Skip to main content

Meet the Grad Students: Muziah Kargbo!

September 1, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Muziah, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, my name is Muziah Kargbo, a first-year grad student from Huntersville, NC. I graduated from UNC last year with a BA in Asian and Korean Studies with a dash of Japanese. Nice to meet you all.

What program track did you choose?

I’m taking the interdisciplinary Track with a focus on Korean and Japanese courses.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I hope that by the time I graduate from DAMES, I will be more fluent and adept in Japanese and Korean so I can use both in my future career and endeavors whether that be translating, writing/journalism, or researching and educating myself and others about the entertainment industry in both countries (which I hope I can find an internship or work in!) But ultimately, I hope to gain the confidence, skills, and connections for post-grad life and my future.

Meet the Grad Students: Rania Adamczyk!

August 23, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Rania, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I come from the Midwest, born, raised, and schooled, so the flora of North Carolina has had me enthralled since I stepped off the plane. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where I filled many waking hours playing, singing, and writing music, taking theatre classes, and being an old-time radio buff. Ask me about The Saint. On second thought, maybe don’t. (I can also sing 1940s cigarette jingles from memory, just saying, it’s a neat party trick you don’t see every day.) From Oberlin College and Conservatory, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I have a Bachelor of Music in Composition and a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Studies. I also did a math minor there, for which I got to take a très cool applied seminar in using math to make art. I’m passionate about the connective power of art and I hope to get involved soon in collaborative, community-minded art projects here in Chapel Hill! When I’m not doing that, you’ll find me buried nerd-deep in the study of popular Hindi cinema — which is the area of my thesis work.

What program track did you choose?

Interdisciplinary track – I’m interested in popular Indian cinema as a site of multicultural, national, and international discourse, as well as comparisons between Indian and Korean stardom.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

A regional studies-specific master’s program is a great opportunity to focus on language acquisition and immerse in the context of history, literature, etc. I don’t have coming from a background in film studies and music. I’m looking forward to being in a department that bridges the whole continent of Asia and the Middle East, with chances to make expected and unexpected connections across what peers are studying and passionate about.


Meet the Grad Students: Sophie Eichelberger!

August 16, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Sophie, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I graduated from Davidson College in 2020 where I majored in English and East Asian Studies. After graduation I had planned to teach English in Japan through the JET Program, but due to COVID, I ended up staying in North Carolina and worked as a college adviser this past year.

I’m interested in pre-modern Japanese art history, as well as East Asian history as a whole. When I’m not studying, I love taking care of my excessive number of house plants.

Which track in our grad program are you studying?


What are you hoping to accomplish here in DAMES, and here at Carolina?

I hope to increase my grasp of Japanese, do lots of research, and make connections with other people in the Carolina community.

There and Back Again: The Resurgence of Vietnamese at Carolina in DAMES

June 14, 2021

Exciting news, everyone! Vietnamese is back!

Vietnamese at Carolina: A Look Back

The last year DAMES offered Vietnamese classes prior to the upcoming fall semester was the 2005-2006 academic year. Once taught by Professor Emeritus Eric Henry, Vietnamese was eventually phased out of the curriculum as interest in the Chinese language program boomed and funds were rerouted to support that growing interest. Dr. Henry, who also taught Chinese, was compelled to devote his time to teaching Chinese language and content courses. His other courses about Vietnamese culture, like “The Social History of Popular Music in East Asia” and “Introduction to Vietnamese Culture through Music and Narrative,” became fond memories for alums of the program.

Dr. Henry retired in 2012. He still visits campus often, however, and maintains a steady presence at local cafes and coffee shops. He’d doubtless be delighted to know that Vietnamese is rekindling within the department, soon to enthrall a new generation of college students.

What’s next for Vietnamese?

Starting this fall, DAMES will be offering VIET 101 and, in the spring, VIET 102, both semesters of Elementary Vietnamese. Next fall we’ll also be offering VIET 203 (Intermediate Vietnamese) in tandem with Elementary Vietnamese, which means that anyone who starts taking Vietnamese in Fall 2021 will be able to take the courses necessary to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

After that, only the horizon awaits. As always, student enrollment, interest, and funding will determine the path forward for Vietnamese, and with luck, Dr. Henry will pay the new classes an occasional visit to provide invaluable wisdom for the program’s future success.

News of DAMES Alums!

June 11, 2021

Have you ever wondered what DAMES alums are up to? Now you can know! Here are updates from DAMES alums Erin Posas and Matt Coss, both 2016 grads!

Fun fact: This picture of Matt and Erin was taken at another class of 2016 DAMES alumnus’s (James Williams) wedding!

After nearly five years as a consultant working first with the public sector and then, for the last six months, working in the firm’s global office to improve her company’s internal sustainability efforts, Erin will be starting a Master of Science in Environment and Sustainability with a concentration in Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan.

Erin said of her plans: “I want to spend my career driving racial and socioeconomic equity in environmental policy and planning across the private and public sectors, both locally and internationally. At my time at UNC, the Asian Studies department afforded me irreplaceable opportunities, from language study to study abroad, which helped me become a world citizen. The Asian Studies department aided me again recently with a recommendation for my graduate studies applications (thank you so much, Dr. Visser!). I continue my journey now toward becoming a citizen of the planet, able to pair science with multilingual and intercultural abilities in pursuit of a greener, more just world.”

Matt completed a master’s degree in Second Language Acquisition at the University of Maryland and worked for four years at the National Foreign Language Center developing materials for learners and teachers of critical languages (including Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Farsi, etc.). During and after his MA, Matt taught Chinese at both Georgetown and (currently) George Washington University, where he has also successfully proposed and taught three new courses and is actively involved in both undergraduate and MA programs. Matt will be starting his PhD in Second Language Studies at Michigan State University, focusing on instructed (classroom-based) second language acquisition—learning, teaching, and assessment of second languages! After graduation, Matt hopes to take an academic job where he can combine his passions for language teaching (Chinese and Spanish!) and Applied Linguistics/Second Language Acquisition research.

“I continue to be so grateful to the Asian Studies department at UNC for helping build the foundation on which I’ve built my academic and professional career,” Matt said. “I am still frequently in touch with Professor Zhou (we have even collaborated on curriculum design and professional development events these past two years!), and frequently see other members of the Chinese faculty at conferences and other events, which is always so nice. I look forward to continued conversations and collaborations with Asian Studies and the Carolina Asia Center as I work through my PhD!”

Wrapping up 2021 with DAMES!

May 20, 2021

Though the 2020-2021 academic year brought challenges of the most unprecedented sort to our campus, classrooms (virtual!), and community, DAMES accomplished great things! Our students worked unbelievably hard. Our faculty rose to the occasion. We came together to work through hardship, and below are some highlights of our endeavors.

  • DAMES devoted most of its human resources to the significant challenge of remote teaching and learning in the fall and spring semesters, with great results. Claudia Yaghoobi, for example, connected one of her Persian studies classes to a classroom in Iran through the university’s new Connecting Carolina Classrooms with the World (CCCW) initiative.
  • We also worked hard in the fall semester to promote the launch of our new graduate program, and this spring we successfully recruited our first class of MA students.
  • DAMES received international attention for hosting an innovative and timely “Blackness in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies” speaker series; several of the events are available for streaming online.

Many of our faculty won awards!

  • Doria El Kerdany, Teaching Associate Professor of Arabic, won a Sitterson Teaching Award
  • Yuki Aratake, Teaching Professor of Japanese, won a Tanner Teaching Award
  • Professor Nadia Yaqub won a Senior Humanities Research Fellow at NYU-Abu Dhabi
  • Associate Professor Yaron Shemer won an Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship
  • Assistant Professor Jonathan Kief won an Academy of Korean Studies Fellowship

Three of our students presented their honors theses at our yearly colloquium!

  • Faith Virago, “Gender in the Lives of Chinese Women: The Impact of Cross-Cultural Transitions to the US”
    Advisor: Li-ling Hsiao
  • Junqi Zhang, “The Reception of Thai Boys Love Series in China: Consumption, Imagination, and Friction”
    Advisor: Mark Driscoll
  • Thomas Curtis, “Minamoto no Yoshitsune: From History to Cultural Nationalism”
    Advisor: Morgan Pitelka

And last but certainly not least, we finished our Celebrating 40 Years: 40 for 40 campaign in December 2020, showcasing the achievements and adventures of our faculty, staff, students, and our alums.

2021 isn’t over. Fall is coming and we’re gearing up, as always, for new opportunities.

See you soon!

Congratulations to the Class of 2021

May 12, 2021

A short but loving video from your assorted DAMES faculty offering heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class of 2021! We so enjoyed teaching you the languages and cultures of Asia and the Middle East over the past four years! Please stay in touch and let us know how we can continue to support you. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Virtual Event: On the Politics of Presence: Afro-Asia in the Age of Black Lives Matter

March 29, 2021

On the Politics of Presence: Afro-Asia in the Age of Black Lives Matter

with Dr. Marvin Sterling

Diandra Dwyer, UNC DAMES alumna and Tokyo-based filmmaker, Moderator

April 8th, 4pm

Marvin D. Sterling’s research centers on a range of Jamaican cultural expressions in Japan, including roots reggae, dancehall reggae, and Rastafari. He adopts several theoretical perspectives in this research. He uses performance studies, for instance, to ethnographically explore the dimensions of social power—such as gender, class and ethnic difference—that inform Japanese engagement with these cultural expressions. Japanese practitioners of these significantly Afrocentric cultural expressions afford analysis of how ideas of race and particularly blackness have been constructed and re-imagined in Japan and around the globe. In a more recent line of research, Sterling ethnographically explores the experiences of mixed-race peoples of Japanese and African descent as insight into the imagination of Japaneseness and blackness in Japan today. He is author of Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan (Duke University Press, 2010).


Sponsored by the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, and co-sponsored by the Carolina Asia Center.

DAMES Statement on Anti-Asian Violence and Discrimination

March 17, 2021

The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies categorically condemns the attacks on Asian Americans in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, and rejects the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination of the past year. These acts are rooted in a long American history of white supremacy, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant racism, and our department exists to oppose such bigotry and bias through education, language learning, international collaboration, and scholarly activism. We stand in solidarity with UNC’s newly established Asian American Center and our long-standing partner the Carolina Asia Center and offer our support to all Asian and Asian American students, faculty, and staff.

Some resources suggested by Professor Heidi Kim, Director of the AAC, among other friends and colleagues:

Asian American Community Organizations

UNC Asian American Center. Asian American Center (

North Carolina Asian Americans Together. North Carolina Asian Americans Together (


Counseling and Psychological Services

UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS,

Asian American Psychological Association COVID-19 Resources, AAPA COVID-19 Related Resources – Google Docs

Asian Americans and the Movement for Black Lives (Workshop). March 31, 2021 7 p.m.

Meeting Registration – Zoom

Asian Mental Health Collective (online community for Asian mental health support). Asian Mental Health Collective (

Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American Therapist Directory

APISAA Therapist Directory — Asian Mental Health Collective (

24-Hour Asian LifeNet Hotline. Call 1 (877) 990-8585, Available 24/7. Languages available: Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Fujianese.


Resources for Reporting Hate Crimes


  1. Report an Incident Form
  2. University Ombuds Office 

External Reporting Resources

  1. Stop AAPI Hate
  2. North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT)
  3. Fair Housing NC – Know Your Rights
  4. NAPABA Hate Crime Resources


Readings and Teaching Resources

Ho, Jennifer. “Anti-Asian Racism, Black Lives Matter, and COVID-19.” Japan Forum, DOI


Hsu, Madeline. Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction.2nd ed. Oxford University

Press, 2016.

Lee, Erika. The Making of Asian America: A History. Simon & Schuster 2015.

Lopez, Ian Haney. White By Law: the Legal Construction of Race. 10th Anniversary edition.

NYU Press 2006.

Maeda, Daryl. Chains of Babylon: the Rise of Asian America. University of Minnesota Press


Ngai, Mae. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton

University Press 2014.

Schlund-Vials, Cathy, Linda Vo, Scott Wong (eds). Keywords for Asian American Studies. New

York University Press 2015.


Other Resources

Maiko Masquerade: New Book by Professor Emerita Jan Bardsley!

March 10, 2021

Jan Bardsley’s new book Maiko Masquerade: Crafting Geisha Girlhood in Japan debuts this month from University of California Press.

What’s Maiko Masquerade about?

Maiko Masquerade explores Japanese representations of the maiko, or apprentice geisha, in films, manga, and other popular media as an icon of exemplary girlhood. Jan Bardsley traces how the maiko, long stigmatized as a victim of sexual exploitation, emerges in the 2000s as the chaste keeper of Kyoto’s classical artistic traditions. Insider accounts by maiko and geisha, their leaders and fans, show pride in the training, challenges, and rewards maiko face. No longer viewed as a toy for men’s amusement, she serves as catalyst for women’s consumer fun. This change inspires stories of ordinary girls—and even one boy—striving to embody the maiko ideal, engaging in masquerades that highlight questions of personal choice, gender performance, and national identity.

What inspired the book?

Maiko Masquerade draws on Jan Bardsley’s many years of teaching “Geisha in History, Fiction, and Fantasy,” which focused on the dynamics of cultural representation in Japan and abroad. She dedicates the book to her Carolina students.

Jan Bardsley

Jan remembers students asking at the end of the course, “What kinds of geisha stories exist these days in Japan?” This question inspired Jan to take up research in Kyoto. “Research quickly made me realize that maiko (apprentice geisha) were the focus of popular attention, not geisha.”

In Kyoto, even Pikachu enjoys maiko cosplay. Photo by Jennifer Prough, 2019.

As Kyoto’s mascot and character brand, maiko morph into kawaii objects of all kinds–candy, street signs, post-it notes. Japanese and international tourists cosplay as maiko. Actual maiko perform in Kyoto events and public dances.

Leading a UNC study abroad program in Osaka in 2011, Jan taught “Japanese Theater” and joined students on field trips to nearby Kyoto. “That semester gave me the chance to learn about contemporary geisha culture. I talked with artists, authors, and shop owners in the neighborhoods (hanamachi) where geisha live and work. I attended public dances and met geisha, maiko, and their supporters.”

Why study maiko?

Photographed in Kyoto, 2009, by Claudia Bignion. Wikimedia Commons.

“Maiko Masquerade is not an ethnography of actual young women working as maiko. Rather I analyze the messages about girlhood in Japan evident in popular media.” This is the first academic work on maiko and makes Japanese representations available to an English-speaking audience.

“I hope my students enjoy getting the answer to their questions about geisha and maiko stories in contemporary Japan, even though it took me almost fifteen years to get back to them,” says Jan.

Blogging about maiko and geisha culture

Retired after 25 years at UNC, Jan is trying her hand at writing a blog to tell the many stories that she could not fit into the book. “I take up maiko costuming, food culture, books and movies on the hanamachi—further analyzing the dynamics of representation and enjoying the diverse stories.” Jan welcomes visitors to her new blog!