Last May 5 (2018), I was invited to participate in the Li Ka Shing Foundation Workshop at UC Berkeley, California. The workshop was organized by Brooks Jessup and gathered close to twenty graduate students from UC Berkeley and Postdoctoral scholars from various universities in California (UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford).
The program covered a wide range of topics, from the publishing strategies of the Shanghai Medical Association to the transnational background of Khmer leaders, including a comparative study of an Vietnamese remake of P. Boule’s Planet of the Apes or the environmental history of fengshui in Sichuan’s rural communities. On the whole, I was impressed by the high quality of presentations and in-between discussions. The closing discussion highlighted the emphasis placed on networks and global circulations by this new generation of scholars, and the general trend toward a more social and material approach to East Asian studies, probably in reaction to cultural and linguistic approaches that still prevail among the previous generation.
My own paper traced the birth of professional advertising in modern China through the case study of the first leading Chinese agency (China Commercial Advertising Agency) and its founder C.P. Ling. The draft and Powerpoint of my paper are available here.
On April 27-28th 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in the DHAsia Summit at the Stanford Humanities Center, a major academic event in the United States during the Spring quarter. Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, it was organized by Thomas Mullaney with the support of the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA). The summit gathered about fifty world leading Asia scholars committed to digital practice.
I will make no attempt to summarize or provide an exhaustive list of the various projects presented. I will rather observe that such variety itself testifies of the diversity of practices that fall under the umbrella term “digital humanities” and reveals the unbounded nature of the digital field. I also noticed the effort to establish international standards and common sets of practices around selected tools (III-F), and a general trend toward more integrated projects (global gazetteers).
The closing discussion pointed to the permanence of nation-based research, the unequal representation of countries (notably the preeminence of China and Japan), but also suggested the emergence of a community of Asia scholars around digital practices. Concluding remarks discussed the afterlives of such spectacular but short-term events, raising the issues of how to perpetuate the ephemeral community spirit generated by the physical gathering of individuals, and questions the need / relevance of institutionalizing such initiatives.
My own paper aimed to present MADSpace, the research platform that I developed as a digital companion to my PhD project devoted to a spatial history of advertising in modern Shanghai. An abstract and the Powerpoint of my presentation are available here.