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A Celebration of Professor Emerita Jan Bardsley

November 25, 2019

Faculty, Staff, and Students from the Department of Asian Studies gathered in the Queen Anne room of the Campus Y on Friday, Nov. 22 to celebrate the leadership, teaching, scholarship, and friendship of Professor Emerita Jan Bardsley, who retired from UNC in the spring of 2019.

The event began with Consul General Kazuyuki Takeuchi from the Atlanta Consulate of Japan presenting Professor Bardsley with a commendation for her remarkable career in higher education and service to Japanese-American relations. This was followed by a playful “Jan-ecdote” quiz in which we shared memories of working with Jan over the years.

After the quiz, Professor Emeritus Miles Fletcher read a limerick in celebration of Professor Bardsley, and the event closed with a music performance by Professors Afroz Taj and John Caldwell.

Professor Bardsley’s career has made her one of the most influential scholars in her field. She has published two sole-authored books, fifteen refereed articles, and seven refereed book chapters. She has also written five refereed co-authored articles and chapters, co-edited two edited volumes, and guest edited six special journal issues. Her third sole-authored book is near completion and is under contract for review at the University of California Press.

The quality of Bardsley’s research and writing more than matches her productivity. Her first book, The Bluestockings of Japan, is a major contribution to the study of global first-wave feminism and foundational to Japanese women’s studies. This book earned her the prestigious Hiratsuka Raichō Award from Japan’s Women’s University in Tokyo in 2012. Her second book, Women and Democracy in Cold War Japan, fills a gap in Japanese women’s history by targeting an understudied period (the 1950s) and has consequently been widely read and well-received. Her third monograph in progress, “Maiko Masquerade: Crafting Geisha Girlhood in Japan,” as well as her two coedited volumes Bad Girls of Japan and Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power and Etiquette in Japan, approach Japanese popular culture and vernacular practices in a highly innovative manner. As a result of this extensive, wide-ranging, and high quality research she has been invited to give dozens of lectures at universities in the United States and abroad. Most recently she was awarded a prestigious visiting professorship at Ochanamizu University in Tokyo.

Bardsley has emerged as a leader in Japanese women’s studies not only on the basis of her research, but also as a result of her generous support for colleagues and extensive mentoring of younger scholars in the field of Japanese women’s studies. Through this work she has been a leader in shaping the field in ways that will far outlast her own career as a teacher and scholar. Her extensive record of collaboration (coauthoring and coediting volumes) that is unusual in the humanities is one indication of this commitment. Her guest editing of journal issues and participation on numerous external dissertation committees and reviews for promotion of colleagues is another. It is rare to find a scholar who combines such a sustained personal record of scholarly excellence with a similar record of generosity in assisting others to develop their own careers. In this regard she serves as a model for the type of collaboration and care, as opposed to competition, that sustains high-quality scholarship and teaching programs broadly within fields and institutions over time.

Not surprisingly, Bardsley’s record includes a number of honors, including an invitation to join the Association of Asian Studies Distinguished Speakers Bureau; a Carolina Women’s Center Award, an IAH fellowship, and two Chapman Family Faculty fellowships; a Kenan Senior Faculty Research and Scholarly leave; an Outstanding Faculty Woman Award, and Tanner, Edward Kidder Graham, and Sitterson teaching awards in addition to the honors already mentioned above. She has also held numerous leadership positions within the profession.

Professor Bardsley, we will miss you!


Summary of Prof. Aldrich’s “Black Wave” Talk

November 18, 2019

TO THE READER: This is a summary of the “live tweets” written by Morgan Pitelka during Professor Aldrich’s talk. Apologies for infelicitous grammar.


Hosting a talk by @DanielPAldrich on his new book Black Wave today at 5:30 pm in the FedEx Global Ed Center, 4003. Daniel isn’t just an influential political scientist who studies disaster resilience; he’s a @UNCAsianStudies alum. What will you do with an Asian Studies major?

18,400 people died in the 3/11 disaster, but the percentages from community to community differed. This means something and allows us to study why some communities lost no one and others lost more than 10%. Why? Book talk on Black Wave.

Another topic of interest to Aldrich is recovery, and the rates of recovery after 3/11. He quantifies the rate of recovery in different communities and then tried to understand why and how some are more successful.

Clusters of communities were particularly successful, in a two-year period. Why?

Lastly what is the mental health toll of these disasters, and how does the ongoing shock of displacement and disaster change lives and communities? Aldrich says emergency kits is not the answer.

Likewise giant public works projects are not the answer, says Aldrich. The core aspects of survival and recovery come from social connections.

He asked people why they wanted to return to Fukushima? Social ties.

What was needed after the disaster was collective action, says Aldrich, and social ties enable this. Makes it possible to overcome barriers to collective action.

Also necessary after a shock is what Aldrich calls “informal insurance” – knowing your neighbors and being able to rely on them, trust them. The book tests these various theories of social capital.

First, did communities with the highest wave (19 meters, 60 feet) have a higher death rate? No. Some communities had worse death rates with significantly lower wave heights. Why? Was it political participation at the national level? Did communities that had pushed back against the LDP have inferior infrastructure, and thus suffer more? Was the amount of concrete between your community and the ocean the answer? Was it the average age of the community? 40 minutes between the earthquake and the tsunami. If you are elderly or infirm, that might not be enough time in some communities. But if the community had strong social ties, even those elderly who didn’t know they had to evacuate received help.

Aldrich argues that the strength of social ties in the community trumps all the other possible explanations–wave height, politics, age, infrastructure–and drives outcomes.

Another question: who rebuilds after a disaster? And is rebuilding, cleaning up, the same as recovery? Aldrich shows us pictures of a street that has been cleaned but is empty, no people, and perhaps indicates a dead community.

Gives example of 2 billion spent on a fishing village of 16,000 people. One of the members of the mayor’s cabinet had gone to school with the head of construction ministry; that connection gave them full funding while other communities got nothing.

So Aldrich proposes in the book an index of recovery. The most powerful predictor of successful recovery turns out to be how many powerful politicians in national government come from or are connected to your village.

Communities that had a lot of powerful connections sometimes rebuilt even stronger and better than before the disaster.

Looking at stress after the disaster, found that wealth does not affect stress levels. Good health also doesn’t affect stress, though bad health (before the disaster) does, in the negative. Social ties did have a positive effect on stress levels.

So Aldrich proposes 5 social-tie building solutions: First, get to know your neighbors who are in effect the first responders. Build neighborliness. Second, build a sense of the large neighborhood, the broader expanse of social ties. Third, build better communities in the sense of the physical landscape–a park, a third space, a dog run–that allows mundane activities. Trees=shady spots.Fourth, improve civic engagement, get people involved in political process. Hold multiple meetings so people help run the town or city. Fifth, encourage volunteering through community currencies that stay in the local region and don’t go to big corporations.

Aldrich says they’ve tested these five proposals and see results in which social ties improve by more than 10%. Various projects across the world–in the U.S., in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan.

$240 billion sea walls have no demonstrable effect on survival, recovery, or mental health rates.

Asian Studies Alum Daniel Aldrich Book Talk

November 18, 2019

Dr. Daniel Aldrich, Professor and Director, Security and Resilience Studies Program, Northeastern University, gave a presentation on his new book, Black Wave: How Connections and Governance Shaped Recovery from Japan’s 3/11 disasters (University of Chicago Press, 2019) on Monday, November 18th in 4003, FedEx Global Ed Center.

Image result for black wave aldrichAldrich received his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science; his M.A. from UC Berkeley; and his undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in a previous incarnation of our department.

As a student at UNC in the 1990s, he developed unusual fluency in Japanese, partially through studying abroad in Japan. He also developed his interests in political science and global issues. One of his first teaching jobs was at Tulane University during Hurricane Katrina. Later, the 3/11 Disaster in Japan (AKA the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami) took the lives of nearly 16,000 people. Aldrich, with a background in the study of communities, social resiliency, and disaster recovery, was the perfect scholar to do fieldwork along the Tohoku coast to try and understand how people made sense of the shock and its aftereffects.

Aldrich’s book and his talk here at UNC explore why some communities had higher survivor rates during the crisis and better outcomes during the recovery. He also presents a compelling prescription for communities to be better prepared for disasters of the sort that will likely be increasingly common in the decades ahead.

Black Wave and Aldrich’s research more broadly is a marvelous articulation of how studying Asian and Middle Eastern languages and cultures prepared students to do meaningful work in the world. Students and parents sometimes ask, what can you do with a degree in Asian and Middle Eastern studies? Aldrich’s work is a perfect example of the best answer: what CAN’T you do, armed with knowledge of a foreign language and cross-cultural communication skills and global knowledge.

For more on the contemporary applications of the findings of Aldrich and his research lab, see the links below:

Brought to you by our new Forty for Forty campaign!





Professor Aldrich addressing the crowd

Dr. Uffe Bergeton wins Hettleman Prize

August 30, 2019

Dr. Uffe Bergeton, an associate professor in the Chinese program of the Department of Asian Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, has been awarded UNC’s prestigious Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Scholarly and Artistic Achievement by Young Faculty.

Dr. Bergeton’s research is centered on early China, with a focus on pre-Qin society, thought, and linguistic theories, and was called “innovative and groundbreaking” by the selection committee for the Hettleman Prize. The Hettleman Prize was established in 1986 with the intent of recognizing the dedicated efforts of exemplary junior tenure-track or recently tenured faculty, and merits a $5,000 cash stipend.

Congratulations, Dr. Bergeton!

(photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Aleeshah Nasir presents original research at the Ackland

May 12, 2019
Undergraduate Aleeshah Nasir presented her research on the role and complex relationships of the epic heroine Sita in three different literary versions of the Ramayana–the classic Hindu version, a Buddhist version, and a dramatic adaptation by a famous Sanskrit playwright–at the Ackland Museum’s Spring 2019 Student Showcase. She argued that although Sita appears differently in these texts, still has deep relevance and is a source of inspiration to many South Asian women. A first-year at Carolina, Aleeshah impressively completed this research project for an advanced seminar, ASIA 522.

Interview with Anissa and Siarra Deol

April 26, 2019

By: Muziah Kargbo

Hello once again, this is the second part of the email interview I conducted with the Deol sisters. The first part was an interview with senior Preeya Deol, who went in depth about herself and her interests in South Asia. Similarly, her sisters, Anissa and Siarra Deol, also expressed an interest in South Asia and were gracious enough to provide their own input and experiences with the department. Their answers are as follows:

Anissa Deol

I’m a freshman at UNC with a double major in Journalism and PWAD. 

I’ve only taken one ASIA class and it’s a first year seminar. The name of the class is India through the Lens of Master Filmmakers [ASIA 61] taught by Prof. Pamela Lothspeich. The class comes together after watching a film every week and talks about the basic plot summary and narrative and then after that, we dive deeper into issues that are addressed or hinted at during the films, such as social structure, lower class workers, communism, and women’s roles in society. Additionally, we do close readings from the textbook “Film Art,” where we read about the makings of some films and other research papers that have been written about Indian films, such as the economical side and the pros and cons of Bollywood itself. 

I recommend this class because it allowed everyone to engage in the class and even if you hadn’t seen the movie that week, the professor still allowed you to talk and give input. We also learnt more historical based stuff before each film, so we would know what we would be watching.

If specifically talking about ASIA classes, I would definitely recommend this seminar to first year students to take. In the future I also want to take more ASIA classes because I’m very interested in the history of Asia, specifically countries like Japan, Korea and parts of southern India. 


Siarra Deol 

Siarra Deol, currently a junior majoring in Peace, War, and Defense and Hispanic Linguistics with a minor in Hindi-Urdu. 

ASIA 262- Nation, Film, and Novel in Modern India

PWAD/ASIA 331- Cracking India: Partition and Its Legacy in South Asia

HNUR 101/HNUR 102-Elementary Hindi-Urdu

HNUR 203/HNUR 204- Intermediate Hindi-Urdu

HNUR 305/HNUR 306- Advanced Hindi-Urdu

I would definitely recommend PWAD 331 because it focuses on a topic that is not really discussed on a global scale. People do not truly understand what happened during the partition in India. For example, how families were split, people lost everything and women were destroyed. In this class, we watched films and read interesting novels and short stories that shed light on violence, women or/and religion during the Partition. For example, one of the films we watched was titled “Earth,” where it showed how religion and violence were incorporated. 

Thank you both for your responses and have a good rest of the time at UNC!

Interview with Preeya Deol

April 26, 2019

By: Muziah Kargbo

Hello readers, today I present to you an email interview I managed to do with Preeya Deol, a senior who majors in Asian Studies with a concentration on South Asia. I’d like to thank her and her sisters who attend UNC and have a strong interest in South Asia as well. Their mini interviews will be in a following post. I’d also like to add that I’m grateful for the time and effort they put into their responses and I hope that you, the readers, will find the interviews stimulating and a good read, too. Finally, Preeya’s interview is as follows with minimal editing.

Q1: Please introduce yourself 

Hey! My name is Preeya Deol and I am a soon to be graduate of the Asian Studies department with a concentration on South Asia! I am a Capricorn with a strong love for dancing, religious studies, and eating Thai food!

Q2: What are some South Asian courses that you’ve taken during your time as an undergraduate here? (including language courses)

As a South Asian studies major, I have been given the opportunity to take a NUMBER of courses! I have taken all levels of Hindi-Urdu, including a class solely focused on reading the works of South Asian writers and poets. I was also able to take an introductory Urdu script course, which in itself was extremely challenging, but I love a good challenge! I was able to take the classes, RELI 386 and RELI 482, with Dr. Harshita Kamath, who is now in Atlanta at Emory University. They were some of the most amazing courses because they exposed me to voices of those within the studies of religion and sexuality that are repressed or not brought to the forefront during their peaks.

Q3: Is there a particular class you enjoyed and would recommend to others?

I truly enjoyed taking ASIA 331, which was the study of the events of the tragic Partition of India into the two countries we know today as India and Pakistan. We read such interesting pieces of work, such as “Train to Pakistan,” by Khushwant Singh. The poems, as well as the gory details associated with this historical tragedy, helped me to understand the intersectionality of identity and how everyone was truly touched by these events. What stuck with me the most is how there are still lasting effects from what occurred in 1947.

Q4: Could you briefly reintroduce us to your honors thesis and explain how you were influenced to do that particular topic?

My honors thesis was an opportunity for me to shed light on the voices that can be overshadowed with communities: the voices of women. Growing up in a traditional, Sikh home, I was exposed to many religious ideas and accepted them without truly analyzing them. When I entered college and took more religious studies classes, I yearned to understand if orthopraxy and the doctrine of the religion actually aligned.

In addition, my experience with sex education and menstruation were not the most positive and ultimately, very confusing. These instances have not left me and truly inspired me to understand why one thing was being said and another was being done. In Sikhism, men and women are taught that regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. all are equal. No ifs or buts. Similar teachings were brought to my attention, but the beliefs behind menstruation were never shared. Fast forward some years and I was able to conduct my own ethnographic research for my thesis. My research consisted of interviewing women from the Sikh faith in the Triangle area, solely to understand what they believe in regards to menstruation, as well as what practices they follow. It was honestly quite an experience and I hope that I was able to provide something useful to the world of Asian Studies!

Q5: Have you done or want to do a study abroad program relevant to South Asia?

I did not complete a study abroad program, but I did go to India back in 2015. I have wanted to go back ever since!!

Q6: What do you plan to do after graduation? 

I am going to be taking some much needed time off of school, but I am definitely excited for the opportunity to return. As of right now, I will hopefully be working for a public health startup or conducting health equity based research. I would also like to gain more data in terms of my honors thesis and eventually, make it a larger project within the field of public health!

Thank you again to Preeya for the interview and congratulations on your graduation. We wish you the best in your future endeavors!

Transnational Korean Cinema & Media Conference (Part 2)

April 16, 2019

By: Muziah Kargbo

I have returned to issue a part two to the Transnational Korean Conference to give an overview of the second day of the conference. On this day, various professors from across the US sacrificed their time to come to UNC to present their respective talks on aspects related to Korean culture with a focus on media.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be present for all the panels but the ones I was able to attend were all interesting in their own right. For instance, my favorite panel was the second one with Professors Heekyoung Cho and Haerin Shin who presented on their own respective forms of media.

Professor Cho did how webtoons, Korean web comics, function as a new cultural medium while exploring the relationships and ecology of webtoons amongst other global platforms in comparison. For instance, in 2016, a study showed that the majority of Korean elementary students wanted to be a webtoon artist in the future. So who knows? Perhaps just as Japanese manga has become globally distributed and accepted, Korean webtoons will rise in popularity around the world?

On the other hand, Professor Shin presented on the post-IMF cinema focusing on the popular 2016 zombie flick, Train to Busan, to highlight how South Korean cinema can allude to reality because, yes, even a zombie movie can be seen as a political critique on the state of a country. Significant events in recent Korean history were also highlighted during the talk including former South Korean president, Park Geun-Hye’s impeachment and the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster which some people believe was alluded to in Train to Busan though the director of the movie denied this was his intention. In either case, Professor Shin’s talk reiterated how important creative outlets like movies can still present a thoughtful critique and representation of current and past world affairs while still providing entertainment for the general public.

After another stimulating panel focused on Cold War media, the conference ended with closing remarks from our very own Professors Ji-yeon Jo and I. Jonathan Kief. I would personally like to thank them and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this conference. Thank you to the speakers who took their time to travel all the way to UNC Chapel Hill to present their papers and topics to our student body and professors who I’m sure enjoyed their talks and left with a more thoughtful mindset to the topics presented at the conference.

Transnational Korean Cinema & Media Conference (Part 1)

April 9, 2019

By: Muziah Kargbo

On March 28th and 29th, the Triangle East Asia Consortium (or TEAC) hosted the Transnational Korean Cinema and Media Conference at the FedEx Center here at UNC. I was fortunate enough to attend both days and though I wasn’t present the whole day on Friday, I still got a lot out of the different panels and discussions that took place.

The first day of the conference focused on screening films from directors Juhui Kwon and Nick Neon. Let me give a short introduction from the pamphlet I received at the conference which describes these creative indie filmmakers and their films.

Juhui Kwon (Personal Website)

Kwon is an independent writer-director based in NYC, hailing from South Korea. Her early films have stemmed from a diaspora theme and essay film genre.

Her Films

Frank’s Plan (2018)

A short film about a recent retiree named Frank who lives alone in his Staten Island house. He spends his free time staking out the house of his new Korean neighbors in the hopes that he will find something “nefarious” about them. But when he gets caught, his plan gets flipped upside down.

Feature Movie (2012)

This is a slightly longer film, clocking in at about an hour. It is about an aspiring film student, Soohyun, who is stuck making her first feature film. Her main obstacle is that her search for meaning only turns into nihilistic thoughts. The more effort she puts into making the film, the less there is that she wants to make a film about. Will she be able to get out of this block and become a real “artist?” We will find out by sneaking a peek into her journals.

Nick Neon (Personal Website)

Neon is an award-wining Korean American filmmaker and actor. He is best known for his short films following Jimmy Park, a 20-something and lost gay man struggling with identity (he is played by Neon himself in the films).

His Films

Ultra Bleu (2016)

Seoul, 2013. Jimmy Park has had a really rough night after confronting his cheating boyfriend and getting himself kicked out of a bar by a drag queen bouncer. Waking up the nect evening to a quiet blue, he heads to a river where a chance encounter with a stranger reveals deeper issues he must confront on the path to adulthood.

Zero One (2018)

A direct sequel to Ultra Bleu, Jimmy Park’s visiting home for the first time in years and has nothing to show for his time overseas. But old tensions come to a head when he confronts his homophobic sister over a deeply, dysfunctional family dinner. On New Year’s Day 2014, Jim will learn that the first step to finding our path is admitting we are lost.


Personally, I enjoyed all 4 movies though admittedly I found the visuals and coloring of Neon’s films to be quite beautiful and unique while Kwon’s films really had this quirky Koreanness that was entertaining and interesting to watch. While both explored different narratives and ideas, the themes converged to show different sides of a diasporic nature which is one of the main themes explored through these film screenings.

During the Q & A held after the screenings, Neon admitted that he hadn’t seen his films being diasporic in nature but really stemmed from a need to tell his story in a way that is shown through his particular perspective. But he did go on to say that this diaspora element is important as it gave him an outsider’s perspective that he grew to like as he got older.

As for Kwon, she was inspired from her own personal observations living in New York where she felt a lot of Korean-Americans are “living in a bubble” a quote from her friends. Since this seemed to be the case, she wanted to show a part of what was held inside the minds of Korean-Americans as best as she could through the movies she wrote and directed.

Honestly, I could go on and on about these two filmmakers and the screenings held that day but I will refrain from that for now and tell you, the reader, to go and discover more about Juhui Kwon, Nick Neon, and their films yourself. I’ve linked their personal websites as a starting point but Google is also your friend and I highly advise you to use it because both their visions and stories deserve more attention and even if it’s just one more person than who knows how much of a difference that can really make?

Next, stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I will be discussing day 2 of the conference and some of the panels presented by some very intelligent and passionate professors.

Club Spotlight Series #4: UNC Persian Cultural Society

April 2, 2019

By: Muziah Kargbo

Club Board:

President: Sanam Kavari           Vice-Presidents: Rose Jackson + Ava Erfani                        Secretary: Shiva Bakhtiyari
Treasurer: Darius Homesley    Marketing Committee: Shadi Bakhtiyari             Performance Chair: Parisa Shirzadi

Social Links: PCS Facebook | PCS Heel Life

Once again, I’m bringing to you another club I was able to interview over email this week: the UNC Persian Cultural Society. The president, Sanam Kavari, was gracious enough to take her time to answer my questions so thank you so much! These are her responses:

Q1: What is the purpose of this club?

This club was started to help expose the UNC community to Persian culture and serve as a place for UNC’s Persian community to get together to celebrate our culture. Our goals are to show the UNC community the joys of Persian culture and promote understanding and appreciation of Persian language, food, and celebrations.

Q2: What are the usual activities of this club and what special activities do you do during the year?

PCS’s main events are 1001 Nights in the fall and Persian New Year or Nowruz in the spring. 1001 Nights is a celebration of Middle Eastern culture centered around the ancient collection of stories by the same name. For this event we collaborate with other Middle Eastern student groups on campus and in the community to make it a cross-cultural event. Nowruz is the Persian New Year, which happens on the spring equinox. It is one of the most significant Persian holidays and is a great event for the Persian community and others to come together and look forward to what is to come in the new year. We also have some smaller events through out the year targeted more directly toward club members, like potlucks or dinners out.

Q3: What do you think is the selling point of your club? 

We are a groups of students who likes to share our culture with others, and we are always looking for new people to do this with!

Q4: What do you hope for the future of this club?

We are looking forward to engaging more with other parts of the UNC community and Chapel Hill more broadly and hoping to keep having the events that we have enjoyed in the past.