Call for Papers! – The 2nd DKU Gender Studies Initiative Annual Student Conference

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the DKU Gender Studies Initiative invites student papers that address various questions in gender and sexuality studies. The conference seeks to explore a wide range of topics that examines gender, sexuality, feminism, or queer theories as a primary focus of discussions. Interested students, regardless of their major and division, are welcome to submit their abstracts. GSI faculty affiliates will discuss student papers to offer constructive feedback.

Deadlines are as follows:

  • 2-300-word abstract: January 12, 2024
  • Finalist notification: February 2, 2024
  • 8-15 double-spaced page paper submission: March 1, 2024

Abstracts up to 300 words should be sent by Friday, January 12th, 2024 to Professor Hyun Jeong Ha (

Your final paper should be no more than 4,000 words, including the references and footnotes.

Please direct questions to faculty co-leads: Professors Megan Rogers (, Jesse Olsavsky (, or Hyun Jeong Ha (

Student Report on “Repositioning Women in Buddhist History: Roles and agency of Buddhist nuns in republican Sichuan”

Reported by Lia Smith, Class of 2026

This lecture was a part of Gender Studies Initiative’s event series. Each event connects gender to a range of topics where gender, sexuality, and feminism are discussed. The topic of this lecture was to unravel patriarchal historical narratives that focused on men, and to reposition women into the historical perspective.

This event brought Professor Stefania Travagnin to DKU for a lecture on the repositioning of women and nuns in Buddhist history in republican Sichuan. She specifically uses the term ‘women’ to include nuns that were part of the nun community, but were not officially ordained, hence being a significantly overlooked group within this area of research.

Professor Travagnin started her research off with looking at documents, but realized that official documentation didn’t focus on nunneries, so she opted for an ethnographic research method instead where she looked at unpublished documents, pagodas, gravestone inscriptions, looking around the nunnery temples, looking at legends that are related to the temple, and finally listening to the oral historical narratives of those that are connected to this community within Chengdu. She explains that there is a lack of representation of women as leaders within Buddhist narrative, and this is especially true in the context of republican Sichuan, due to some nuns not being ordained particularly in the 80’s.

Small temples were a main point of reference to look at the impact of women in these nunneries on their surrounding communities and religious life. Though many may assume that due to less resources in smaller temples, their impact would be smaller, however, small temples play a key part in the religious community. When people in the community want to understand and learn about Buddhism, they want to go to the small temples, because the big temples aren’t able to cater to individuals as well as the smaller temples. These small temples have smaller and closer community in contrast to the larger and more prominent temples.

She introduces a theoretical framing of taking peripheries as new centers in research, where we can change invisibility from something that is not value, and something that has a negative connotation to redefine this term into (in)visibility, something that is powerful and positive, using their invisibility to their advantage. She states that the process of repositioning has the ability to change narratives from a dogmatic one to a loose one. Creating and encouraging historical inquiry could shake the traditional notions.

Blurring the Color Line

Mark your calendar (Nov 30, 6:15pm, CCT Theater) for an fascinating in-person film screening, Blurring the Color Line, with the award-winning film director, actress, and talk-show host, Crystal Kwok!

See the trailer of Blurring the Color Line

More about Crystal Kwok’s film work

Crystal Kwok holds a PhD in Performance Studies and an advanced Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is an award winning filmmaker who established her career in Hong Kong as an actress, writer, director, and controversial talk show host. Her debut feature film, The Mistress, won the Audience Choice Awards at the Deauville Asiatic Film Festival and her Cable TV and RTHK radio talk show pushed boundaries in Hong Kong, addressing socially sensitive topics around sexuality and the body. She has taught courses in Women and Film/Media at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and currently teaches at the University of Hong Kong under the Department of Comparative Literature. Her latest film production, Blurring the Color Line, examines race-relations between the Chinese and Black communities. This documentary was streamed nationally on PBS under America ReFramed and has won multiple awards including Best Documentary at the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival, Courage Award at DisOrient Film Festival, and the Mira Nair Rising Female Filmmaker Award at the Harlem International Film Festival. Through both creative and scholarly work, Crystal is committed to breaking boundaries and amplifying voices of women and marginal communities.

* The event is sponsored by DKU UG Studies, Division of Arts and Humanities, and the Humanities Research Center (Doc Lab + Freedom Lab + co-host Supedeep)

Gender Studies Initiative Calls for Applications for Faculty-Student Research Grants

The Gender Studies Initiative invites applications for spring 2024 funding (up to $500 USD) for new faculty-student research projects on topics related to gender, sexuality, queer theory, and/or feminism.  The applications may be submitted either by the faculty member or the student(s) but must involve some sort of faculty-student collaboration.  This could entail a collaborative faculty-student project but also includes faculty working with student research assistants and students working on their Signature Work projects with their mentors. Continue reading “Gender Studies Initiative Calls for Applications for Faculty-Student Research Grants”

Intimacy and the Afro-Asian Imaginary during the 1930s

Date: Nov 29, Wed
Time: 5-6PM BJT

Freedom lab presents “Intimacy and the Afro-Asian Imaginary during the 1930s” with Dr. Owen Walsh from the University of Aberdeen.

Archives of Black travel in Asia during the1930s testify to the ways that Afro-Asian solidarities were forged through multiple forms of intimacy. Whether in crowded traincars, around dinner tables, or in lovers’ beds, personal and political relations between Black travelers and their Asian hosts were impossible to disentangle. This talk examines the different kinds of intimacy through which Langston Hughes, Juanita Harrison, and Howard and Sue Bailey Thurman became agents of Afro-Asian alliance. It argues that Black narratives and archives of travel proved important spaces for the performance of an Afro-Asian solidarity in opposition to global white supremacy, even as they struggled to operate beyond the Orientalist imaginaries characteristic of that system.

Drawing Lines, Spinning Time: Textile Histories at a River’s End

A research project initiated by Ho Rui An and Zian Chen in collaboration with Feng Haoxin, Liew Xiao Theng, Sun Jiyuan, Wang Ruohan, Xiong Xin, Yan Jiayue, Zeng Yuting, Zhang Tianyu, Zhang Yilin, and Zhou Feiyang

  • Community Center East Wing (CCTE), Duke Kunshan University
  • Exhibition: 22 November – 8 December 2023
  • Public program: 22 – 24 November 2023
  • Organized by: DKUNST Art on Campus
  • Supported by: Division of Arts and Humanities | Humanities Research Center, Duke Kunshan University


Drawing Lines, Spinning Time: Textile Histories at a River’s End, traces an over-hundred-year history of the Chinese textile industry and its many extensions since the emergence of industrial capitalism within the Yangtze River Delta region. Initiated by Ho Rui An and Zian Chen, the exhibition and public program draws upon materials gathered over a six-month process of fieldwork, archival research, and workshops organized as part of Duke Kunshan University’s (DKU) DKUNST Art on Campus program and with the participation of DKU undergraduates. The program at DKU follows the first large-scale public presentation of the research at Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai earlier this year.


The exhibition is organized into two sections, each providing a distinctive artistic framework to probe into the historical development of the textile industry in the region. The first, “Drawing Lines”, focuses on material culture and draws upon cartographic and archival methods to trace the networks of labor, technology, and capital that connect the industrial centers of the region to its agrarian peripheries and beyond. The second, “Spinning Time”, centers the embodied experience of labor and its representations by examining films set in textile mills and real-life accounts by retired textile workers. Through the public program, the objects and images on display are further articulated through a curated film program and one-day live program that includes a lecture, guided tour, and a mapping exercise.

The DKUNST Art on Campus program is curated by Prof. Zairong Xiang.


Public Program

Wednesday, 22 November

  • 1700   Exhibition opening
  • Location: 1F CCTE
  • 1900   Screening and discussion: Huang Baomei
  • Location: Performance Cafe

A rarely seen gem made by the renowned Third Generation Chinese director Xie Jin, Huang Baomei (1958) is a docudrama based on the real-life experiences of the national model worker of the same name. Set at Shanghai No. 17 Cotton Mill, the film focuses on how the workers collectively resolve the problems posed by their aging machines as they strive for a technical breakthrough. As an exemplar of the genre of “artistic documentary” advocated by Premier Zhou Enlai during the Great Leap Forward, the film is known for its collective scripting process and predominantly female cast of actual cotton mill workers playing themselves.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Qian Zhu.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Mandarin without subtitles.


Thursday, 23 November

  • 1900   Screening and Discussion: A Single Spark
  • Location: Performance Cafe

A Single Spark (1959) is a Shanghainese opera film based on a violent confrontation between indentured laborers and their managers at the Japanese-owned Naigaiwata Company No. 7 Cotton Mill in 1925. Reflecting the dominant tropes of Chinese socialist cinema of the period, the film follows the trials and tribulations of a villager fighting to extricate her daughter from the despotic system of contract labor as well as the collective action taken by her fellow workers that eventually catalyzed the May Thirtieth Movement.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Kim Gordon.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Shanghainese with Chinese subtitles.


Friday, 24 November

  • 1400   Screening and discussion: Red Skirt Popular in the Street
  • Location: CCT E1011

Set in the fictitious Shanghai-based Dafeng Cotton Mill, Red Skirt Popular on the Street (1984) follows the story of an enterprising model worker as she navigates the challenges of young adult life, from workplace conflicts to choosing what clothes to wear on her days off. A landmark of the early years of the Reform era, the film shows the growing consumer consciousness among the working class amidst the transition to the market economy, as best observed in the spellbinding array of colors seen in their sartorial choices—a reflection of the fashion trends being introduced into the country through trade fairs and catwalks at the time.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Andrew Field.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Mandarin without subtitles.

  • 1630   Guided tour
  • Location: 1F CCTE
  • 1700   Mapping exercise: Object and Network
  • Location: 1F CCTE

Using a selection of objects as its starting point, this student-led cartographic exercise attempts to connect the lines between different objects, people, and sites across the Yangtze River Delta region as a way to visually represent the material networks that constitute the region’s modern textile industry.

  • 1730   Discussion moderated by Prof. Zairong Xiang
  • Location: 1F CCTE
  • 1800   Break and refreshments
  • Location: 1F CCTE
  • 1900   Lecture: Spinning Time  Ho Rui An and Zian Chen
  • Location: Performance Cafe

In this lecture, the networked lines of labor, technology, and capital that makeup one river delta region flow into another river delta region as the textile histories along the Yangtze River are woven with those of its southern double: the Pearl River. Drawing upon their research across Shanghai, Nantong, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Ho Rui An and Zian Chen construct a timeline that inquires into the displacements and returns that characterize China’s modern textile history as much as it reflects on the time of history itself.

Event Report: The Professional Divide Between Writing & Language Studies in the US: History, Epistemology, and Implications for DKU

On Friday Nov. 2nd, the Third Space Lab (TSL) invited Prof. Tyler Carter from the Language and Culture Center to give a talk at the Brown Bag Lunch Talk event.

Dr. Carter provided an overview of the socio-historical development of English writing and foreign language instruction in the U.S with a focus on the development of the process approach to writing instruction, the audio-lingual approach to language instruction, and a series of key historical events in US higher education reform during the 1960’s. This talk was based on his newly published paper “Apples and Oranges: Toward a Comparative Rhetoric of Writing Instruction and Research in the United States” in College English. As an addendum to the talk, Laura Davies from the Language and Culture Center offered her perspectives on the British system of writing and language and the implication for the DKU context.

The event was well received by the audience, including more than 30 faculty, student and staff members of the DKU community. The speakers and the audience engaged in an excellent discussion of how the different developmental trajectories of wiring and language studies across the globe have an impact on the ideologies,  pedagogical practices, and professional advancement of faculty in and beyond the DKU context. The event was organized and hosted by Prof. Zhang Xin, assistant professor of Chinese and Intercultural Communication, and co-sponsored by the Humanities Research Center (HRC) and the Language and Culture Center (LCC).

Report on Reading Group for “Embracing Diversity: Developing Cultural Competence for Inclusive Education”

On Friday, November 10, 2023, DKU faculty, staff, and students were invited to our second reading group on “Embracing Diversity: Developing Cultural Competence for Inclusive Education”. This time, our discussion focused on Nuno Nodin’s “Queering the Curriculum. Reflections on LGBT+ Inclusivity in Higher Education.” This text was selected for two main reasons. First, it underscores the challenges that (LGBT+) students and staff still face regarding acceptance and integration, potentially influencing their learning and teaching experiences. Second, the text discusses the relevance of LGBT+ inclusivity in pedagogy and how it can be incorporated into higher education, providing examples from a specific discipline.

Around 18 participants, including both familiar faces and newcomers, attended the reading group event. Through the one-hour session, DKU faculty members and students shared personal encounters and anecdotes related to their experiences with the LGBT+ community. They discussed how their attitudes toward their “coming out” professors and students changed before and after reading the text. The sharing of personal experiences and anecdotes sparked discussions and raised awareness of the risks that LGBTQ+ students and staff face when trying to be themselves and coming out in professional space. Furthermore, the participating students shared their opinions on the inclusive pedagogies they would prefer their professors to adopt in class. Although there was not enough time to discuss the last question: What are your recommendations on how DKU can foster a more inclusive environment, encouraging understanding and empathy among both students and faculty members?, we plan to continue these conversations in our future events.

The event was organized by Zhenjie Weng, Assistant Professor of English Language Education, and Yanan Zhao, Senior Lecturer of English for Academic Purposes, from the Language and Culture Center. The event was sponsored by the Humanities Research Center, covering the fees for event promotion and refreshments for attendees.


Understand, Predict, and Enhance User Behavior in Mixed Reality

Nov 21st 10-11 am

Meeting ID: 520 960 7561

Guest: Dr. Yukang Yan

Assistant Professor at University of Rochester / Postdoctoral Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University


My research focuses on the enhancements in human computer interaction in Mixed Reality. As the integration of digital and physical worlds through Mixed Reality expands the interaction space beyond traditional screens, it has a significant impact on how users perceive and interact with the world and themselves. Through conducting user studies, I aim to observe and model the behavioral and perceptual patterns of users as they interact with Mixed Reality. Based on these findings, I design and develop interaction techniques that are tailored to these behavioral changes in order to facilitate user input and information display. These techniques include multimodal input methods utilizing hand gestures, head movements, and facial expressions, as well as adaptive user interfaces that take into account the user’s mental state and environmental context to optimize information display. Additionally, I explore augmentation methods that allow users to surpass their capabilities in the real world, such as embodying healthier virtual avatars or non-humanoid avatars to gain unique experiences not possible in reality.


Dr. Yukang Yan is an Assistant Professor in the ROCHCI group in the Department of Computer Science, University of Rochester. Before that, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Augmented Perception Lab, Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He earned both his Ph.D. and Bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua University. His research focus lies in Human-Computer Interaction and Mixed Reality. He published journals and papers at ACM CHI, ACM UIST, ACM IMWUT, IEEE VR, with ACM CHI 2020 Honorable Mention Award, ACM CHI 2023 Honorable Mention Award, IEEE VR Best Paper Nominee Award. His thesis won Outstanding Doctoral Thesis at Tsinghua University.