Civilizations Program 2012: Exploring Cultures Across East Asia

The 2012 East Asian Civilizations students and Professor Jim Ketelaar spent time with the famous sika deer on the grounds of the Todaiji Temple, Nara, during a week-long group excursion to Japan. (Pho

December 5, 2012

The Autumn 2012 East Asian Civilizations Abroad program is the first undergraduate academic program held at the Center with a concentration not only on China, but also on other areas of Asia. The Civilizations students are taking courses on a critical approach to Japanese history, wider East Asian cultural impressions on Vietnamese society, and anthropology of urban China, taught mornings by University of Chicago faculty in three-week blocks. The students also attend Chinese language classes each afternoon.

The third annual Civ program hosted at the Center in Beijing convened on September 29, and includes seven students who had spent a month in Beijing attending optional pre-program Mandarin Chinese classes. The first course of the term, taught by Japan specialist James Ketelaar (History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations), included a visit to the Museum of the War of Resistance at Marco Polo Bridge in southwestern Beijing, the site of an initial battle in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Civ group also enjoyed a visit to the Great Wall at Jinshanling along with their Chinese language partners, who are students at Renmin University. The Study Abroad students finished their first course with a weeklong trip to Japan, where Professor Ketelaar, program graduate assistant Chen Chen, and a local expert guide led the group through Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

After a brief term break in which students stayed in Japan, visited South Korea, traveled within China, or enjoyed Beijing, the group gathered again at the Center for a course taught by Mark Bradley (History) on conceptualizations of Vietnam’s cultural place in East Asia. The group visited Zhongshan Park, the Forbidden City, Coal Hill, and the Qianmen historical area in the heart of Beijing. Along with local alumni, the students took in the American election returns on the big screen in the Center’s main event space, after many of them had voted via absentee ballot from Beijing. The group also enjoyed a Vietnamese meal together and finished the course by giving a diverse set of presentations on cultural traces of Vietnam in China and wider Australasia.

The final course in the program, on contemporary Chinese urban culture and Beijing history, was taught by Judith Farquhar (Anthropology). Professor Farquhar incorporated diverse readings about Beijing and urban issues with screenings of three Chinese independent films, and also touched on the basics of ethnography. Farquhar led the students on a visit to the Beijing City Planning Exhibition Hall to view a large scale model of the city and take in exhibits on local transportation, architecture, and planning history. The group also visited 798 arts district and delivered final presentations on weibo (Chinese twitter) online culture.