The annual Northeast Conference on Chinese Thought, which hosted graduate students, professors and scholars from multiple colleges and universities, was held in Alumnae Hall this past weekend.
Each presenter planned “a 20-minute presentation and 10-minute Q&A.” Presentations incorporated a broad range of ideologies and perspectives, covering topics ranging from friendship and happiness to pedagogy and contemplative thinking.
Christopher Yang GS, a sixth-year PhD student in religious studies at Brown, led the efforts to organize the conference. With “an organizing committee comprising faculty from different schools,” Yang went about “raising money, soliciting papers, winnowing down the field and shaping the program,” he said.
“There’s a number of these around the country, and they’re basically regional conferences for China study scholars,” Yang added.
Yang credited multiple departments and initiatives at the University for helping to facilitate the event. “The whole thing is made possible with really generous support from the China Initiative within the Watson Institute and additional support from the East Asian Studies Department,” he said.
Presenters and audience members attended for varying reasons. Tim Connolly, professor of philosophy and religion at East Stroudsburg University, has attended and presented at the NECCT multiple times in the past.
“Many of these people are good friends, and I don’t get to see them otherwise,” he said. “It’s also an important part of Chinese philosophy for friends to (come) together and learn from each other.”
Connolly also reflected on a “touching and memorable” moment at the conclusion of the conference when Harold Roth, professor of religious studies and East Asian studies and director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown, “had a moment of silence for deceased friends who were very influential scholars in the field. So I thought that was kind of a special moment,” Connolly said.
Dixuan Chen, assistant professor of East Asian religions at Grinnell College, and Eunice Hu, teacher-scholar postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University, both gave their first presentations within the NECCT this past weekend.
“Most people are doing philosophy, and I’m doing religion, so I (wanted) to see how people (would) react,” Chen said.
“I like the intimate setting,” Hu said, adding that a smaller conference provides opportunities for “everyone to talk to (each other) and make lasting connections.” Chen expressed a similar sentiment, stating that “it’s (more difficult) for us to (obtain) feedback” at larger conferences.
Before the conference, Yang said smaller conferences are “something that I’ve found really valuable, myself, in the course of my graduate program, so I’m looking forward to hosting this one at Brown.”
Hagop Sarkissian, a member of the NECCT organizing committee and professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center, attended as an audience member. He was delighted to “find out how far the field of contemplative studies has come,” he wrote in an email to The Herald.
Noting that Roth “is a seminal figure in this area,” Sarkissian added that the presentation about “contemplative pedagogy and using contemplative practices in the classroom” by Judson Murray PhD’08, assistant professor of religious studies at Wright State University and a former student of Roth’s, was “invigorating.”
Overall, presenters and audience members expressed that they had positive experiences at the conference.
“I feel lucky and grateful to have the chance to visit here and to learn from people who are both influences and friends,” Connolly said.
Kelvin Jiang is a section editor for University News and Science & Research at The Herald. Born in Illinois and raised in Palo Alto, CA, Kelvin is concentrating in math-computer science and applied math. He enjoys anything tech-related, being outdoors, and spending time with his cat.