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CFP: Graduate Student Conference April 7-9, 2020

The School of Pacific and Asian Studies (SPAS) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) welcomes proposals for papers, performances, and panels for its 31st annual Graduate Student Conference. The conference will be held at the Center for Korean Studies on the UH Mānoa campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 7-9, 2020.

The theme this year is “Stories of Movement in Asia: Boundaries and Exile.”

Throughout history, Asia has been characterized by movement and mobility – of people, ideas, cultures, arts, education, bodies and goods. In today’s world, this movement has been intensified by economic and technological integration, as well as by political crises and economic uncertainty as individuals and whole communities seek better lives both within and beyond the Asian region.  The human beings involved in these movements bring with them their own ambitions and their own histories, but they are also the vehicles for the transmission of cultural forms and attitudes. On one hand, such movement can be seen as a positive element. New technologies of communication are enlarging the boundaries of “Asia” and changing the demography of the region itself. They enable the creation of transnational communities centered not just on ties of kinship and language, but also on shared ideas, experiences, or desires, which can reduce the apprehension that exiled peoples may experience when relocating to a different environment—or, in some cases, obviate the need for physical relocation entirely. On the other hand, movements across national and cultural boundaries create their own challenges, prompting powerful institutions to exert new kinds of control and new forms of exile aimed at stopping or shaping these flows in particular ways. Yet even in adverse conditions, the people who move across the diverse landscapes of Asia and beyond connect with one another in ways that sometimes go unnoticed. The goal of this conference is to bring to light these connections and the influence that they have had on shaping Asia—past and present—and through it, the world. We especially encourage proposals from graduate students who are engaged in original research related to Asia and movement, broadly defined.

 Why Apply?
The SPAS Graduate Student Conference gives students an opportunity to present their research to a friendly group of peers and professors. As many students from across the U.S. Europe, and Asia attend the conference, there are ample opportunities to network with fellow academics with a passion for the study of Asia.

Who Can Apply?
Graduate students in any academic discipline with a focus on Asia.

How to Apply
Applicants should submit a 250-300 word abstract to with “SPAS 2020 Grad Conf Abstract” as the subject by January 31, 2020.

Please direct any questions to the conference organizers: Jordan Antonio ( and Cheyne Tribbey (

Panel Discussion Tuesday Oct. 15: What’s Happening in Hong Kong?

The Asian Studies Program, the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, the Institute of Asian-Pacific Business Law (IAPBL) and the Pacific-Asian Legal Studies (PALS) Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law cordially invite you to the Asia Law Talk, “What’s happening in Hong Kong?” on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.

As the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th anniversary on October 1, 2019, anti-government protesters in Hong Kong were blocking roads, setting fires and throwing petrol bombs.  Police have arrested hundreds of protesters, one as young as 12, and have been accused of using excessive force.  What has led to this state of conflict, in a city previously known for its tradition of peaceful protests and a restrained police force?  Two visiting experts from Hong Kong will share their observations regarding the protests and analyze how the unrest – and China’s response to it – could affect Hong Kong and the rest of the region.

When:  Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Where: University of Hawaii School of Law, Davis Levin Livingston Moot Courtroom

Speakers :
Moderator: Professor Carole J. Petersen,  Graduate Chair of Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace, the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa


Frank Ching: What’s Happening in Hong Kong and What Could Come Next?

Anna Wu Hungyuk:  Protests in Hong Kong Since 2012: Freedoms, Franchise and Identity


Frank Ching is a journalist and writer who has reported on China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for many years. He worked for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review and was a columnist with the South China Morning Post. Currently, he writes a weekly column on China that appears in English-language newspapers, primarily in Asia. For the last 15 years, he has also served as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, teaching a course on China’s External Relations.

Anna Wu Hung-yuk is a Hong Kong lawyer and Chair of the Competition Commission. She previously served on Hong Kong’s Executive Council and in the Legislative Council. She has chaired the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Consumer Council, and the Operations Review Committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. She also served as a member of the Law Reform Commission, an honorary professor of the University of Hong Kong, and a global advisor for UCLA.


Please join us for light refreshments.   Your RSVP by October 11 would be greatly appreciated.

* The refreshments will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sponsor: This event is sponsored by the Pacific-Asian Legal Studies (PALS) Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law.  Co-Sponsors:  Center for Chinese Studies; Asian Studies Program; Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace; Institute of Asian-Pacific Business Law (IAPBL).

“To Create an Immigrant-Friendly Japan, Start with Education Reform”: ASP MA student Asia Dobbs’ article in The Diplomat

Discrimination against foreigners, and even against foreign-returned Japanese, has become a problem in Japan. Why is this happening? In The Diplomat on Sept 9, 2019, Asian Studies Program MA student Asia Dobbs offers some answers based in Japan’s education system:

” Although education is not often discussed in connection with immigration, the roots of the problem lie in the secondary school system, which elicits and encourages these types of discriminatory behaviors. The Japanese school system incorporates militaristic and conformist ethics and permits strong government control over education through textbook and curricula censorship. Regarding curricula, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) controls all K-12 educational materials. Schools have to follow guidelines called gakushu youryou, which tell schools what and how to teach — and which also excludes comprehensive humanistic education about topics such as human rights. Through this strong control, the ministry works to shape obedient students who will easily conform to social norms, not only in schools but also in their supposedly homogeneous society.”

For the full article, please visit The Diplomat here.

Dr. Anna Stirr Receives Fulbright and CAORC NEH Senior Fellowships

Rally at RR Campus, Kathmandu, in December 2014, with songs calling for new constitution to be written
Leftist and centrist parties rally as performers sing progressive songs at RR Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2014, calling for new constitution to be written. Photo by Anna Stirr.

Dr. Anna Stirr is the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship and a Council of American Overseas Research Centers NEH Senior Fellowship for research in Nepal during her sabbatical year of 2018-2019. Dr. Anna Stirr

Her research project, “Performing Aspirations: Love and Revolution in Nepali Progressive Song,” is a cultural history and ethnography of Nepal’s progressive and revolutionary song movement, with particular attention to love. Though leftist artists often disdain mainstream love songs as bourgeois, love itself remains a theme in revolutionary songs and sung dramas, transformed according to  performers’ ideals and party artistic ideologies of music, lyrics, and dance. Through ethnographic fieldwork on progressive cultural groups’ performances and rehearsal process, and archival attention to artistic production and criticism since 1960, the project traces how how leftist artists have tried to create utopian ways of living and loving, through embodying and expressing revolutionary sensibilities.

More information about this project, including archival photos, translated sung dramas, and blog posts, can be found at Dr. Stirr’s personal website.

Dr. Kristi Govella gives commentary on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political challenges at home & abroad

Dr. Kristi Govella, Assistant Professor in the Asian Studies Program, recently commented in The New York Times and USA Today about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political challenges at home and abroad.

Domestically, Abe is facing the fallout of a scandal involving the highly discounted sale of land by the government to a school associated with his wife. “There has been a lot of new evidence that has come to light that there has been some kind of cover-up,” Kristi Govella, assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said of the inquiry surrounding Mr. Abe. “As time goes on, the disjuncture between what he’s saying and the facts that are coming to light with the scandals just really increases public distrust and feelings that his leadership is no longer what the country needs.”

Abe is also facing challenges abroad, as Japan seeks assurance that the US will consider its interests in the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Japan also wishes to be exempted from US tariffs on steel and aluminum, as a number of other countries have already been. Dr. Govella said that Abe arrives at Mar-a-Lago “hoping to combat perceptions that Japan has been sidelined in recent weeks and reestablish his country as an important partner of the United States.”

Read the full articles here:

USA Today, “Trump backs North-South Korea Peace Talks in Summit with Japan’s Leader at Mar-a-Lago,” April 17, 2018, by David Jackson.

The New York Times, “As Scandal-Tarred Abe Meets Trump, ‘the Situation is Getting Dangerous’,” April 16, 2018, by Motoko Rich.

Dr. Kristi Govella comments in New York Times & Australian Financial Review

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Kristi Govella commented in two news articles this weekend on the impact of the Trump administration’s recent announcements about tariffs and North Korea:

The New York Times, “Trump’s Unpredictability on Trade and North Korea Opens a Door for China,” March 10, 2018.

Australian Financial Review, “Donald Trump’s Snap Decision to Meet With Kim Jong-un,” March 11, 2018.

Dr. Kristi Govella at PAAC Global Vision Summit

Kristi Govella and PAAC participants

On Saturday, March 3, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council brought
together 189 students from 27 high schools on 5 islands for their
Global Vision Summit on Climate Change hosted at UH West Oahu. Dr. Kristi Govella, Assistant Professor in the Asian Studies Program at UH Manoa, participated as the Community Expert for the US negotiating team.

Students played the roles of delegates representing specific
nations (US, EU, China, India), negotiating blocs (other developed
nations, other developing nations), and interest groups (fossil fuel
lobbyists, climate change activists, and US cities/states). The goal
was to reach a global agreement that keeps global temperature rise
below 2 degrees Celcius. Other experts advising the nine student teams were drawn from the United Nations Development Programme, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the East-West Center, the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights, the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Tsuchiyama & Associates, and the Australian Consulate-General in Honolulu.

Kristi Govella comments on Japan’s Taro Kono in New York Times

Dr. Kristi Govella was recently interviewed in The New York Times
about Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Since Kono was appointed in August 2017, there has been much speculation about his potential as a future leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and of Japan. The article can be found here: “In Japan, a Liberal Maverick is Seeking to Lead a Conservative Party” (February 17, 2018).

Fall 2018 Graduate Admissions Deadline: February 1, 2018

The Asian Studies Program welcomes applications for Fall Semester 2018! Please note that our admissions deadline is February 1. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for scholarship funding, so please make sure all of your application materials have been uploaded at the Office of Graduate Education online application portal here. This includes UH Manoa documents and the Supplementary Documents required by the Asian Studies Program; please look at our Graduate Admissions Page for detailed requirements.

We look forward to your applications and hope to welcome you to our program next fall!