Interview with Professor Jonathan Kief

November 28, 2018

By: Muziah Kargbo

I had the chance to interview the newest addition to the department, Professor Jonathan Kief, who teaches within the Korean program on the relationship between South and North Korea through literature and culture. Talking to him led to some stimulating conversation on how he became interested in North and South Korea specifically. He began with that his interest in North and South Korea just happened randomly in fact. Back at Columbia University he needed a summer job and only the East Asian department accepted him. During his time there he grew interested in taking East Asian-focused courses further growing his interest in East Asia, specifically South Korea.

Yet, he noticed the lack of literature courses pertaining to South Korea. This sparked an interest in pursuing a degree in South Korean literature. During his research, he noticed a lot of North Korean sources cropped up allowing him to delve more into researching the other Korea as well.  Professor Kief explains how he feels North Korea has been left out of a lot of courses relating to Korea despite the shared history and culture the nation had with South Korea before the Korean War. He feels it’s necessary to look at both Koreas to understand the interactions between the two while also adding more depth to the one dimensional view we typically have on North Korea (e.g. nuclear weapons, crazy Kim Jong-Un, backwards civilization).

Currently, he is looking at the interactions between North and South Korean culture in the late 1940s through the 1960s. He explained that though we may look at the countries as two separate literary spheres, they emerged at the same time and act in competition with each other though they are interrelated. He also added that Japan mediated literature between the two Koreas during this time. Professor Kief’s future research involves looking more deeply into this relationship through the use of radio during this time.

As for how this research will be incorporated into future courses at UNC, Professor Kief has proposed a number of courses including ones like “Cold War Culture in East Asia” which would look at not only the Koreas, but China, Japan, Taiwan, and even Hong Kong and another course titled “Imagining the City in Modern Korea” which would be about how urban space is represented in literature and film within history. He also hopes to include North Korea as much as possible in any and all courses he proposes in the future.

Finally, our discussion ended with a small talk about the future Korean major. With a tentative fall 2019 launch date, we can’t give away too many details, but after my discussion with Professor Kief, it’s a major to look forward to and will be worth the wait!

Once again, we extend a further warm welcome to him here at UNC and eagerly await more of what he will bring to the department and the Korean program for the future.

 

Professors Afroz Taj and John Caldwell perform Ram Leela

November 19, 2018

Prof. Afroz Taj and John Caldwell performed in the annual community Ram Leela performance on October 21. Based on the ancient Sanskrit epic “Ramayana”, the Ram Leela tells the story of Lord Ram’s exile with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman, Sita’s abduction by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, and her ultimate rescue. The performance, sponsored by the Hindu Society of North Carolina and NC Hindi Vikas Mandal, is held on the Hindu holiday Dusshera, which celebrates the victory of Ram over Ravana. Afroz plays Ravana (the villain) and John plays Hanuman, the monkey god. Afroz and John have been performing in this event since 2010.

Sita and Ravana Confrontation
Sita and Hanuman in Lanka
Ravana’s Last Laugh
Manthara and Ravana
Ravana and Chandrahaas

 

Interview with Professor Bardsley

November 16, 2018

By: Muziah Kargbo

We had the opportunity to interview Professor Bardsley, who is currently in Japan, about her work and activities during her stay in the country. She currently holds a research position at the International Gender Studies Institute at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo. There she teaches seminars and plans international seminars including one where Dr. Nadia Yaqub and a colleague, Dr. Diya Abdo, presented their new book, Bad Girls of the Arab World. As for teaching, Professor Bardsley works mainly with graduate students teaching her own courses named “Chasing Madame Butterfly, the Gender of Japonisme” this semester and in spring, “Dior in Japan: Political Economy, Fashion, and Diplomacy,” a course dealing with issues stemming from a fashion show the Parisian brand did in 1953 Japan.

Besides teaching, Professor Bardsley continues her research with fashion as a women’s site of transnational interaction in the late 1940s and 1950s. She describes part of the research by saying, “Fashion came to mean more than clothing the body, and was associated with issues of class, national identity, gender, and economic recovery.” It also explores the modernity and peace fashion brought to post-war Japan.

In between research and teaching, Professor Bardsley enjoys going out to Japanese-Italian cafes with her husband and even helps the owners make menus in English to attract travelers who’ll come to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She has also been inspired by Japanese Dixieland jazz bands she saw performing on the street and hopes to incorporate performances like that in her “Japanese Theater” course here at UNC.

 

Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Aashka Patel

November 9, 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?

I wanted to be able to immerse myself in a topic I had a lot of interest in (especially one that relates to my personal heritage), as well as synthesize my own thoughts to have a conversation with the scholars of that field. Research lets me do both of those things.

Briefly, what is your research about?

I am researching the film Water for its content and controversy and more broadly studying the use of widows as political objects by colonialist powers and modern Hindu Nationalists.

What do you like most about your work?

I like studying history and learning about the activism of those before me, as well as exploring facets of my own heritage and culture.

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

From my research, I’m coming to understand the truth behind the statement “history repeats itself”, as I am seeing themes of my research reflected in modern times. Also, to write down every fleeting thought I have regarding my research, no matter how unimportant I think it is, because they usually turn out being extremely helpful to me when writing.

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

Writing, and trying to put down my abstract thoughts in a way that others can understand on paper.

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

I would like to have a career in medicine, but I always envision myself conducting research in the future.

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Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Hannah Balser

November 9, 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?

I’ve worked in a psychology research lab since sophomore year, but some of the Asian studies and anthropology courses I’ve taken really inspired me to do my own research.

Briefly, what is your research about?

I’m studying the depiction of magic in Japanese popular media. I’m interested in using anthropological models about magic practices and applying them to Japan to understand how popular stories communicate messages about gender, youth, and national identity.

What do you like most about your work?

I like applying concepts I’ve studied about the anthropological value of popular culture and magic and exploring the overlap between the two. It’s also just really fun to get to spend so much time talking about a subject that really interests me.

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

I would say that even beyond books and libraries, people are the most wonderful resource and there are many professors and other faculty who are willing to go out of their way to help you and assist you in your research.

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

I think the most difficult part has just been not becoming too overwhelmed at the size and scope of the project and narrowing it down to something manageable.

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

I would like to become a professor of Asian studies or anthropology, so yes definitely.

 

Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Preeya Deol

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?

I worked closely with a professor in the RELI/ASIA department and it influenced me to possibly go about comprehending how policy, as well as religion and the patriarchy all tie together to influence menstrual health practices.

Briefly, what is your research about?

My research will consist of interviewing women from the Sikh faith in the Triangle Area, solely to comprehend what they believe in regards to menstruation, as well as what practices they follow.

What do you like most about your work?

I like that I am able to work and interact with people, truly taking their stories and analyzing how time, practice, and change in location have shifted perspectives over generations.

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

So far, I have learned that there isn’t much information regarding extremely specific topics at times, but that is where I am pushed to continue with my own interviews and add to this field.

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

(same as 4?)

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

I hope to work in the health field and this is a project I definitely want to continue as I progress in my professional career.

 

Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Khaleelah Elhajoui

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?

I had a very encouraging discussion with the professor who is advising me now! I thought it would be exciting to take on a long-term project and invest such a significant amount of time and energy focused on one thing.

Briefly, what is your research about?

My research explores the genealogy and history of Japanese women’s language, with a particular focus on the control of women’s language carried out through conduct manuals in the Edo period.

What do you like most about your work?

I have really enjoyed the time in between bouts of intense reading and research where I have been able to just freely think about all of the information I’ve absorbed and explore new paths through the material mentally. I’ve definitely made most of my major structural and argumentative breakthroughs while thinking about my sources in the shower or while walking to school.

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

It is important to work gradually and consistently in order to give yourself enough time/space to find things (ideas, sources) that are not immediately evident.

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

I am working with a very difficult body of primary source material, so I have been struggling to work through it and translate it efficiently while making sure I don’t overlook something important.

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

My interests are pretty scattered, so the careers I’m considering range from speech-language pathologist to ceramicist to baker. But I think that no matter what I end up doing, I will inevitably find ways to incorporate research, because it is vital for forming deeper understanding and fostering creativity in any field.