A food safety factory shutdown has Americans hunting for baby formula. Readying themselves for a covid-19 lockdown, Chinese in Beijing emptied store shelves. Emerging from lockdown, some in Shanghai are visiting well-provisioned markets. U.S.-China agricultural trade is booming, but many are still being left hungry. Food security, sustainability and safety remain issues.
Inventing Silk Road Studies
The UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies (CCS) presents Tamara Chin. She will introduce the modern idea of the Silk Road as a term first coined by a German geographer in 1877, and then address the idea of Silk Road studies as an academic field.
Panelist/Discussant: Michael Nylan, History, UC Berkeley
Speaker/Performer: Tamara Chin, Comparative Literature, 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)?