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Lent Term 2017

Department of East Asian Studies

Postgraduate Research Seminars

Academical Year 2016-2017

St John's College Library

Venue: Seminar Room, St John’s College Library (source)


Please join us for the DEAS Postgraduate Research Seminars, designed for graduate students in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean studies to regularly meet, discuss your ideas, and present your projects – all in front of an interested and supportive audience! Some sessions will be period-specific while others will be region-centered, but all are intended to bring together DEAS graduate students to talk about your research in friendly surroundings while consuming drinks and nibbles! To enrich our experience of inter-institutional academic communication, this year we will have several guest speakers (all postgraduate students themselves) from other departments around the UK and around the world!

The Seminars are generously sponsored by the Chinese Studies Group of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars meet on Tuesdays at the Seminar Room, St John’s College Library, CB2 1TP 

Old Divinity School Location Map

* Location may change. Please follow the information on the website, as well as information sent by email prior to each seminar session.

Except as noted below, the seminar starts at 5:00pm and ends at 6:30pm

For questions, or if you’re interested in presenting or organizing, please contact Avital Rom ().

Lent Term, 2017

  • Thursday, 19th January, 2017 

    Yevgen Sautin, PhD candidate, Faculty of History
    Furnace of Revolution: Manchuria and the Creation of Modern China

    Manchuria in the first half of the twentieth century was a fiercely contested space, both politically and in terms of its identity. The aim of my dissertation work is to chart how the new PRC government set about reintegrating this contested space, teeming with outlaws and under foreign influence, into the Chinese state and how Beijing dealt with the sizable enclaves of foreigners that remained. Japanese experts played an important role in starting up the heavy industry that was damaged both by war and Soviet pilfering. The Korean angle is more obscure, but fears of potentially having to deal with a North Korean government in exile in Manchuria may have been one of the reasons for Chinese intervention in the Korean War. On the local level, from 1949-54 Northeast China was transformed by CCP campaigns to reduce illiteracy, create socialist economic planning, and stamp out “Manchurian localism” by bringing in and training a young generation of party cadres. All of these initiatives required mass mobilization which was further spurred on by the Korean War and Chinese direct military involvement. As PLA soldiers, scientists and intellectuals, CCP cadres, and Soviet advisers arrived in the region, Manchuria quickly became both red and expert. The region was also shaken by the first major political purge in CCP’s post 1949 history, the Gao Gang affair. Showing that after playing a decisive role in the communist victory in the Civil War, Manchuria played an equally vital role in the state building efforts that gained traction after 1949. 

    Alexandra Forrester, PhD candidate, FAMES
    Institutionalising the uninstitutionalisable: Daoist Householder priests and the Chinese State

    In Reform era China, religion has undergone a period of revitalisation following the strict prohibitions of the Maoist period.  The 'opening up' of China has given rise not only to economic reform but to a relaxation of religious policy.  My research focuses on Daoist Householder 'Huoju' priests of the Zhengyi sect.  These priests live 'scattered' within local communities where they provide ritual services within parishes, treading an often blurred line between the officially sanctioned and the 'superstitious', and are not subject to an overarching hierarchical structure. This makes them difficult to control and regulate.  In recent years, a certification system has been implemented and government-sponsored training schools established in an attempt to disrupt traditional ritual training patterns, impose approved curricula and monitor these priests.

    By examining the inevitable tensions between 'traditional' structures and the state (both at a centralised and local level), the unevenness in policy implementation, the origins of Householder priest certification and attempting to ascertain its effectiveness, I seek to answer the question 'can Householder priests be institutionalised?' 

    This presentation will be based on my MPhil dissertation, which comprised of a review of scholarship pertinent to this question and analysis of official studies commissioned by Chinese government bodies including the Daoist Association.
  • Tuesday, 7th February, 2017 starting at 5:30pm for this seminar ONLY

    Elena Follador, PhD Candidate, FAMES
    Shucharon, a Case Study of How “Diluted Narrativity” Did Not Water Down the Literary Value of Japanese Early Modern Texts

    In July, the Japanese social games developer Alt Plus launched “ShuShu,” a new project in which famous illustrators are creating a series of manga characters representing more than thirty different local sakés, each shaped according to the organoleptic features of the respective rice wine. Some of the characters already published online carry weapons, but this is not the first time that anthropomorphised sakès have taken up arms in Japan.

    The earliest literary instance appears in the Edo period printed text Shucharon (“Debate Between Saké and Tea,” early 17th century). The story begins when two attendants at a tea ceremony quarrel over the popularity of saké, but escalates when famous teas and rice wines join the diatribe, each side praising itself and charging the other with scandalous arrogance. This degenerates into a real war between the two imaginary armies, which is eventually resolved through the intervention of fish and birds.

    Shucharon is generally described as a “tale of wars between non-human beings” (irui-gassen mono) that also bears similarities with texts understood as “debate literature” (ronsōmono). Yet how closely does the text adhere to these generic norms? Is there a close relationship with the homonymous manuscript written in 1567? And do the lists of words found scattered throughout it only superficially resemble those of contemporary writing textbooks (ōraimono), as pointed out by scholars, or did they also serve an educational purpose? This paper will try to shed light on the complex intertextual web that underlies Shucharon.

    Hajni Elias, PhD Candidate, FAMES
    A Reassessment of Burial Practice as Reflected in Eastern Han Cliff Tombs and Decorated Stone Sarcophagi from Sichuan

    Cliff tombs and decorated stone sarcophagi of the Eastern Han period are distinct to the southwest, in particular the seat of the former Shu and Ba cultures in present-day Sichuan province. Stone sarcophagi provide a wealth of images on themes related to the after-life, local topography, architecture and animal world. This talk suggests that cliff tomb burial and the use of decorated stone sarcophagi may represent a reassessment of burial practices based on restraint and frugality in reaction to a period when lavish funerary customs prevailed in the wider empire rather than being, as some scholars have suggested, merely the products of a ‘poorer’ form of burial for families with economic constraints. The change in the layout of the cemetery and the absence of public monuments in the approach to the tombs are also consistent with this development in burial practice that entailed a shift in the function of tombs from social or public arenas towards private spaces that focussed more on the deceased and his family members. The talk’s argument is supported by textual sources, in particular information obtained from a number of contemporaneous stele inscriptions which extol the virtues of prudence and restraint in a society that enjoyed great wealth and economic prosperity. This talk bridges the methodological divide between art historians’ focus on material culture, and cultural historians’ attempts to explain early funerary practices through textual sources.
  • Tuesday, 14th March, 2017

    Nanase Shirota, PhD candidate, Japanese Studies
    An Ethnography of Listening: Japanese Listening Behaviour in Different Places and spaces

    What kind of social order or unwritten rules do listeners unintentionally/intentionally follow in face-to-face conversation and how different places influence these unwritten rules for listeners?

    I found and named one of the unwritten rules of listening, which is nagara listening, a kind of listening as Multitasking. In this presentation, I would like to delineate several Japanese nagara listening to show how different places and spaces restrict behaviour and rules of listening. I will give some examples about different sizes, purposes and formality of places based on ethnographical fieldwork in Tokyo and analysis of TV dramas.

    Avital Rom
    , PhD candidate, Chinese Studies
    Political Musicians, Musical Politicians: Early Chinese Musical Stories as a Rhetorical Tool

    Pre-Han and Han dynasty writings are overwhelmingly abundant with textual references to music. By analysing this body of “musical references”, my research aims to explore the developments in political and philosophical thoughts towards and within the Han period from a new perspective. I claim that discussions regarding music often serve as a rhetorical tool for authors of early Chinese texts, and explore the ways in which they do so.

    In this talk, I wish to focus on a specific facet of written musical references – namely narratives that include ideas about music, musicians, or any music-related theme. As ‘case studies’ I will focus specifically on stories that regard two prominent musical figures – music master Kui 夔 and music master Kuang師曠 – both served as court musicians and advisers to powerful rulers.

    I will examine the ways in which written narratives involving these musical figures can be used in service of the rhetorical aims of the authors, and the possible roles of their music and musicality in the political sphere: how can different texts use the same story for different rhetorical purposes? How is the sense of hearing used for understanding military and political situations, and how is one’s musicality used to shift such situations?

For further information, contact:

Avital Rom