Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society

Funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, ACLS offers a program of support for work in China studies.

In this cycle of competitions awards were made to proposals adopting an explicitly cross-cultural or comparative perspective: projects that, for example, compare aspects of Chinese history and culture with those of other nations and civilizations, explore the interaction of these nations and civilizations, or engage in cross-cultural research on the relations among the diverse and shifting populations of China. Proposals are expected to be empirically grounded, theoretically informed, and methodologically explicit.

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  • Ideas of Asia in the Museum  |  Abstract

    Since its inception in early modern Europe, the museum has provided nation-states with a powerful tool to display and define their own cultures and those from around the world. This international symposium, which will be held at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, takes the museum as the critical lens through which to examine the collecting and display of Asian art in relation to conceptualizations of Asia that gained currency in the cultural and geopolitical milieu of modernity. The dual focus allows for in-depth inquiries into interregional and intraregional connections that manifested in the workings of the art market, museological practices, and art-historical discourses across Europe, the Americas, and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present day. The presenters at this event collectively aim to explicate how ideas of Asia contributed to the development of specific museum collections, and conversely, how museums helped generate new ideas about the continent in the public domain through exhibition, education, and research. Key questions regarding the rise of the museum as a space of cultural production will be considered: How did an assemblage of objects represent a culture? Why was it necessary to frame the representation of a country in relation to that of a region? In what ways did object types affect the decision to include and/or exclude particular cultures in an assemblage? Who were involved in determining the cultural meanings of these objects, and who were the audiences?

    Sonya S. Lee
    Sonya S. Lee

    Associate Professor, University of Southern California

  • Unmasking Ideology: The Vocabulary and Symbols of Colonial Archeaology  |  Abstract

    Myths of the “Indiana Jones” type, in which archaeologists conquered and explored exotic landscapes in search of hidden treasures, have encouraged the public to dream romantically of archaeological adventures abroad. However, the hidden (or not so hidden) cost of such undertakings has typically resulted in the destruction of archaeological sites and often one-sided narratives of “discovery” that overlook the historical culture and geographical context in which the finds were located. This upcoming workshop at the University of Florida will bridge myth and reality by bringing together a multi-disciplinary, international group of scholars including those from China and Taiwan, to study colonial archaeology from a variety of angles and methodologies. By bringing in scholarly contributions from the East and West, and capitalizing on the wealth of scholarship being done at the University of Florida in the history of Chinese, South American and African archaeology, we will not only bring the history of Chinese archaeology into a global discussion, but also facilitate fruitful exchange on the subject of archaeological heritage as a rich source of mythmaking in colonial and semi-colonial contexts. We will explore why monuments and antiquities constituted such a volatile set of symbols by which former colonies redefined themselves during and subsequent to decolonization.

    Guolong Lai
    Guolong Lai

    Associate Professor, University of Florida