UCLA International Institute
Asia Institute

Advancing collaborative, interdisciplinary research on Asia worldwide

Asia and World Development

The last two decades have witnessed a shift in the cultural, political and economic relations between the countries and the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. These changing geographies are among the most visible and striking evidence of the move from a unipolar to a multipolar world, raising theoretical and methodological questions concerning the changing international system.

The initiative on Asia and World Development responds to a concern that one of the weaknesses of studies of globalization has been the absence in the study of these newly emerging relationships of area specialists with deep knowledge of the relevant languages and cultures. The initiative invites scholars, students and professionals with expertise in multiple world areas, who are capable of working on the ground with a variety of different materials from documents to interviews, to deepen our understanding of this new, complex phenomenon from vantage points that do not start from or converge on the US and Europe.

The initiative is organized around two thematic clusters:

Asia and the Global South

Activities in this cluster seek to understand the movements of people, resources, and products between Asia (especially China, India, Japan and Korea), Africa and Latin America. The objectives are to foster conversations and communications between area studies specialists who would otherwise not be brought together and to sharpen concepts such as "soft power” and "realism” in the light of Asia’s new relationships in Africa and South America.

Economic Change and Emerging Asia-Africa Interactions 2014

Organized jointly by the Asia Institute and the UCLA African Studies Center during Winter and Spring quarters 2014, this series considered both "top-down” relations–international relations, government policies and corporate relations–and "bottom-up” relations, or how ordinary citizens are experiencing and responding to the growing presence of Asia in Africa and Africa in Asia. Invited speakers addressed the growing ties between Africa and Asia from vantage points that do not start from or converge on the US and Europe. The series culminated in a half-day forum on May 8, 2014 on Africa/Asia Relations and Global Security.

Asia and the Global South Graduate Workshop 2013

In February 2013, the Asia Institute and the East Asian Studies Center at USC jointly hosted the third annual Joint East Asian Studies Center (JEASC) conference and graduate professional development workshop with support from US Department of Education Title VI funds. The 2013 conference was on the subject of "Asia and the Global South" covering the ways in which Asian states, firms, groups and individuals are engaging governments, societies, economies, and cultures in Africa and Latin America. On the day after the joint conference, the Asia Institute organized a public forum in which UCLA faculty and an invited scholar from Mexico explored the nature of Asian countries’ relations with the Global South and how they require us to revise current theories about global capitalism.

China-Latin America Conference & Publication 2011

To launch the Asia in World Development Initiative, the Asia Institute hosted an international workshop in April 2011 on the topic, From the Great Wall to the New World: China and Latin America in the 21st Century. The workshop resulted in a special issue of China Quarterly (Vol. 11, 2012).

Shaping the Asian Metropolis

This cluster grapples with questions about how urban life in Asia is being shaped and by whom? Whose voices are shaping the meaning of the city and how are they being expressed and heard? The focus, initially is on water and the metropolis, which encompasses both the provision of water and the meaning of water for urban residents. The Asia Institute is collaborating with UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Mellon Foundation supported "Urban Humanities” program at UCLA to develop a program that is expected to include research, graduate student training and curriculum development. Potential partners in Asia include the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore.

Working group on "Shaping the New Asian Metropolis"

A trans-disciplinary group of faculty in environmental studies, public policy and the humanities is meeting to consider the rapid growth of Asia’s largest cities. The working group asks how metropolitan growth and development are envisioned, lived and negotiated and considers the outcomes of these processes for urban citizens and their livelihoods, as well as on the economies and environments of Asian cities. The group anticipates developing projects that will assist in documenting, understanding and comparing the social and environmental changes associated with urbanization in the new global mega cities of Asia.

New Course: Water & the City In Asia (East Asian Studies EAS 291A)

This graduate seminar, first taught in the Winter Quarter, 2014, addresses multiple roles and values of water in East Asian urban environments encompassing both provision of water and meaning of water for urban and rural residents. How is urban life being shaped in Asia’s cities and by whom? Whose voices are shaping the meaning of water in the city and how are they being expressed and heard? The syllabus approaches these questions from different perspectives ranging from science of water management to ways in which rituals and ceremonies focused on water are changing in new urban settings. Support for the development of the course was provided by the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. EAS 291A fulfills course requirements for the Urban Humanities graduate certificate and the East Asian Studies MA.

K-12 workshop

On February 20, 2014, the UCLA History-Geography Project and the Asia Institute held a K-12 Scholar-Teacher Workshop on Water and the City. Dr. Nick Menzies, Executive Director of the Asia Institute spoke to participants about water and urbanization with specific reference to Asia. This special workshop for K-12 teachers built on the syllabus of the new interdisciplinary course on "Water and the City in Asia” (see above) developed by the Asia Institute with support from the Urban Humanities program at UCLA. The workshop targeted educators of all grade levels with particular relevance to Science and Environmental Studies as well as Humanities and Social Sciences.