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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  • Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia: A Conference of Storytellers  |  Abstract

    The conference will bring together twenty-five world-class scholars from Canada, the US, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan in order to engage in an interdisciplinary and comparative study of Buddhist statecraft, which will include historians, anthropologists, textual scholars, and art historians. Through the medium of storytelling, the paper presenters will explore how Buddhism has been an important means of securing imperial legitimation and political power, as well as an effective partner in the running of a state, since its arrival in China in the third century of the Common Era and subsequent spread to the rest of East Asia. As such, the conference will also illuminate the role that Chinese culture has played in the development of East Asian political and religious systems in general.

    Stephanie Lynn Balkwill
    Stephanie Lynn Balkwill

    Postdoctoral Fellow, Religion, University of Southern California

  • Culinary Nationalism in Asia  |  Abstract

    Food and cuisine have had an exceedingly significant place in Chinese culture for centuries, yet little critical attention has been paid to foodways in the formation of its modern national identities. This conference proposes to grapple with the question of modern Chinese “culinary nationalism” by placing it in a comparative Asian context, bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars in the fields of history, anthropology, sociology, literature, media and cultural studies, with research interests in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea and India. Collectively, the papers will address these questions: What is gained or lost by discussing Chinese cuisine as a cultural vs. a national phenomenon? How have foodways contributed to the formation of cultural, regional and national identities in different Asian locations? How do foodways transgress national boundaries? How has culinary nationalism served as a form of nostalgic recovery and creative reinvention among overseas diasporas?

    Michelle T. King
    Michelle T. King

    Associate Professor, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Humanitarianism in Action: Asia-Pacific Ethnographic Perspectives  |  Abstract

    This international workshop is the first major academic event focusing on contemporary forms of non-governmental humanitarian action in China and the Asia-Pacific from a critical comparative perspective. Bringing together thirteen world-class anthropologists and STS scholars from UK, Australia, Hong Kong, USA, Japan, and Taiwan, the workshop will explore recent transformations in Asian-Pacific moral economies of humanitarian action, situating these developments in the context of broader transnational processes and changing state-society frameworks. In a region often characterized as having a “weak civil society”, we suggest that where the political economy of official care provision does not map clearly onto the moral economy of social welfare is where the moral niche of non-governmental humanitarian action emerges. Unlike top-down approaches focusing strictly on discourses and legal regulations, the workshop will focus on actual practices and processes of negotiation joining broader trends in anthropology and the social sciences to see “cultural processes” as more disjunctive and contradictory, yet shot through with distinct motivations and moral values.

    Goncalo Santos
    Goncalo Santos

    Assistant Professor, HK Institute for the Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong

  • Pharmaceuticals and Pharmacotherapeutic Cultures in China and East Asia, 1850 to 2015  |  Abstract

    China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan all possess their own distinctive variants of the Chinese medical tradition, but the relationship between traditional medical practitioners and the modernizing state has played out differently in each case. Focusing on the history of production, circulation and consumption of pharmaceuticals, this meeting aims to establish new collaborations to help elucidate connections between these different medical cultures across historical time and space. The meeting is primarily intended to explore these issues from a historical perspective, but the invited participants include a number of anthropologists to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and to allow closer engagement with the relevance of this history to contemporary society.

    Daniel Trambaiolo
    Daniel Trambaiolo

    Assistant Professor, Japanese Studies, University of Hong Kong

  • The Design Institute: Building a Transnational History  |  Abstract

    "The Design Institute: Building a Transnational History" is the first international, interdisciplinary academic conference devoted to the major design mechanism of the socialist world, with particular attention paid to the People's Republic of China (PRC). The event focuses on the origins of the design institute in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, its importation into the PRC and subsequent impact upon socialist China's architectural culture, and its adaptation to reform-era processes of economic liberalization, not only in China, but in southeast Asia as well as Africa. More generally, this conference explores architecture's participation in socialist and post-socialist diplomatic exchange, political and economic development, as well as cultural production.

    Cole Roskam
    Cole Roskam

    Assistant Professor, Architecture, University of Hong Kong