The Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities marked its fourth year with the opening of the Center for Gender Studies and the Humanities at China’s Nanjing University this summer. To commemorate the center’s establishment, seven Brown faculty members and a postdoctoral fellow from the Cogut Center for the Humanities attended the International Conference on Gender Research in Chinese Studies June 9-11 at Nanjing University.
At the conference, scholars from the U.S., China, Europe, Hong Kong and Taiwan exchanged ideas about gender research in Chinese studies, discussing gender in imperial and modern China, feminist theory, women’s trafficking and transgender issues in a global context.
The new Center for Gender Studies and the Humanities represents Nanjing University’s continuing investment in the joint program’s aim to extend research and scholarly exchange to include the humanities and social sciences, in addition to hard science and technology. The new center serves as “an institutionalization of the program” on the Nanjing side, said center director Kay Warren.
Established in June 2008, the Nanjing-Brown partnership is a collaboration between Nanjing University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Brown’s Pembroke Center, Cogut Center and the department of East Asian studies.
“The fundamental goal of this transnational collaboration is to forge important and concrete alliances among scholars in gender studies and feminist theory in China, the United States and other parts of the world,” said Brown’s program director Lingzhen Wang in her inauguration remarks at the conference. The new center will further advance the program’s goal “to address both the potential and the problems produced by capitalist globalization” in the U.S. and China, Wang said in her remarks.
Because of China’s market-oriented policy, gender studies as an academic field is not as accessible in China as in the United States and other parts of the world, said Wang, Brown associate professor of East Asian studies, in an interview with The Herald. “For people in science and technology, international communications and collaborations have long existed,” she said. In contrast, gender studies and feminist theory do not have as direct a relation to the global market as do science and technology, and despite some interest in gender studies research in China, “there’s lack of theoretical and academic resources,” she said.
The Nanjing-Brown Joint Program seeks to attract attention to the humanities and social sciences in a global economy that tends to “reconfigure everything according to economic logic,” Wang said. Especially in China today, the market-based policy that emphasizes science and technology has made pursuing scholarship pertaining to gender and sexuality more difficult, she said.
Even since its development in 2008, the joint program has made great strides in developing a strong transnational collaboration between the two universities. This June, the National Council for Research on Women awarded the Pembroke Center the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for its impact “not only at the campus level, but local, state, regional and global levels as well,” according to the council’s press release. The council recognized Pembroke’s transnational perspective of gender, lauding its commitment to developing the next generation of feminist scholars through student and postdoctoral fellowships and initiatives in the release.
The program’s success has made an important contribution to Brown’s internationalization efforts. In the past, international collaboration at Brown “mostly meant collaboration with people from Europe,” at the exclusion of other parts of the world, Wang said. “We absolutely need to expand that very restrictive view on internationalization,” she added, noting the growing importance of East Asia in today’s globalized economy.
Brown’s internationalization campaign, one of former president Ruth Simmons’ main priorities under the Plan for Academic Enrichment, has provided the momentum to get the Nanjing-Brown program off the ground, Wang said.
The Nanjing-Brown partnership will continue to expand its collaboration efforts in the coming academic year, with the vice president of Nanjing University expected to visit this October. The partnership may also extend its joint program to include the Chinese University in Hong Kong, making it “more transnational (and) more diverse,” she said. Brown already has an established connection with the Hong Kong-based university, whose faculty also attended the June conference in Nanjing. Originally, the Nanjing-Brown program planned to add joint MA and PhD programs, and it is currently working with Brown’s Development Office to seek external funding and internal resources necessary for the program’s further development, Wang said.
The Pembroke Center, home to the editorial offices of the journal of feminist cultural studies entitled Differences, will shortly be releasing the journal’s 2012 issue of translated critical essays relating to gender, sexuality, revolution and modernity in Chinese cinema, according to the program’s website. Wang is the issue’s special guest editor, along with Chengzhou He, a professor of English and Drama and the associate director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanjing University.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Chengzhou He is a distinguished visiting fellow. In fact, he is a professor of English and Drama and the associate director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanjing University. He was a distinguished visiting fellow in 2009. The Herald regrets the error.