Roundtable 1

Organizer - Jeff Wasserstrom

Forgotten Geographies: A Journal of Asian Studies Roundtable

The goal of this session will be to explore a range of issues associated with the imaginingos regions within Asia and the connections between them. In particular, the panelists in this conversational style roundtable, in which they will draw on their past work and bring in issues from their current projects, will think together about places or constellations of places that tend to get overlooked or forgotten in conventional discussions of the continent.

One thing that the panelists have in common is that they are the authors of past or forthcoming articles in the Journal of Asian Studies —a publication, along with carrying specialized research articles, that has often published think pieces and forums that engage with issues associated with the ways that regions within Asia are and Asia as a whole is imagined. The session will be moderated jointly by the outgoing and incoming editors of this flagship periodical of the Association for Asian Studies—with the outgoing editor (Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a specialist in modern Chinese history) doing so long distance via SKYPE and the incoming one (Vinayak Chaturvedi, a specialist in modern South Asian history) doing so in person.

The panelists are all, like the moderators, historians. They are, however, ones who vary widely when it comes to methodologies, regions and topics of focus, as well as academic generation, having begun their graduate studies as early as the 1980s and as recently as the early 2000s. Between them, they have written on issues ranging from South Asian visualizations of the globe, to the mapping of Taiwan, to the way that Muslim texts travel between South and Central Asia, to variations within and connections formed via the Chinese diaspora.


Emma Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations at M.I.T., who is the author of Taiwan’s Imagined Geography (Harvard 2006) and Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong (California, 2013).

Rachel Leow, University Lecturer in East Asian History at Cambridge University, who is the author of Taming Babel: Language in the Making of Malaya (Cambridge 2016), and is currently working on issues related to the Chinese diaspora.

Rian Thum, Associate Professor of History at Loyola College of New Orleans, who is the author of The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Harvard 2014, winner of the AHA’s Fairbank Prize) and is currently working on the Islamic networks that have connected China and India over the last five centuries.

Sumathi Ramaswamy, a Professor of History at Duke and President-Elect of the American Institute Indian Studies, whose books include The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Duke 2010) and Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe (Chicago, forthcoming 2017).

Roundtable 2

Organizer - William Pinch

Forgotten Genealogies: A History and Theory Roundtable

In this special roundtable session, four Asia-based scholars will discuss recent trends in historiography with a focus on questions of theory and philosophy of history. As has become increasingly apparent in recent years, the richness and diversity of Asian historiographical traditions complicate the notion that history should be understood only as the intellectual outgrowth of the European Enlightenment. At the same time, scholarship on these historiographical traditions frequently (and inadvertently) buttresses a conceptual Eurocentrism in determining what actually counts as history. Our panelists will reflect on how the innovative methodologies and theoretical frameworks they bring to their work address this conundrum and, indeed, illuminate broader challenges in Asian historiography—including the very prospect of Asia and its possible future histories. They will also discuss longer genealogies of historical understanding and intellection, and whether (and why) these risk being forgotten or marginalized in national and regional academic cultures.

Our special roundtable panelists are a mix of younger and mid-career scholars who share in common an interest in questions of methodology, historiography, and theory. They bring a diversity of approaches and frameworks to their scholarship, including oral history, memory/memoir, presence, literary analysis, paleography, microhistory, and global history. The session will be moderated by William R. Pinch and D. Gary Shaw, associate editors of History and Theory.


Claudine Ang, Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities (History), Yale-NUS, Singapore. Dr. Ang completed her doctoral studies in the Department of History at Cornell University in 2012 and works on the political uses of literature, including Vietnamese drama and Chinese landscape poetry, in the Mekong delta.

Nonica Datta, Associate Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dr. Datta specializes in modern South Asian history and is the author of Violence, Martyrdom And Partition: A Daughter's Testimony (2009) and Forming an Identity: A Social History of the Jats (1999).

Ranjan Ghosh teaches in the Department of English of the University of North Bengal. A trans(in)fusionist working across disciplines, his many books include Presence: Philosophy, History and Cultural Theory for the 21st Century (with Ethan Kleinberg, 2013), Thinking Literature Across Continents (with J. Hillis Miller, 2016), Transcultural Poetics (2017) and Philosophy and Poetry: A Continental Perspective (2018).

Xupeng Zhang, Institute of World History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. Zhang works on Chinese historiography, global intellectual history, and the history of ideas. His essays include “In and Out of the West: On the Past, Present, and Future of Chinese Historical Theory” (2015).

Roundtable 3

Organizer - Anne Feldhaus

Shifting Genealogies and Geographies of Fieldwork

Fieldwork is often identified with anthropology, but the methodology is also part of other domains of scholarly practice. Ethnographic fieldwork has often been portrayed as a solitary fieldworker living in an isolated community. In fact, much fieldwork is conducted in megacities, and some fieldworkers follow mobile subjects through multi-sited projects across the elusively-defined geography of “Asia.” Contemporary fieldworkers are increasingly cognizant of how different kinds of historical consciousness, national projects, mass media, and global pressures inform their conversation partners’ worldviews. In this session, four seasoned fieldworkers from three different disciplines discuss some of the directions contemporary fieldwork is taking, describing their own encounters with the messiness of fieldwork in the process. Anthropologist Katherine Bowie has been conducting fieldwork in Thailand for over 40 years, finding that her research foci have expanded over time as she came to realize that even a single village cannot be understood without considering the historical impact of regional, national and international forces. Historian Queeny Pradhan has been conducting historical fieldwork in the hill stations of India, drawing upon archival sources and oral histories. Anthropologist Laurel Kendall began as a solitary fieldworker in a Korean village, but found herself at mid-life experiencing the pleasures and pitfalls of team-based research with colleagues in Vietnam. Political Scientist Manoranjan Mohanty, who has carried out fieldwork in Hela Township in Wuxi, China for nearly four decades, has had to devise strategies to cope with not only the fast process of change on the ground in rural policies and practices but also the gap between the questions that he was interested in pursuing – such as inequality, gender, and participation – and the the questions the authorities were preoccupied with, such as figures on growth, industrialisation and urban development.


Katherine Bowie , is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has served as Director of UW-Madison’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. She was the President of the Association of Asian Studies from 2017-18. Her publications include Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand (Columbia University Press, 1997); oices from the Thai Countryside: The Necklace and Other Short Stories of Samruam Singh (University of Wisconsin Southeast Asia Series, 1998), and Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017).

Queeny Pradhan is a professor of History at GGS Indraprastha University, where she teaches Indian History, Legal History, and Women in History. She received her doctorate from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She has carried out extensive field research in Simla, Darjeeling, Ootacamund and Mount Abu. Her book Empire in the Hills: Simla, Darjeeling, Ootacamund and Mount Abu, 1820-1920 (OUP, India) came out in 2017. She is currently an ICCR Visiting Professor of Modern Indian History at the University of Vienna.

Laurel Kendall is Chair of Anthropology and Curator of Asian Collections at the American Museum of Natural History well as a Senior Research Fellow of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. Her knowledge of Korea began with three years of U.S. Peace Corps service, which was followed by decades of anthropological work and many publications on women, shamans, modernity issues. In Vietnam she participated in several collaborative projects, beginning with the exhibition “Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit,” for which she received a Friendship Medal from the government of Vietnam. Kendall was President of the Association for Asian Studies from 2016-2017.

Manoranjan Mohanty was Professor of Political Science at the University of Delhi and is currently Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development ( and Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi ( His recently published book, based on his research on China's reforms during the past four decades, is China's Transformation: The Success Story and the Success Trap.

Anne Feldhaus (Moderator) is Distinguished Foundation Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University and the current President of the Association for Asian Studies. Her work combines philological and ethnographic approaches to study religious traditions of Maharashtra, the Marathi-language region of western India. Her ethnographic words include Connected Places: Region, Pilgrimage, and Geographical Imagination in Maharashtra (2003) andWater and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra (1995).