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Luoyi Cai: Zoom guru in the age of remote learning

September 25, 2020

Did you know that Ms. Luoyi Cai, Teaching Assistant Professor in Chinese, is a Zoom guru? It’s true!

But how does one become a guru?

In the summer of 2016, Ms. Cai was invited to participate in the University of Virginia’s STARTALK teaching training program. That year, STARTALK transitioned the training theme from the face-to-face language teaching to online teaching for the first time. After graduating from that summer’s teacher training program, Ms. Cai was invited by the program director, Professor Miao-fen Tseng, to serve as a trainer in the 2018 and 2019 summer programs to facilitate pedagogical practicum of online synchronous language classes.

Given these experiences and in response to high demands for online teaching due to epidemic, Ms. Cai, together with the other members from the core training team of STARTALK program, decided to voluntarily hold a series of online trainings for the teaching community. In March, after only three trainings for secondary and post-secondary Chinese teachers, attendance totaled over 360 Chinese language teachers!

First Speaker in DAMES “Blackness” Series

September 16, 2020


THANK YOU to Professor Troutt Powell and Professor Sturkey for making the event a huge success. The video of the talk can be found here or on YouTube.

The first event in the 2020-2021 “Blackness in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies” speaker series was held on September 22, at 4:30 PM. Eve M. Troutt Powell (Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania) presented “Training Slaves for the Camera: Race and Memory in Representations of Slaves, Khartoum, 1882.” The talk was moderated by UNC’s own Professor William Sturkey. All events will be held virtually through Zoom.

Eve M. Troutt Powell teaches the history of the modern Middle East and the history of slavery in the Nile Valley and the Ottoman Empire. As a cultural historian, she emphasizes the exploration of literature and film in her courses. She is the author of A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain and the Mastery of the Sudan (University of California, 2003) and the coeditor, with John Hunwick, of The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of Islam (Princeton Series on the Middle East, Markus Wiener Press, 2002). Her most recent book is Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement in Egypt, Sudan and the Late Ottoman Empire (Stanford University Press, 2012). Troutt Powell is now working on a book about the visual culture of slavery in the Middle East which will explore the painting and photography about African and Circassian slavery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Please register here.

Organized by the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, co-sponsored by the UNC Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, with support from the Institute of African American Research.

Profile of Alumnus Rashad Hauter

September 10, 2020

Rashad Ahmed Hauter graduated from UNC in 2007 with majors in Biology and Asian Studies, concentrating on Arabic. Professor Nadia Yaqub remembers him well as an enthusiastic student. Rashad was a first-generation college student, the child of Yemeni immigrants who “fled poverty and unrest in pursuit of the American dream” and established a business in Vance County, NC.

After UNC, Rashad attended the Campbell University School of Law and graduated cum laude. He became assistant district attorney for Wake County, trying more than 800 bench trials. Next he took up a role as a state Regional Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, trying more than 700 bench trials and 40 jury trials. In 2017, he founded his own private practice as a criminal defense and immigration attorney.

Most recently, Rashad is running in the special election of the Tenth Judicial District Bar (Wake County) to be a nominee considered by Governor Cooper for appointment to this position, resulting from Judge Denning’s resignation. Rashad is a wonderful reminder that studying Asian and Middle Eastern languages and cultures brings opportunities globally but also locally; in fact Rashad sometimes is able to offer his legal services pro bono for those who need an Arabic-speaking attorney.


Professor Mark Driscoll’s forthcoming book

August 24, 2020

The Whites Are Enemies of HeavenProfessor Mark Driscoll’s forthcoming book, The Whites Are Enemies of Heavenconsiders Western imperialism in Asia in the nineteenth century, and proposes a new theory of “climate caucasianism” that links racism with environmental destruction in an innovative matter, demonstrating the close linkage between our current struggles with both racial inequality and climate change and the expansion of Western empires at the outset of the “modern” age.

Professor Driscoll is best known as a scholar of Japanese modernity, a specialist in cultural studies whose publications have ranged from translations of the colonial novels Kannani and Document of Flames, both by Katsuei Yuasa, to his first monograph, Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: The Living, Dead, and Undead in Japan’s Imperialism, a tour de force of interdisciplinary and theoretically-informed humanistic scholarship.

In his new book, he utilizes primary sources in Chinese, Japanese, and French to re-contextualize the Opium Wars as a key moment in both the emergence of extractive, coal-fed capitalism and the destruction of Qing China’s world leading carbon-neutral economy.

Advance reviews of the book from the website of the publisher, Duke University Press, praise Driscoll’s scholarship:

“Mark Driscoll dazzlingly argues that at the origin of the Anthropocene lies the predatory behavior of European colonialism in East Asia—what he daringly terms “climate caucasianism”, a historically unprecedented assemblage of extraction, coloniality, ecological devastation, commerce, and war. Driscoll’s exquisite and brilliant scholarship demonstrates a simultaneous mastery of Chinese and Japanese languages, cultures, and histories. The Whites Are Enemies of Heaven should be of immediate interest to students in all those fields wishing to understand the multiple entanglements of imperialism, colonialism, ontology, and resistance that underlie the complex assemblage called climate change.” — Arturo Escobar, author of Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible

“Mark Driscoll’s The Whites Are Enemies of Heaven is an ambitious and original study of Japanese and Chinese resistance to Euro-American imperialism. Beyond his compelling focus on race and racism—which rarely get the explicit attention they deserve in East Asian studies—Driscoll turns to Marxism, postcolonial theory, and ecocriticism to analyze global histories of extractive capitalism and drug production in this wide-ranging and thrilling analysis. There is no other book like this!” — Teemu Ruskola, author of Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law

Profile of Professor Nadia Yaqub’s Newest Book

August 21, 2020

Cover of Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution

Professor Nadia Yaqub’s recent book Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution (University of Texas Press, 2018) situates Palestinian cinema squarely within mid-20th century political cinema.

In her introduction, Yaqub writes “Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution is an in-depth study of these films, the filmmakers, and their practices; the political and cultural contexts in which they were created and seen; and the afterlives the films have had with communities of Palestinian refugees and young filmmakers and other cultural actors in the twenty-­first century. This study situates the works within regional and global conversations and practices surrounding the filmmaking and politics of the era. It offers detailed analyses of the films themselves, their coming into being, their distribution and viewership, and the intense interest they have generated during the past decade.”

Diana Allan (McGill University) wrote in a review in International Journal of Middle East Studies, “In six chapters, Yaqub deftly illuminates a series of shifts in the filmic conceptualization and representation of Palestinian resistance over the past fifty years. . . Palestinian Cinema elegantly weaves together a diverse array of sources––correspondence, personal interviews, memoirs, and other vital primary and secondary materials, including key revolutionary journals (al-Hurriya, Filasteen al-Thawra and Shuʾun)––and appends a comprehensive filmography of PLO films produced between 1968 and 1982. . . this book represents an invaluable and compelling contribution to scholarship on Palestinian filmmaking, Palestinian cultural production, and transnational, Tricontinental solidarity. It opens a window to a luminous period of revolutionary production that, until now, has been largely inaccessible to English-language readers, and invites reengagement with these vital, visionary works in a moment where inspiration is urgently needed.”

The process of researching the book involved intensive archival work as well as study of films and related materials collected by relevant cultural organizations. Her subject matter was inherently precarious, and has been undergoing constant erasure. In an interview with Nicholas Baer in Film Quarterly (72:1), Yaqub discusses her approach:

I relied heavily on the research, publications, and programming of others. In particular, the extensive work of the Palestine Film Foundation and its 2014 program “The World Is with Us” was fundamental to the book. Through the screenings and gallery installation of that program, I was able to study more than thirty films by Palestinians and solidarity activists. Some of that material has become available on YouTube, and a few titles can be purchased from distributors, but many others remain very difficult to see. While my book includes discussions of a number of films that were not included in that program (e.g., the Syrian material and the films that Kais al-Zubaidi made in the late 1970s), it would not be an exaggeration to say that the project would not have materialized without “The World Is with Us.” The library of the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Beirut was another crucial resource since it contains copies of almost all publications of the PLO and various Palestinian political organizations.

In the same interview, Yaqub notes that one of her goals was to reevaluate the role of compromise in the creative decisions of filmmakers:

My goal with the book is to contribute to our understanding of political cinema through close readings of films and attention to contextual details that illuminate some of the complexities inherent in this type of engaged creativity. How constraints, contingencies, and opportunities all shaped this film movement and the works that emerged from it expands our understanding of how cultural production works in the real world. Because filmmaking is complex, expensive, and collaborative, it is marked by compromise. This is particularly true of political filmmaking. Film scholars often focus on visionary filmmakers whose primary commitment is to their art. By treating the works of filmmakers who were committed to both filmmaking and a political project, I have attempted to offer an alternative understanding of compromise as a mode of film production. Compromise certainly limits expression, but it is also a necessary force that produces certain types of texts that deserve to be studied seriously and understood on their own terms.

The book was shortlisted for a Palestine Book Award, and in 2018 she was invited by Columbia University to curate a film festival on Gaza.

In honor of Professor Larry Kessler, By Miles Fletcher

August 15, 2020

I welcome the opportunity to write a few words about the career of Professor Lawrence D. Kessler who died at his home near Wilmington on August 10. From my first day on campus in the fall of 1975 I was fortunate to work closely with Larry. He was a wonderful colleague and friend. He was always supportive, willing to listen to any concerns, and ready to give helpful advice.

Larry’s long and distinguished career as a professor of East Asian and Chinese history at UNC began in 1966. He arrived in Chapel Hill as the sole specialist in Asian history and taught in the Department of History for more than three decades. His first few years coincided with a tumultuous period of dissent at the University. Larry actively participated in protests against the Vietnam War and in 1969 demonstrations in support of striking food workers at Lenoir Hall. The latter event prompted Governor Bob Scott to deploy the National Guard on campus. During these demonstrations Larry was arrested twice.

After completing his doctoral dissertation and receiving his Ph.D. in 1969, Larry published two books and numerous articles. His first monograph examined the early reign of the powerful K’ang-hsi (Gangxi) Emperor who ruled China from 1654 to 1722. His second book, The Jiangyin Mission Station: An American Missionary Community in China, 1895-1951, focused on the history of a Christian mission near Shanghai established by the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington.

Larry worked tirelessly to promote Asian Studies on campus, in the Research Triangle, and across North Carolina and the Southeast. He was a driving force in the creation of a major in Asian Studies at UNC through the establishment of the Curriculum in East Asian Studies in the late 1970s, when perhaps a half-dozen specialists on Asia taught in various disciplines on campus. This academic unit later became the Curriculum in Asian Studies, for which he served as chair in the late 1990s, and it is now the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.  Larry was a founding member of the Triangle East Asian Colloquium, which has for decades sponsored conferences and presentations pertaining to East Asia for faculty members at universities and colleges in the local area. In addition, Larry was dedicated to spreading knowledge and understanding about China and Asia beyond the academy to the broader community. He energetically organized and participated in outreach programs to help K-12 teachers incorporate material about Asia into their lesson plans. Not surprisingly, he leapt at the chance to be among the first American academics to visit China in 1976 as the People’s Republic began to welcome foreign visitors. He then became the director of the North Carolina China Council, an affiliate of the national Asia Society, which focused on spreading knowledge about China. One particularly innovative project was Larry’s assembling a traveling exhibit of photographs and recollections, “North Carolina’s ‘China Connection,’ 1840-1949,” that toured the state in 1980-1981 to explain the range of historical links, including the tobacco trade and missionary ties, between North Carolina and China. Larry also served terms as president of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies and as editor of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies.

These achievements suggest how much we all owe to Larry’s pioneering and sustained endeavors on behalf of Asian Studies at Carolina.

Miles Fletcher

Welcome to Fall 2020 with DAMES!

August 11, 2020

Hi everyone! Welcome to Fall 2020 with the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (DAMES)!

We know this year is different from all others we’ve experienced before, but we’re reaching out personally now to let you all know that we’re so excited to see you, learn with you, grow with you, and Zoom with you! Let’s make Fall 2020 a semester to remember!

Launching the new M.A. Program in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

July 17, 2020

Discussions of the possible launch of a graduate program go back more than a decade in our department, and have involved most of the faculty as well as support from peers in other departments. Ultimately the growth of our undergraduate majors, minors, and language enrollments kept us busy enough over the years. In 2017-2018, however, then-Chair Nadia Yaqub constituted a graduate planning committee that built on previous efforts to complete a proposal draft, which would eventually become our formal proposal to the leadership of the university. This proposal received approval in December of 2019. Many individuals were involved in this process, but the key leaders were Yaron Shemer, Uffe Bergeton, Robin Visser, and Nadia Yaqub.

The new program, for which we are now recruiting applicants, is intended to provide humanistic training to students in one of two tracks: either the broad, interdisciplinary area of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, or the more focused field of Chinese studies.

The M.A. will give students the chance to improve proficiency in one or more languages designated “critical” to the future of America by the State Department, as well as significant expertise in the culture of a country or region in Asia or the Middle East. Students will develop advanced skills beyond those already mastered as undergrads to enhance future careers in higher ed, politics, international organizations and non-profits, journalism, the military, and business and finance.

To students considering our M.A. program: please take a look at the directory of faculty in our department to get a sense of our interests and areas of expertise. We include scholars of literature and environmental humanities, experts in critical theory, historians of culture, specialists in film and visual culture, anthropologists of medicine, and experts in language teaching among other topics. We look forward to hearing from you.

Profile of T.J. Turner, Asian Studies Alum

July 9, 2020

T.J. Turner of Kernersville graduated in the spring of 2020, part of this most unusual class of students who were unable to take part in the standard graduation ceremony and departmental celebrations that typically mark the end of the undergraduate career. T.J. navigated the end of his senior year and the 2020 pandemic with positivity and optimism.

T.J. made the most of his time at UNC, double majoring in Chemistry and Asian Studies with a concentration in Japanese. He studied abroad at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, for the spring semester of 2018, supported by a competitive Phillips Ambassadors fellowship. He also worked in the laboratory of Professor Stephanie L. Gupton in the Chemistry Department, a specialist in cell biology.

I spoke to T.J. about his experience with Asian Studies:

Q: What role did Japanese play in your time at Carolina?

My first time abroad was the summer of 2014 (high school years) when I stayed with a host family in Nagoya, Japan for six weeks on an AFS program. I had an awesome introduction to Japan during this time but failed to make strong connections to other Japanese people around my age. Upon receiving my acceptance to UNC, in the spring of 2016, I already knew that I would be going back to Japan on a study abroad program to do some “unfinished business”; that is, I wanted to create lasting bonds with Japanese students during my college study abroad experience and hone my Japanese language abilities to connect better with the culture and its people while serving as an ambassador for black Americans. With this goal in mind, I applied for–and graciously accepted–the Phillips Ambassador program to spend my 2018 spring semester and summer at Keio University in Tokyo. I wasted no time, bonding with my fellow Japanese classmates, honing my Japanese skills, and deepening my knowledge of contemporary culture. Coming back to Carolina, I wanted to help students realize the roles the language can play in their respective fields and introduce them to resources to engage in languages and cultures that they are interested in; as a chemistry major and biology minor (I added Japanese later), I understand the importance of having culturally competent professionals in all fields of study. This drove me to become a study abroad peer ambassador and representative for Mango Languages on the UNC campus. Both positions allow to me to share resources with students and staff that could engage them in their language acquisition journey.

How might Asia influence or be a part of your plans for the future?

I plan on becoming a physician. While my interests in medicine range greatly from surgery to clinical research, my current aspirations are to become an aerospace physician. These doctors basically serve as general physicians for American astronauts and their families. This line of work would put me at the forefront of space medicine and in contact with leaders in the field from around the world. I hope to be a leader in space medicine that cooperates with several international partners all working toward the common goal of helping humans expand into space safely by the guidance of sound science and international cooperation. In this regard, I feel it will be imperative for me to improve cultural fluency and language proficiency in Mandarin and Japanese given the likelihood that these countries will continue to be influential “space powers” in the future. Not to mention I’ve already had opportunities to speak with patients in Japanese during volunteering in the clinic.

What currently keeps you busy?

I am currently the president of the Spread Love Foundation (SLF), a non profit founded late last year out of Durham. SLF aims to provide opportunities in STEM, medical science, and global opportunities to underrepresented youth. Our goal is to grow the next generation of diverse scientists and healthcare providers that will solve the world’s biggest problems and serve as role models to those disenfranchised kids who thought that a career in science was outside of their reach. We are currently in the process of building courses, establishing our presence in the Durham community, branding, and building our team of inspirational science lovers. As president, I hope to also let more of our underrepresented youth know about opportunities to study abroad on scholarship and sharing resources to learn more about becoming a medical doctor. Important to my involvement is showing that you can combine your interest in language/culture with medicine/science!