Saturday, 28 February 2015

Inventing Silk Road Studies


Thu Apr-2-2015, 7:30pm


Knight Building, Room 102
521 Memorial Way
(Between Littlefield Center and Frost Amphitheatre)

Program / Series

Co-sponsored Lectures 


The Silk Road Foundation

Inventing Silk Road Studies

Tamara Chin

Brown University

Since the 1980s, the term Silk Road has had a popular and academic appeal, suggestive of an era of premodern globalization in which China played a central role.  Silk Road books, journals, exhibitions, conferences, and institutes are increasingly commonplace across Asia, North America, and Europe.  The talk introduces the modern idea of the Silk Road as a term first coined by a German geographer in 1877.  It sketches the early translation and circulation of the term in colonial geography, before its re-appropration in diplomatic discourses after the 1955 Bandung Conference and Nixon’s 1972 visit to China.  The talk then addresses the idea of Silk Road studies as an academic field.  Despite a general familiarity with what now falls under Silk Road studies (e.g., Central Asian art; Dunhuang manuscripts; contemporary Chinese geopolitics), insufficient attention has been paid to its potential parameters or usefulness.  I ask: as what kind of heuristic device has the Silk Road served, and in which disciplines? Is a more defined or institutionalized field of Silk Road studies desirable? If so, which model should it follow, and which other fields should it position itself with or against (e.g. Area Studies, postcolonial studies, comparative literature)? 
Free and Open to the Public

Speaker's Bio

Tamara T. Chin is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University.  She specializes in early Chinese literature, and recently published Savage Exchange: Han Imperialism, Chinese Literary Style, and the Economic Imagination (Harvard 2014).  She is currently working on two book projects relating to the Silk Road: one on changes in literary and economic practices during the rise of the Silk Road (ca. 1-700 CE), and a comparative study of the modern idea of a more globalized premodernity (the "invention" of the Silk Road).

No comments: