December 2, 2015

China Studies Speakers Series: An Open Forum for Interdisciplinary Talks on China

Since spring 2014, scholars and journalists from across the country have traveled to Georgetown to participate in the China Studies Speakers Series, a series of lectures addressing key topics in Chinese studies.

China Studies Speaker Series

“The speakers series tries to address the need for an open forum for interdisciplinary discussions on China,” says Professor James Millward of the history department, who organizes the speakers series.

The series touches on contemporary as well as historical issues, including some controversial topics. For example, a Tibetan scholar, Tsering Shakya, spoke about the implications of China’s claims of sovereignty over Tibet in 2014. 

“We certainly aren’t trying to deliberately follow the headlines, but at the same time, we won’t shy away from controversy,” says Millward. “We want to be open and objective in how we approach these topics.”

The speaker series is open to Georgetown faculty, staff, students, and the broader D.C. community. “It’s particularly fun to see students get fired-up to hear these speakers,” adds Millward.

Interdisciplinary Approach

Initially created in spring 2014 with funding from the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement, the China Studies Speakers Series is now co-sponsored by the Georgetown Institute for Global History and the Asian Studies Program. 

To choose speakers, Millward assembles a committee of faculty members from different departments and fields. In this way, the series is able to feature speakers from a variety of disciplines who are doing innovative work on China. 

“We try to make it as eclectic as possible,” says Millward, adding that the committee solicits scholars from across the humanities and social sciences. In addition to ensuring diversity of speakers, this approach helps to attract students and faculty from a wide array of backgrounds in the audience. 

China Scholarship at Georgetown

Millward joined the Georgetown faculty in 1996 to teach "intersocietal history" in the MSFS program. He specializes in Chinese and Central Asian history. 

His most recent book, The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction(2013), examines cultural and physical exchanges along the Silk Road. He is currently researching cross-cultural musical exchange in Eurasia, focusing on the spread of stringed instruments along the Silk Road and the globalization of the guitar. 

Millward has also served on the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies and as president of the Central Eurasian Studies Society. 

"I frequently attend interdisciplinary conferences on China and Central Asia," says Millward. "There's much to be gained from learning about work on a region you follow, but from difference disciplinary perspectives." 

Upcoming Events

The next speaker in the series is Roberta Wue, a professor of art history from the University of California, Irvine. 

Her speech is titled “Butchers and Vendors: Portraits of the Artist in Late Qing Shanghai” and will focus on art, visual culture, and photography in nineteenth century Qing China. 

More information about the China Studies Speakers Series can be found here. RSVP to Professor Wue’s upcoming event here.