 2018

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alumna Olivia Holder will join the fourth cohort at the Yenching Academy of Peking University in Beijing, China, as a Yenching scholar. A Yenching Academy scholarship offers a fully funded interdisciplinary master’s degree in China studies. Holder will enter the program in fall 2018 with a concentration in history and archeology. She is Carolina’s first Yenching scholar.

Holder, from Greenville, North Carolina, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in history, concentrating on modern European history, with minors in Chinese and comparative literature. Additionally, Holder was awarded a William D. Weir Honors Fellowship in Asian studies to travel to China for intensive language study and a summer internship experience, during which Holder interned for the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center and the LanYuan ChaShi tea house. Holder also interned at Eastern Leaves, a tea company that owns a wild tea plantation, as a student.

A Carolina Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa, Holder was awarded a Class of 1938 Fellowship to study Chinese tea ritual and a Hogan Fellowship to research tea in London in preparation for her senior honors thesis. Her activities on campus included Honor Court and the Ackland Student Guide program.

“I am honored to join the fourth cohort of scholars and take part in a dynamic program that uses a unique, interdisciplinary approach to understanding China and our global world,” said Holder. “At Yenching Academy, each scholar designs her course of study. I plan to design a course of study that discovers the threads that connect China’s history to her present and will weave China’s future.”

“Our office just initiated the partnership with the Yenching Academy so that UNC-Chapel Hill can nominate and endorse talented students interested in the broad, interdisciplinary master’s program that Yenching offers. We are delighted that Olivia Holder will be the first representative of this new partnership,” said Professor Inger Brodey, director of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships.

The English-taught Yenching Academy program emphasizes interdisciplinary education and studying China’s development from both Chinese and international perspectives. During their twelve-month fellowships, international Yenching scholars complete coursework and a thesis. Scholars design their study experience by choosing one of six academic concentrations that direct their electives and field studies. Complementing academic courses are Chinese language training and career-focused workshops, consultations and seminars.

Silent Sam

July 19, 2018

The faculty and staff of the Department of Asian Studies urge the officers of UNC and other state officials to pursue every avenue to remove the “Silent Sam” monument.

Peter Cooke receives Chancellor’s Award

July 27, 2017

On April 18, Peter Cooke, a major in Arab Cultures, was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, one of two prestigious Chancellor’s Awards honoring humanitarian work by undergraduates each year.

Morgan Pitelka awarded SECAAS book prize

July 27, 2017

The Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (SECAAS) awarded two book prizes for 2016, announcing these at the SECAAS annual meeting, January 13-15, 2017 in Oxford, MS.  Morgan Pitelka, Professor of Asian Studies and Director of the Carolina Asia Center, won one of these awards for his book, Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability (University of Hawaii Press).

“In Spectacular Accumulation, Pitelka investigates the significance of material culture and sociability in late sixteenth-century Japan, focusing in particular on the career and afterlife of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The story of Ieyasu illustrates the close ties between people, things, and politics and offers us insight into the role of material culture in the shift from medieval to early modern Japan and in shaping our knowledge of history.” –University of Hawai’i Press

Claudia Yaghoobi organizes three innovative events for the Persian Studies program

July 27, 2017

On January 24, two Asian Studies faculty were involved in a panel on “Middle Eastern Women Writers and their Impacts.” Assistant Professor Claudia Yaghoobi organized the event, while Associate Professor and Chair of Asian Studies Nadia Yaqub served as a moderator. Two scholars were invited to give talks on the topic. Dr. Nasrin Rahimieh (UC Irvine) discussed the flourishing of Iranian women’s writing in the wake of the 1979 revolution and questioned whether this phenomenon is a reflection or byproduct of the revolution and what it might reveal about the conditions of women’s belonging to the national imaginary. Dr. Nesreen Akhtarkhavari (DePaul University) discussed Jordanian women writers and their contributions to the local and regional literary scene with a focus on the award-winning writer Samiha Kharis and her ability to breathe life into her work creating a range of Arab women protagonists, unrestrained and faithful to their social and cultural fabrics. Around 50 people both from the campus and the public community were in attendance.​

On February 20, Dr. Yaghoobi organized a book reading for Dr. Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh (Northeastern Illinois University) who discussed his book The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani  (Syracuse University Press, 2015), and the role of Islamic jurisprudence and political reform in Iran. Dr. Yaghoobi also organized a panel on the topic of the Iran-Iraq (1980-1988) war. Dr. Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh (Northeastern Illinois University) and Dr. Amir Khadem (University of Alberta) were featured scholars who spoke on the war and its aftermath.