Asia Institute Maps Wide Range of Projects

Asia Institute Maps Wide Range of Projects

At the October 28 reception: from left, R. Bin Wong, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Geography Professor Cindy Fan.

New director outlines plans at faculty-student reception.

Historian R. Bin Wong, recently named as the first director of UCLA's Asia Institute, hosted a reception for Asianist faculty and students at Covel Commons October 28 where he outlined some of the Institute's current activities and ambitious future plans. Over wine, dim sum and sandwiches students conferred with faculty and professors from different departments held discussions. The reception was opened by the head of the Asia Institute's parent body, Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost and dean of the International Institute. Garrett welcomed Bin Wong and called attention to two of the Asia Institute's innovative Internet projects, the Asia Pacific Media Network, a syndicated online news and opinion service representing a consortium of universities and news media, and the asia pacific arts, a student webzine of lively interviews and reviews about Asian and Asian-American artists and performers.

Bin Wong in his welcoming remarks noted briefly the various areas of work of the Asia Institute: Grants from the Freeman Foundation, Title VI funding from the Department of Education, five affiliated research centers, publications, and a new initiative in South Asian Studies. He introduced the new holder of the Doshi Chair in the Department of History, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, the distinguished author of some 18 books on Indian history who came to UCLA this year from Oxford University.

Asia Institute Assistant Director Clayton Dube filled in some of the details on the programs his unit is conducting. The Asia Institute has five affiliated sub-centers, for China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and for the study of Buddhism. It hopes to move toward the creation of a sixth, on South Asia, the Indian subcontinent. There are two Asian-oriented interdepartmental degree programs administered by the International Institute, on East Asia and Southeast Asia. A minor is being created in South Asian Studies. More than 100 UCLA faculty members report that at least 25% of their teaching or research involves Asian topics.

In last-year's U.S. Department of Education Title VI awards for a three-year cycle, two of the Asia Institute's programs received a total between them of $1.5 million for East and Southeast Asian student support and outreach. An important part of this is directed to graduate students in the form of Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) National Resource Fellowships.

Freeman Grants for Outreach and Teacher Training

The Asia Institute shares in two Freeman Foundation grants to the UCLA campus. It has received directly a grant of $600,000 over four years for K-12 teacher training. It uses this funding to conduct 40-hour inservice training seminars for classroom teachers to prepare them to increase the Asian content of their teaching. This grant also makes possible summer study tours for teachers in Asia. In 2003 the Asia Institute took 20 teachers from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to Korea and Japan for three weeks. This year another 20 teachers spent three weeks on a study tour of China.

Another program funded by this grant is a two-week intensive Summer Institute for precollegiate educators on Asian subjects, and a number of weekend workshops.

The second Freeman grant to UCLA is for $2 million over four years. This goes mainly to the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, but $225,000 is allocated to the Asia Institute. This was used in the first two years of the grant for public programming, with well-attended panels on North Korea, and on SARS and on constitutional reform in China. In the second two years the Asia Institute plans to use the funding for course development. The Institute also uses the Freeman money to fund six competitive grant programs for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to promote adding Asian subject matter to existing and new courses at UCLA. Amounts range from $500 to $5,000 for different grant offerings.

Pacific Rim Research Program

For almost two decades the Asia Institute and its predecesor organizations have been the UCLA sponsor and campus representative for the University of California's Pacific Rim Research Program grants, an annual statewide faculty and graduate student competition for new research on contemporary issues affecting the Pacific region. Over the years the Pacrim grants have brought several million dollars in research funding to UCLA.


The most active publication projects of the Asia Institute are its two online initiatives, the Asia Pacific Media Network and the asia pacific arts web magazine. These have been phenomenally successful. The first is primarily staffed by students and the second is entirely a student-run effort. They have each had more than 450,000 distinct visitors so far this year and are expected to reach a combined total of one million by the end of the year. This readership is measured by online cookies from specific computers. There have been between 2.5 and 3 million logins to the two sites this year.

The Institute also has a book imprint, the Asian Pacific Monograph Series, which has published five scholarly works since its founding in 1999. The most recent is the conference volume Southeast Asian Studies: Pacific Perspectives edited by the well-known historian of Southeast Asia Anthony Reid, now at the National University of Singapore. This book is published jointly with the Monograph Series Press, Program for Southeast Asian Studies, Arizona State University. The seventeen contributors to the volume review current curriculum on Southeast Asia as taught in the United States, Japan, and Australia as well as in the region itself.

The New Global Learning Institute

This year also marked the inauguration of the International Institute's Global Learning Institute, a five-week for-credit overseas class. The first one was held in Shanghai in June and July, principally organized by staff of the Asia Institute.

Developing South Asian Studies

UCLA has at least a dozen highly regarded South Asian specialists among its faculty, but as yet does not have a research center devoted to the study of India and its neighbors. R. Bin Wong hopes to change that. A key step has been the addition of Sanjay Subrahmanyam to the History faculty. He brings to the campus a special interest in developing a research and teaching agenda for the subcontinent, and an extraordinary breadth of knowledge of the history of the region. He is the author of such works as The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India, 1500-1650 (Cambridge University Press, 1990); Improvising Empire: Portuguese Trade and Settlement in the Bay of Bengal, 1500-1700 (Oxford University Press, 1990); The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500-1700: A Political and Economic History (Longman, 1993); and a set of related works on the Mughal state and its relations with Western explorers and conquerors undertaken with several other authors in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam served as the director of studies at the Paris Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1995-2002, and was appointed as the first holder of the newly created Chair in Indian History and Culture at the University of Oxford in 2002. His most recent work, published by Oxford University Press in 2004 in two volumes, is entitled Explorations in Connected History.

R. Bin Wong in collaboration with Sanjay Subrahmanyam is working to initiate three research and curriculum projects at UCLA. One is a comparative China-India research agenda with scholars at UCLA and at other universities. Another is a study of early modern Asia. And the third is work on the comparative economic growth of Asia and Europe.

News from the Asian Research Centers

The Center for Japanese Studies has secured two outstanding scholars to each spend a year in residence at UCLA in the center's rotating Paul I. Terasaki Chair in U.S.-Japanese Relations. In 2005-06 the Terasaki Chair will be held by Thomas Rimer from the University of Pittsburgh. Rimer is widely known as a scholar of Japanese literature, arts, and the theater. His writings range from studies and translations of Mori Ogai's ouvre, to translation of Noh plays, works on acting, and more recently the visual arts, including twentieth century Japanese prints and paintings.

For 2006-2007 the Terasaki Chair will be held by Helen Hardacre from Harvard University. Hardacre is recognized as one of the most important scholars in the field of Japanese religion. She has written widely on Buddhism, Shinto, and the new religions of pre- and-post-World War II Japan.

The Center for Korean Studies has been offered a $1 million challenge grant from the Korea Foundation. The grant is defined as a matching fund to be invested as an endowment. The Korea Center is working with it newly formed Community Advisory Council to secure the matching amount.

The Center for Chinese Studies has invited Han Dongfang, the well-known Chinese labor activist who founded the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation, one of the central popular reform organizations that took part in the democracy movement of 1989 that ended in the massacre in Tiananmen Square. Han will receive an appointment as a UCLA Regents Professor, a prestigious designation for outstanding visiting scholars. He is expected to spend several months at UCLA early next year.

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies has two Visiting Scholars in residence during most of 2004-05. Prof. Yoshiko Okazaki of Sacred Heart University in Tokyo, Japan, is researching traditional Cambodian and Vietnamese music and dance as it is taught and performed in California. Mr. Taihei Okada of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan, is studying the U.S. colonial educational system in the Philippines, 1899-1946. In Fall 2004 the Center is also hosting Prof. Nancy Cooper, the visiting professor teaching "Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies" in the Southeast Asia Interdisciplinary Program. The Center's special project for 2004-05 is to strengthen the Education Abroad Programs in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam by helping with outreach and recruitment.

Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2004