Student Panel on Partition at the FH&N Conference

December 3, 2018

On Saturday, December 1, four students in Professor Lothspeich’s Asia 331/PWAD 3331/HIST 335 “Cracking India: Partition and its Legacy in South Asia,” presented papers on the panel “Gendered Violence at the Time of India’s Partition,” at the Feminisms Here and Now conference organized by graduate students at UNC. The papers of Azba Wahid, Laurel Cunningham, Aashka Patel (Asian Studies major and honors student), and Hannah Feinsilber all dealt with different aspects of the violence women faced when India gained Independence in 1947 and new borders were drawn, creating Pakistan and precipitating mass migrations and upheaval. The panel was well-attended and closed with a lively Q&A.

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.


Professor Lothspeich offers new course: The Beauty and the Power of the Classical Indian World

November 24, 2018
A new course in Asian Studies, for both undergraduate and graduate students* in Spring 2019: 
ASIA 522—
The Beauty and the Power
of the Classical Indian World
Taught by Professor Pamela Lothspeich
Tuesday, Thursday 11:00-12:15, 115 Murphey Hall
Fulfills GenEds LA and WB, and there are no prerequisites!
Ashoka Pillar from Sarnath, India
This course investigates the classical Indian world through texts in Sanskrit and other classical languages (translated into English). In the classical period (circa 300 BCE -1200 CE), Sanskrit was the language of choice for many Indian elites—kings, priests, scholars, and artists—used to convey knowledge and delight audiences, even as the populace continued to speak and develop literatures in various regional languages. In this course, we’ll explore Sanskrit literary culture, and a number of “rival” classical literary traditions in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Pali. Readings include primary sources like poetry and drama, and works of aesthetic theory from the classical period. These primary sources will be supplemented with recent scholarly writings  on themes such as “vernacularization,” i.e. the historic transition from a predominantly Sanskrit literary culture to one of diverse vernacular literatures. This course will have a seminar format.
*Graduate students will have additional readings and assignments, including a more substantial research paper.

Summer 2019 Study Abroad Program in Morocco

November 20, 2018

Dr. Khalid Shahu, Teaching Assistant Professor in Arabic, will lead a UNC summer study abroad program in Rabat, Morocco in 2019. Please see the attached flyer for more information. 

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.


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.