Welcome from the Director

September 3, 2017
Karen Thornber

Dear colleagues, students, visitors, and friends,

With the fall semester now in full swing, I’d like to take this opportunity first to thank Professor Andrew Gordon for his exemplary leadership as the Asia Center’s acting director last year while I was on sabbatical leave and second to welcome (back) to Harvard and the Harvard University Asia Center all our faculty, staff, students, visiting fellows and scholars, as well as affiliates. Everyone is invited to our Fall Welcome Lunch on Tuesday, October 3 for fellows, visiting scholars, post-docs, and GSAs at all the Harvard Asia-related centers.

The Asia Center is a university-wide research center with four central missions: 1) Fostering research and teaching on Asia in transnational and transregional perspective, recognizing that Asian nations and their peoples have been inextricably interconnected with one another and with those of other regions for much of history; 2) Expanding the resources and number of Harvard’s faculty members dedicated to the study of Asia, especially South Asia and Southeast Asia; 3) Promoting new transdisciplinary knowledge on Asian cultures, economies, histories, politics, and contemporary affairs by catalyzing the interaction and collaboration of faculty and students from across Harvard’s professional schools and its Faculty of Arts and Sciences; 4) Exerting an impact beyond the academy by connecting faculty members and students with practitioners, professionals, and policy makers in the United States, Asia, and globally to address critical transregional challenges and crises.

The Asia Center accomplishes these missions through its public events; faculty and student grants programs; Graduate Student Associates Program; Publication Program; and other initiatives, which draw on the expertise of scholars, practitioners, professionals, and policy makers across the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, engineering, business, design, divinity, education, law, public health, and medicine and dentistry.

Upcoming events, all of which are open to the public, include our Tsai lecture and ASEAN@50 conference on October 12 and 13, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Tsai lecture will feature Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary-General of ASEAN, while the ASEAN@50 conference will bring together Southeast Asian scholars and dignitaries and Harvard faculty in various disciplines who focus on Southeast Asia. Our lecture series – Trump and Asia; Asia Beyond the Headlines; Asia Center Seminar Series; Asia Center Fellows Series – will bring to campus leading academics, professionals, practitioners, and policy makers. Next semester, the Asia Center celebrates its 20th anniversary, which it will recognize with a commemorative event, new website, and social media initiatives.

I’m pleased to report that our Graduate Student Associates program, now in its second year, is bringing together an exceptionally strong cohort of students from across the university who are researching trans-Asian topics. We also will be launching a postdoctoral program for recent PhDs who work on Asia from a transcultural perspective; and our new visiting scholars, fellows, and associates program is bringing to the Asia Center community a wonderfully diverse group of visitors whose research interests closely align with those of Harvard’s faculty members.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming days and wish everyone a terrific year!

Karen Thornber
Victor and William Fung Director, Harvard University Asia Center
Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and of Comparative Literature