New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS)

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NYCAS 2020 Goes Virtual

Conference Theme

The Impact of COVID-19 on Asian Communities: From The Local to the Global

In association with the New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS), SYNY-Brockport will host the 2020 NYCAS Virtual Conference centered on the theme of “The Impact of COVID-19 on Asian Communities: From the Local to the Global”. An expert panel is organized to explore a timely and important topic on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, global economy, education, and Asian communities. The conference also consists of three concurrent paper presentation sessions focusing on the critical concept of Asian identity and exploring Asia’s rich and varied cultures and heritages.

Date: September 11, 2020
Time: 1–5 pm (EST)
Location: Zoom conference link will be shared upon registration

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  1. Welcome and Keynote (1–1:40 pm)
    1. Welcome: Brockport President Heidi MacPherson, SUNY Brockport
    2. Welcome: Dr. Patricia Welsh, NYCAS President, Hofstra University
    3. Introduction of Keynote Speaker: Dr. Natalie Sarrazin, NYCAS 2020 Conference Chair
    4. Keynote Address (1:15 pm): Dr. Christine Yano, President, Association for Asian Studies, Professor, University of Hawaii
  2. Expert Panel (1:45–3:15 pm) —  Perspectives on the Impact of COVID-19 on Asian Communities (1:40–3:10 pm) (Moderator: Dean Jose Maliekal, SUNY Brockport). 15 minute presentations from each panelist followed by a five minute Q and A with the remaining 30 minutes used for discussion and moderator-selected questions from the chat feature on Zoom.
    1. 1:45 pm — Dr. Michael D. Mendoza, MD, MPH, MS, Commissioner of Public Health, Monroe County Department of Public Health
    2. 2:05 pm — Marina Fang, Huffington Post contributor
    3. 2:25 pm — Hkadin Lee, Community Outreach Coordinator, Burma
    4. 2:45 pm — Fang-Yu Yang, Indiana University, BloomingtonGraduate
    5. 2:45–3:15 pm — Discussion, Additional Q and A
  3.  Break-Out Panels (3:20–4:30 pm) — 15-minute presentations from each panelist followed by a 30-minute discussion using moderator-selected questions from the chat feature on Zoom.
    1. Panel 1: Transnational Connections and Perspectives (Moderator: Dr.Jie Zhang, SUNY Brockport)
      1. 3:20 pm — William Figueroa, University of Pennsylvania, "Sino-Persian Connections, 1905-1959: A View from the Chinese Press"
      2. 3:35 pm — Kim Hanbit, Seoul National University, “Fishing in Troubled Waters - Intermediate Trade and Introduction of Copper Coins in Seventeenth Century Korea”
      3. 3:50 pm — Adrienne Atterberry, Syracuse University, “Border Crossing and Blurred Ethnic Boundaries: Transnational Indian American Youth Redefine Identity”
      4. 4:05 pm — J. Travis Shutz, Binghamton University (SUNY), “Whose "Japanese Pirates?": Identification and Objectification of East Asia's Notorious Seaborne Bandits”
      5. 4:20 pm — Discussion, Q and A
    2. Panel 2: Imperialism, Resistance, and Equality (Moderator: Dr. Neal Keating, SUNY Brockport)
      1. 3:20 pm — Yui Chim Lo, University of Oxford, “Multiple Forms of Racism: Chinese and Asians, c. 1945-1949”
      2. 3:35 pm — Edwin Michielsen, University of Toronto, “Questioning Manchurian Harmony: East Asian Alliances of Resistance in Xia Yan’s Lush Grass”
      3. 3:50 pm — Anupriya Pandey, SUNY at Buffalo, “Reframing Emergent Dalit Activism: Against the Teleology of Political Success”

      4. 4:05 pm — Discussion, Q and A
    3. Panel 3: Rebirth and Transforming Identities (Moderator: Dr.Pilapa Carroll, SUNY Brockport)
      1. 3:20 pm — Matthew Keller, University of Southern California, “The Identity of Inari: Medieval Formations of Japanese kami”
      2. 3:35 pm — Junyao Zhu, New Hampton School, “Monkey's Cultural Figure Transformation in China and Japan”
      3. 3:50 pm — Christian McCall, Austin Peay State University, “The Rebirth of Nagoya: Before, During, and After the Bombings of the Pacific War”
      4. 4:05 pm — Discussion, Q and A
  4. Summary Discussion, Presentation, and Concluding Remarks (4:45–5 pm) 
    1. 4:30 pm — Panel Moderator Summary and Discussion (Jie Zhang, Neal Keating, Pilapa Carroll, and Jose Maliekal)
    2. 4:45 pm — Brockport Feldman LGBTQ Paper Award Presentation (Pilapa Carroll)
    3. 4:50 pm — NYCAS Marleigh Grayer Ryan College Student Writing Prize Award Announcement (Tiantian Zheng)
    4. 4:55 pm— NYCAS Announcements and Concluding Remarks

Keynote Speaker bio

Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii, has conducted research on Japan and Japanese Americans with a focus on popular culture. Beginning in March 2020 she serves as the President of the Association for Asian Studies. Her publications include Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song (Harvard, 2002), Crowning the Nice Girl; Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawaii’s Cherry Blossom Festival (Hawaii, 2006), Airborne Dreams: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways (Duke, 2011), and Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty and its Trek Across the Pacific (Duke, 2013). She has also co-edited a number of volumes: Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Contemporary Japan with Alisa Freedman and Laura Miller (Stanford, 2013), Making Waves: Travelling Musics in Hawaii, Asia, and the Pacific with Fred Lau (Hawaii, 2018), and Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words with Neal Akatsuka (Duke, 2018).

Expert Panelist Bios

Dr. Michael D. Mendoza, MD, MPH, MS has played an essential role during the COVID-19 pandemic in his role Monroe County Commissioner, acting as an advocate to educate and update the public during this critical time. Dr. Mendoza received his undergraduate and medical degrees from The University of Chicago. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Health from The University of Illinois - Chicago, and he obtained his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. Dr. Mendoza is also recognized educator and writer. He was named "Teacher of the Year" by the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians and has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Marina Fang is a reporter at HuffPost, and is based in New York. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Ms. Fang covers the intersection of politics and culture, including gender and race in politics, diversity and representation in pop culture, issues surrounding Asian American identity, and general movies and television. In 2020, she was a fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Marina will speak to discrimination of the Asian Community in the era of COVID-19.

Hkadin Lee is a Refugee Outreach Coordinator at the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester. Originally from Burma, Hkadin came to the US 30 years ago, and earned her degree from Monroe Community College in 1994. In 2008, as the first wave of Southeast Asian refugees was arriving in Rochester, she began working for the church to help welcome the new arrivals. She helps them fill out paperwork, make medical appointments and learn English. Hkadin has been outreach coordinator for this Burmese community since, and will speak on the impact of COVID-19 on this population.

Fang-Yu Yang, Indiana University, Bloomington, is a PhD student of Middle Eastern studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research focuses on political culture and policies related to the Middle East and East Asia. Her dissertation reconsiders theories of political culture and democracy to provide a new perspective on recent changes in the political culture of non-Western countries.

Paper Abstracts

Panel 1 — Transnational Connections and Perspectives
  1. William Figueroa — “Sino-Persian Connections, 1905-1959: A View from the Chinese Press”
    In 1907, Chinese constitutionalists Wang Jingwei and Hu Hanmin wrote effusively of the lessons they derived from the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. Nearly fifty years later, Reza Radmanesh, Communist leader of the Iranian Tudeh Party, stood before the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing, and hailed the victory of the Chinese Communist Revolution as a victory for all mankind. Long before official relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Iran were established in 1971, unofficial connections between the two countries were flourishing. What was the driving force behind these ties? In what context did they emerge?
    This paper aims to explore these questions through the eyes of the mainland Chinese press. It will demonstrate how connections between China and Iran, once defined by the Silk Roads and traditional trade routes, were revived in the early 20th century along new networks of colonial division, revolutionary resistance, and international solidarity. These new connections were not so much a resumption of archaic ties as a complete reconstitution of Sino-Persian relations in a new context. Both Chinese students and Iranian students increasingly expressed a new understanding of their own political identities in which internationalism was paramount, and the fates of Iran and China were permanently linked. Primary sources (Mandarin and Persian) include Chinese state-affiliated media outlets like People’s Daily, Shanghai Daily, and Guangming Daily and published interviews by Hamid Shawkat with Iranian student Maoists who traveled to China throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
  2. Kim Hanbit —“Fishing in Troubled Waters – Intermediate Trade and Introduction of Copper Coins in Seventeenth Century Korea”
    The Peloponnesian War exhausted both the Delian league and the Peloponnesian league. At last, neither Athens nor Sparta, but rather Macedon, gave a triumphant laugh. Beyond this, there are numerous cases of someone taking advantage of a confusing situation. This paper illustrates how the Korean government took advantage of such a situation and, thus, eventually started minting coins amid the nationwide maritime trade ban of the Qing in the seventeenth century.
    The Ming loyalists' resistance continued until the seventeenth century on the southeastern coast of China. To block their bases, the Qing court enforced the maritime trade ban from 1655. The conflict hindered private trade between China and Japan. During this period, exclusive trade access between the two countries occurred through Chosŏn Korea. The Korean government benefited from the intermediate trade and hoarded larger amounts of silver and copper than those of the earlier period. In 1675, it established the Japanese trading post in Busan, which was ten times bigger than Dejima, the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki.
    Chosŏn Korea typically had few exports, and it could not rely on precious metals because of the lack of output. However, in the late seventeenth century, the Korean government was able to mint copper coins using stocked copper and started circulating its first nationwide metallic currency.
    This paper excavates Chosŏn Korea's role in international trade in Northeast Asia in the premodern era. Also, it points to money as an institutional project, not a mere instrument in the market.
  3. Adrienne Atterberry — Border Crossing and Blurred Ethnic Boundaries: Transnational Indian American Youth Redefine Identity
    This article examines the effects of transnational migration on the ethnic identity of youth who grew up in the USA and Bangalore, a city in southwest India, prior to becoming adults. I refer to this group as transnational youth. Through analyzing interviews with 20 transnational Indian American youth, this article finds that by spending part of their childhood in India they were able to learn more about their Indian ethnicity, which helped them resolve issues related to their status as an ethnic minority in the USA, reframe how they define their ethnic identity, and reevaluate the status of their ethnic identity relative to their counterparts raised in the USA. As such, this article describes the cultural effects of new forms of transnational mobility.
  4. J. Travis Shutz — “Whose ‘Japanese Pirates?’ Identification and Objectification of East Asia’s Notorious Seaborne Bandits
    First appearing on the Goguryeo Gwanggaeto Stele, erected in 414 CE, the so-called wokou (Japanese pirates, J. wakō, K. waegu, 倭寇) haunt the history and popular imagination of East Asia. While recorded over a span of twelve hundred years, reports of wokou activity concentrate on the early wokou (14th and 15th centuries) and the later wokou (16th century). Both contemporaneous documentation and modern histories attest to their ethnic composition varying across historical ages. Yet, a focus on perceived wokou “Japanese-ness” continually reappears in histories and stories, paintings and poems, and more recently in television shows, movies, and graphic novels. This paper explores how transnational multiethnic seaborne bandits became the infamous “Japanese pirates.” First, it lays out the general contours of wokou history that created early conceptions of wokou. Next, shifting the focus to sixteenth-century Ming China, it assesses how seaborne bandits utilized the terrifying wokou image by wearing Japanese-style clothing, hiring Japanese captains, and recruiting Japanese seaborne bandits. Then, it examines how local elites and government officials utilized wokou activity in debates on whether to relax or strengthen prohibitions on private maritime trade. Finally, it concludes with a brief discussion of the post-sixteenth century use of wokou history in East Asia. Overall, the paper establishes how, across historical periods, wokou activity and identity were repeatedly identified and objectified in support of wide-ranging agendas.
Panel 2 — Imperialism, Resistance, and Equality
  1. Yui Chim Lo — “Multiple Forms of Racism: Chinese and Asians, c. 1945-49”
    It has been assumed that the post-1945 period saw Asians pushing back against Western imperialism and its racial-civilizational hierarchy. Asians’ quest for equality was less than straightforward, however. Departing from philosophical arguments on Asian solidarity, this paper looks into practical issues. It examines the case of how Chinese grappled with the implications of being Asians in the immediate post-World War II era. This period was important not only because of its many possibilities; many Asians were confident that their connections would be renewed after the disruption of imperialism. In this spirit, Chinese did argue that Asians should be equal to other peoples. Not a few of them, notably Nationalist China’s leader Chiang Kai-shek, however, hated the white Allied powers for inadequately supporting China and letting the yellow race kill itself. This somewhat weakened the case for equality. Meanwhile, China encountered discrimination from its neighbors: Southeast Asian suspicion and attack on its huge diaspora. An adamant China insisted that the migrants were entitled to becoming Chinese. The agreement in the 1947 Asian Relations Conference that immigrants should be treated equally before the law failed to resolve the tension in the long run. It did not help that Chinese in turn considered other Asian nations ‘weak and small’. It was China’s duty, they declared, to assist these nations, which, despite its anti-imperial intention, smacked of the civilizing rhetoric of imperialism. Pre-existing cultural prejudice and friction, not just geopolitics, constituted the fault lines that undercut a ‘united front’ of post-war, post-colonial Asians.
  2. Edwin Michielsen — “Questioning Manchurian Harmony: East Asian Alliances of Resistance in Xiz Yan’s Lush Grass
    This paper examines the play Lilicao (Lush Grass, 1944) by Xia Yan (1900-1995) focusing on how Xia explored the assembling of East Asian antiwar alliances during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Lush Grass portrays how East Asian proletarians overcome language barriers, recognize the immiseration of proletarian others, and execute cooperation beyond national identities. Set in Manchuria where under the Japanese empire colonized and colonizing East Asians lived together, Xia located a possibility for proletarian solidarity across national boundaries, challenging the imperial narrative of “harmony among the five ethnic groups.” Xia’s play questioned proletarian constituencies as fixed and instead proposed proletarian subjectivities to be dynamic in the process of establishing counter hegemony alliances. While the Japanese empire tried to homogenize differences among proletarians through the illusion of imperial unity, Lush Grass shows a vision of East Asian solidarity through the common fight against Japanese militarism
    Xia played a key role in supporting the Japanese antiwar alliance and participating in the anti-Japanese resistance. Moreover, Xia wrote several plays during the war including Lush Grass. Xia’s Lush Grass, however, differs from the bulk of War of Resistance literature by complicating the portrayal of the enemy as “Japanese devils.” Xia showed that Japanese soldiers were also victims of imperialism and belonged to the East Asian proletariat, stressing the dilemmas faced by Japanese soldiers during wartime. In doing so, Xia challenged the nationalistic and patriotic nature of War of Resistance literature and remained loyal to proletarian internationalism of the 1920s and early 1930s.
  3. Anupriya Pandey — “Reframing Emergent Dalit Activism: Against the Teleology of Political Success”
    The way caste is studied in India is presently evolving. Many have moved from understanding caste as a passive subject of traditional oppression and exclusion to an active political category. Scholarships on Dalit (stigmatized caste group, formally known as untouchables) resistance, however, still focuses largely on the consolidated forms of politics and social movements that have resulted in Dalit party politics. It has yet to understand Dalit individual’s articulations of resistance outside the realm of concrete or real politics. Using qualitative data analysis of 60 articles published on two online platforms: Round Table India and Feminism in India, I argue that understanding Dalit resistance using successful political mobilizations imposes a teleology that assumes all experience will be channeled into received narratives that culminate in recognized political mobilizations. I challenge these received narratives by examining how caste identity is contested by individuals in multiple ways. I argue that individuals deploy strategies such as embracing identity and reframing their position in society as a result of socio-historical injustice. Along with this, they challenge the legitimacy of the state by separating their sense of citizenship from the “upper-castes”. These strategies of resistance do not follow a teleology but rather demonstrate that resistance acts beyond the achievement of political success and exists in relation to quotidian acts and everyday narratives that seek to challenge caste-based oppression.
Panel 3 — Rebirth and Transforming Identities
  1. Matthew Keller — The Identity of Inari: Medieval Formations of Japanese kami
    What goes into curating the identity of a medieval Japanese deity? How do authors use the personas of kami within different discourses? With these questions in mind, in this paper, I will examine the identity of the well-known kami Inari and new narratives of the deity that begin to appear in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Today, Inari is one of the most popular kami in Japan, and commonly associated with foxes and good fortune. However, during the medieval period the identity of this deity went through numerous changes. Inari, and its eponymous shrine in Kyoto, existed at the confluence of multiple narratives related to protection of the throne, esoteric Buddhist rituals, and popular practices. My research examines how the compilers of works such as the Keiran shūyōshū and the Inariki were agents in a process that reinvented the identity of Inari and the origins of its shrine. These texts worked to transform the identity of Inari from the protector deity of the Hata clan into a protector of the state generally, and a progenitor of royal authority in particular. This transformation stemmed from introducing new elements into the kami’s repertoire and overlaying new narratives onto earlier stories of its origins. In part, this paper will provide us with greater understanding as to how medieval Japanese authors shaped the religious landscapes around kami, and how the identities of a kami might affect the stories such authors told in their shaping.
  2. Junyao Zhu — “Monkey’s Cultural Figure Transformation in China and Japan
    When reading ancient records or religious articles, researchers have noticed that different animals usually play miscellaneous roles that are directly related to human experiences and images. It can be said that different ways of looking at animals appeared throughout the history. In modern products, the monkey figure also appears often. For example, Sekiro: Shadows die twice, one of the most famous video games in 2019, has used a lot of monkeys as monsters and evils (Youkai). Such characteristics can all refer to what people believe in sengoku period.
    Human beings are categorized in Primates according to modern taxonomy. Under the same order, it also includes different kinds of monkeys and apes. Since they are relatively close to human beings in appearances, humans have spent a lot of time interacting with them. But how do humans view monkeys and how did the figures of them change throughout the history?
    This research holds the hypothesis that monkeys had changed from a positive figure to a negative one. Through my comparison of monkeys’ roles between Chinese and Japanese cultures, I will show how the figures of monkeys and apes transferred in these two cultures.
    This research refers to primary sources that has mentioned monkeys or apes in ancient legends, such as Verse of Chu, which is considered the earliest document depicting the characteristics of monkeys. Moreover, the research refers to The Gibbons in China, written by Robert Hans van Gulik, which generally categorizes gibbons (apes) according to the ancient Chinese primary sources.
  3. Christian McCall — “The Rebirth of Nagoya: Before, During, and After the Bombings of the Pacific War”
    By the end of the twentieth century, the city of Nagoya was a major core of Japan’s automotive, aerospace, ceramics, and machinery industries. Nagoya has not always been such a hub. Prior to the war in the Pacific, the main industry was focused in the production of fighter planes by the Mitsubishi Aircraft Company. In 1945, American forces used strategic bombing to fire-bomb Japanese cities for diminish military factories and citizen moral. Nagoya is typically overshadowed in the fire-bombing campaign by other cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, and Kobe. This paper will demonstrate how Allied bombing was a transformative incident in the economic history of Nagoya, and how this catastrophe set way for the modern urban economy.
    By chronicling the city’s economy before the war, showing the extent of the destruction caused by the bombings, and exhibiting the reconstructive efforts, the impact of Allied bombing can be assessed. Statistical data will show how the automotive industry in the Aichi Prefecture has benefited the economy and how the importance of athletics, baseball and the rise of the pachinko machine, during the mid-twentieth century helped bring Nagoya back from the ashes. The key objective this paper supports is how in-spite of experiencing a horrific tragedy, Nagoya was able to benefit from it as it was given a fresh start to revamp its entire economy as the city progressed into the latter half of the twentieth century.


For any additional information, questions, or concerns, please contact Natalie Sarrazin.

Last Updated 10/27/20

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