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Study Abroad Excellence: Michael Sparks, IES Abroad Film Finalist

October 27, 2020

Michael Sparks, a senior studying computer science and communications, has been named a finalist in the IES Abroad Film Festival for the film he created on the UNC Summer in Japan program in 2019. IES says of Michael’s film: “[Michael] provides us with an incredible cinematic experience of scenes in Tokyo, Japan that are dramatic and comedic–a balance that is curated so beautifully that we can’t help but hit the replay button.”

Founded in 2014, the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival is one of the first student-focused study abroad film festivals in the industry. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the IES Abroad Film Festival has provided students a platform to voice their global journey through their own words and video footage, capturing unique views into their life-changing study abroad experiences – showing what the experience meant to them and how it redefined their world. For more information, please visit:

Congratulations, Michael! We’re so proud of you!

Video of Professor Timothy Daniels, “Blackness in Malaysia and Indonesia: Stories from the Field” (UNC only)

October 26, 2020

Professor Timothy Daniels (Hofstra University) spoke on the topic of “Blackness in Malaysia and Indonesia: Stories from the Field.” The talk was part of the DAMES 2020-2021 speaker series, “Blackness in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies,” and this event was co-sponsored by the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies and moderated by Dr. Kevin Fogg (Associate Director, Carolina Asia Center, UNC).

Video of the talk (UNC login required)

Congratulations to our Phi Beta Kappa members in DAMES!

October 26, 2020

Further demonstrating that DAMES is simply bursting at the seams with excellence, several DAMES students have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious college honors society.

A student who has completed 75 hours of coursework in the liberal arts and sciences with a GPA of 3.85 or better (on a 4-point scale) is eligible for membership. Also eligible is any student who has completed 105 hours of coursework in the liberal arts and sciences with a 3.75 GPA. Grades earned at other universities are not considered. Fewer than 1% of all college students qualify.

Past and present Phi Beta Kappa members from across the country have included 17 American presidents, 41 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, more than 140 Nobel Laureates and numerous artistic, intellectual and political leaders.

The DAMES initiates are as follows:

•       Elizabeth Taylor Cox, a senior with Arab cultures and peace, war and defense majors and a Middle Eastern languages minor, of Chapel Hill.

•       Tucker Eugene Craven, a senior with political science and Chinese majors, of High Point.
•       Andrew Nenow, a senior with computer science and Chinese majors and a statistics and analytics minor, of Boone.
•       Katelyn Marie Shadowens, a senior with Chinse and communication studies majors, of Hickory.
•       Sarah Wang, a junior with computer science and Chinese majors, of Apex.
•       Lydia Sun Yun, a senior with Japanese and peace, war and defense majors, of Durham.

Not to be outdone, our minors:
•       Evangeline Huei-En Liauw, a May 2020 graduate with a business administration major and a Chinese minor, of Durham.
•       Lindsay Zhou, a junior with computer science and linguistics majors and a Japanese minor, of Cary.
•       Hannah Olmstead, a senior with public policy and economics majors and an Arabic minor, of Oklahoma City.

Congratulations to our wonderful students!

UNC Research Week: Interview with Faith Virago

October 23, 2020

Writing an honors thesis is an endeavor in general, full of trials, tribulations, and valuable learning experiences. Add in the bouillon cube of COVID-19 and wow, talk about zesty! DAMES student Faith Virago is making it happen, and I interviewed her to find out just what it’s like to write an honors thesis in our department this year.

1) How did you get involved/what made you decide to write an honors thesis?

I decided to write an honors thesis because I wanted an opportunity to focus on my research interests.

2) Tell us about your research!

I am conducting a qualitative research study by interviewing women who grew up in China and have lived in the US for a portion of their career or education. My main research question is ‘how does a cross cultural transition from China to the US affect Chinese women’s views on gender equality and feminism?’ I am also exploring how these women’s lives and experiences can give us insight into gender equality and feminism in both China and the US. In this research study, I am using the anthropological approach of ethnography because I want to do more than just gather numbers and create a decontextualized analysis. This research is both a presentation of the overall trends as well as an illustration of the context, both historical and environmental, of these lives. In addition to my own data, I am using the book Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era to compare the experiences of my interviewees with their preceding generation. This book consists of 9 memoir essays from women who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and then went on to get their PhDs in the US. I chose to construct a cross-generational analysis so that I can analyze how the situation has changed in the last 50 years and speculate on what role Mao’s particular brand of gender equality played in this change.

3) What do you like most about your work?

I love interviewing people and hearing their life stories and experiences!

4) What’s the hardest part of writing an honors thesis?

The hardest part is starting the writing process.

5) Speaking of difficulties, what’s it like writing an honors thesis in the midst of a global pandemic? Are your resources limited? How have you had to adapt?

My resources are limited in one aspect because I was unable to interview with individuals in person. This limited who I could interview in the sense that they would need to be comfortable using Zoom. It did, however, open up the opportunity for me to interview people outside of NC.

6) What are your future plans?

I am planning to attend graduate school next fall to continue my studies of both Chinese and women in modern China. I plan to eventually conduct research about gender discrimination and gender equality in the lives of women living in rural areas of China. I also hope to research queerness in China, specifically the intersection of culture and gender roles in the lives of transgender Chinese individuals.


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.