The Future of Work and Labor 劳动的未来 / 未来的劳动

Humanities Fall Conference

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The Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce its fall conference: The Future of Work and Labor 劳动的未来 / 未来的劳动. The conference features three renowned keynote speakers: multimedia artist Cao Fei; science fiction author Chen Qiufan; and professor of philosophy and business, Wang Jianbao. In addition to the keynote speeches, DKU faculty from a range of disciplines will introduce their research, and various labs from the Humanities Research Center will make presentations about their research over the past year. DKU students may register for the conference by filling in this registration form or scanning the QR code.

Keynote Speakers

CAO Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou) is an internationally-renowned Chinese contemporary artist. Currently living in Beijing, she mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to Surrealism, and documentary conventions in her films and installations. Her works reflect on the rapid and developmental changes that are occurring in Chinese society today.

Cao Fei’s works have been exhibited at a number of international biennales, triennales and art institutions. Cao Fei’s major projects in recent years include a solo exhibition at MoMA PS1, New York (2016), the BMW  Art Car Project (2017), the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2018), a solo show at the Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2018), a retrospective at K21 Düsseldorf (2018), a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019), an Augmented Reality Art Project by APPLE and the New Museum, New York (2019), a solo exhibition Blueprints at the Serpentine Galleries, London (2020). Cao Fei’s recent projects include a major retrospective Staging the Era at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2021), and a solo exhibition at the MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome (2021).

Cao Fei is a professor and a master advisor of the School of Experimental Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. She was also on the jury of The Selection Committee for the Curatorship of the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014), the jury of The Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary (2016), and the jury of Hugo Boss Asia Art Prize (2019). Cao Fei is the nominator of the Rolls-Royce Art Program Muse (2019) and the winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2021).

CHEN Qiufan 

Chen Qiufan (a.k.a. Stanley Chan) is an award-winning Chinese speculative fiction author, translator, creative producer, and curator. He is honorary president of the Chinese Science Fiction Writers Association, and has a seat on the Xprize Foundation Science Fiction Advisory Council. His works include the novel Waste Tide and, co-authored with Kai-Fu Lee, the book AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future. He currently lives in Shanghai and is the founder of Thema Mundi Studio.

WANG Jianbao is the Director of the Center for the Humanities and Business Ethics at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB),  since 2017. He is also a Research Fellow at CKGSB and Associate Researcher at Peking University.

His research focuses on Confucianism as well as developing new business models. Most of his research papers and articles were published in Chinanews, Chuanshan Journal (CSSCI), Legein Society, Financial Times Chinese Edition, Global Times, Caijing, China Minutes and People’s Daily. His article, On Shengyi (Business), was accepted by the 24th WCP and was published in the book Humanistic Spirit in the Third Age of Confucianism: Essays in Honor of Tu Weiming’s 80th Birthday.

With his expertise in the areas of philosophy and business, Dr. Wang is the leader of curriculum design for Humanities and Business Ethics. His courses include The First Class on Humanities, Who Are Confucian Entrepreneurs and What Can Confucian Entrepreneurs Do?, Entrepreneurial Spirit, New Era, New Business, New Civilization, Cultural Identity and Dialogue among Civilizations, On Business: Belief, Behaviour and Business etc.

Prior to joining CKGSB, Dr. Wang had a long career in corporate group management, public company management, and supply chain management. He was the Chief Representative at Pakistan Railway (1999-2000). He also successfully built a National R&D Center (2011). Dr. Wang received his baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University, EMBA from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, and his doctoral degree in Philosophy from Peking University. His dissertation, Wealth and the Way: A Mencian Perspective, pioneered the understanding of Confucian Entrepreneurs, under the supervision of Prof. TU Weiming, fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Academia Sinica.  


All plenary events take place in the IB Auditorium. Parallel sessions take place in rooms as noted below. An asterisk indicates an online or prerecorded presentation. All other presentations will take place live.

Thursday, November 11

Pre-Conference  Film Screening, introduced by Zairong Xiang, 1900-2120.

The HRC will show two of Cao Fei’s films about the future of work and labor,  which were partially shot in Kunshan.

1900-2010 11.11 (2018)
11.11 is a documentary that records the work overload of the entire logistics system before and after the “double eleven” shopping day in China (the equivalence of America’s Black Friday). From goods being sorted at’s gigantic sorting centre in the outskirts of Beijing and the double eleven national command centre at’s headquarter, to the numerous delivery points spread across Beijing’s entire commercial and traditional districts, and the mission and individual existence of the couriers working at online shopping terminals. All of the above sketch out the landscape of a system of consumption driven by the powerful Internet economy (JD alone achieved 120 million rmb total sales on that single day). How will this situation lead us into a future social ecosystem?

2010-2015 Intermission

2015-2120 Asia One (2018)
Asia One envisions a scene in 2021, when a young female worker, a male worker and a cute AI robot (who is the daily companion of the female worker) are working in a large automated logistics centre “Asia One Unmanned Warehouse.” After long periods of loneliness and repetitious labour in the factory, the young workers start to have a special feeling for each other. In a humdrum day-to-day work-life, they seem to have fallen in an emotional entanglement between the “unmanned” (intelligentised production), “human” and “non-human” (robot).

Friday, November 12

0930 Opening Ceremony
1000 Keynote Lecture: CHEN Qiufan

From Prophecy to Pharmakon: AI Trends in Chinese Science Fiction

AI as a theme has been developed rapidly in Chinese science fiction narratives in recent years. It reflects the dynamic changes of the state on encouraging the tech innovation and the anxiety of being strangled by the west. However, the genre and the theme itself was inported from the west and remarkably leaving the traces of immitation and thought heritage. From the varying attitudes towards AI in different period of time, science fiction as an imaginary narrative allows us to reflexively discuss the relationship between humans and technologies and go beyond the binary thinking of “favor or fear.”

1130 Lunch

1300 Faculty Panel 1A: Philosophy, Politics and Ethics | IB1050

  • Quinlan Bowman: Governing the Barbarians: Considerations on Mill’s Defense of Despotism
  • Nathan Hauthaler: Practical Metaphysics
  • Nisa Claudia*: Moving toward a Cruelty-free China

1300 Faculty Panel 1B: Literary and Virtual Realities | IB1051

  • Ben Van Overmiere: Zen and the Art of Detective Fiction: the Case of Janwillem van de Wetering (1931-2008)
  • Stephanie Anderson: Slip Ups and Smallnesses: Daisy Aldan and the Forgotten Legacy of Folder
  • Xin Tong: Virtual Reality as an Empathy Machine for Vulnerable Populations

1430 Faculty Panel 2A: Global China | IB1050

  • Nellie Chu: From the Runway to the Platform (and Back): The Politics of In-Authenticity in an Era of Global Fast Fashion and China’s E-Vendor Economy
  • Andrew Field: Jazz Communities in Shanghai, 1920s-2020s
  • Jinyu Liu: Discovering Buddha
  • Megan Rogers: Social Risk and Religious Identity Formation in a Non-Religious Environment: Gender and Religious Conversion among China’s Urban Professionals

1430 Faculty Panel 2B: Politics, Policies and Environments | IB1051

  • Jason Douglas Todd: Electoral Timing or Districted Elections? Maximizing Black Descriptive Representation in County Legislatures
  • Irina Soboleva*:  Personality Origins of Pandemic Policy Compliance
  • Wanggi Jaung: Urban green space and environmental injustice in popular culture: a machine learning approac
  • Joseph Giacomelli: Climate and capitalism in the late 1800s American West

1430 Student Seminar with CHEN Qiufan (pre-registration required) | IB1055

1600 Tea Break

1630 Humanities Research Center Labs and Student Research Projects

Student members of HRC labs and projects present short reports on their research accomplishments over the past year.

  • Third Space Lab:  Chunyuan Sheng and Aya Lahlou*
  • Shanghai Refugee Project: Leiyuan Tian
  • Health Humanities Lab:

1800 Onsite Dinner

Saturday, November 13

1000 Keynote Lecture: WANG Jianbao

The Confucian Entrepreneur: Past, Present, Future

My lecture focuses on the figure of the “Confucian entrepreneur” (rushang 儒商) as a real-world embodiment of the Confucian ideal of self-cultivation. On one hand, the Confucian sagely ideal, however, is a transcendental one, which few (if any) individuals truly attain; moreover, exemplary entrepreneurs who might be thought to qualify as rushang have typically refrained from self-identifying as such. On the other hand, Wang Yangming’s famous dictum that “scholars, farmers, artisans and merchants pursue different occupations, but share a common Dao” (yiye er tongdao 異業而同道) reminds us that the Confucian Way is open to all, businesspeople and non-businesspeople alike. In this talk I investigate some models of Confucian entrepreneurs from axial age to the second millennium and now with an outlook for more ethical and more effective new business civilization in the future by rediscovering the core value of Confucius i.e. humanity (ren 仁) with a perspective of spiritual humanism rather than secular humanism.

1130 Lunch

1300 Student Seminar with CAO Fei (pre-registration required) | IB1050

1300 Student Seminar with WANG Jianbao (pre-registration required) | IB1051

1430 Freedom Lab Plenary Panel on Scholarship in COVID Era

Initiated in 2020, The Freedom Lab has always worked under the restrictions created by the Covid 19 Pandemic. In this panel, we will discuss the work and research projects conducted by the freedom lab during the pandemic. We will further discuss the implications of the pandemic for research. With archives closed and travel for fieldwork limited, students and researchers must find innovative new ways to conduct research, that is to create new forms of intellectual “freedom,” in the midst of the “unfreedoms” created by Covid.

1530 Launch of Doc Lab
Professors Kolleen Guy, Seth Henderson and Kaley Clements introduce the Humanities Research Center’s newest lab focusing on documentary.

1600 Tea Break

1630 Keynote Lecture: CAO Fei

Behind the Scenes: Cao Fei in conversation with Zairong Xiang. NB this conversation will take place in Chinese. An English interpretation will be available via Zoom.

Winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2021) among other prestigious awards, Cao Fei  is an internationally-renowned Chinese contemporary artist. Her works reflect on the rapid and developmental changes that are occurring in Chinese society today and consistently focus on the question of labor in them through film, video, photography, and other media. The keynote conversation between artist Cao Fei and DKU professor Zairong Xiang, will discuss the questions raised in her art and take us on a journey “behind the scenes” of her artistic practice to her filming in the “world factories” of the Pearl River Delta area for her film Whose Utopia (2006); and to the intricate world of logistics that recent Sci-Fi film Asia One and documentary 11.11 focuse on. These two 2018 films were filmed in Kunshan itself and will be shown on Thursday, November 11th 2021 on campus (IB Auditorium).

1800 Onsite Dinner

1930 Post-Conference Film and Discussion: That’s Not How I Remember It

That’s Not How I Remember It is a one-night event celebrating Akira Kurosawa’s 1951 film Rashomon, which is widely credited for “introducing Japanese cinema to the West.” On the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of its release, join us for a discussion of Rashomon’s outsized impact on global filmmaking norms and foreign perceptions of Japanese culture. That’s Not How I Remember It will involve a public screening of Rashomon (in Japanese with English subtitles), followed by a roundtable discussion with scholars Yan Ni (Japan Institute of the Moving Image), Paul Anderer (Columbia University), and Richard Davis (DKU).

Rashomon at 70

The Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce the launch of That’s Not How I Remember It: Rashomon at 70, organized by Dr. Richard M. Davis.

That’s Not How I Remember It is a one-night event celebrating Akira Kurosawa’s 1951 Rashomon, the film widely credited for “introducing Japanese cinema to the West.” This seventieth anniversary of its release, join us for a discussion of Rashomon’s outsized impact on global filmmaking norms and foreign perceptions of Japanese culture. That’s Not How I Remember It will involve a public screening of Rashomon (in Japanese with English subtitles), followed by a roundtable discussion with scholars from the United States and China.

Richard M. Davis is a Senior Lecturer of Cultural Studies at DKU. His work focuses on questions of aesthetics, ideology, and pleasure in various cinematic practices, such as the Japanese wartime film musical (1931-45), the subject of his in-progress monograph. He received his PhD in 2016 from the University of Chicago’s Joint Degree Program in East Asian Cinema and has previously taught at Singapore Management University and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Humanities Research Center Student Information Session

DKU students are warmly welcome to attend an online information session for the Humanities Research Center on Friday, September 10, at 9pm BJT. The information session will explain the labs, projects and activities of the research center and offer guidance as to how students can participate in research projects and other programs. All DKU students are welcome to attend.

If you would like to attend, please fill out this registration form.

Superdeep Seminar

The Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce the launch of the Superdeep Seminar, led by Professor Nathan Hauthaler.

The Superdeep Seminar is a work-in-progess seminar for DKU’s undergraduate philosophical community (broadly construed). The seminar meets regularly to allow students to present, workshop, and refine their philosophical projects (essays, presentations, signature work, etc.). Brief presentations are followed by general Q&A; snacks and refreshments are served. The Superdeep Seminar thus figures both as a forum for focused intellectual engagement and a space for students to socialize and share their thoughts and interests. Everyone is welcome to attend. Continue reading “Superdeep Seminar”

2021-2022 Call for Proposals

The DKU Humanities Research Center (HRC) invites proposals from all DKU/Duke faculty and affiliates working on humanities-related projects. Projects should be based at DKU and/or connect Duke and DKU faculty. Proposals should be sent to Chi Zhang (, administrative assistant for the Humanities Research Center, by June 30, 2021.

  • Research Labs
  • Small Events
  • Large Events
  • Book Manuscript Workshops

Continue reading “2021-2022 Call for Proposals”

Interdisciplinary Knowledge Network Lab

The Humanities Research Center is pleased to announce the establishment of an Interdisciplinary Knowledge Network Lab, to be co-sponsored by the Humanities Research Center and the Data Science Research Center.

All faculty, staff and students are invited to an information session on Wednesday February 24 from 3-4pm in IB2025 (the recording is now available to watch online). A Zoom link will be provided to those who register for the event and are off campus. To register for the information session please fill out the survey here or scan the QR code.


The Interdisciplinary Knowledge Network Lab (IKNL) is proposed as a collaborative network to facilitate research into knowledge architecture, metaknowledge, epistemology, semantic processing, knowledge network analysis and knowledge visualization at DKU. Researchers will use big data analysis, philosophical inquiry, and digital humanities methods to investigate how knowledge is structured, represented, analyzed, modeled, theorized and visualized. They will also draw on emerging research in biosemantics regarding the neurological structures that enable linguistic processing to take place in the brain. In addition to these broad theoretical issues in knowledge architecture and engineering, the lab will aim to make a concrete contribution to the analysis and visualization of knowledge production at DKU, Duke or other universities. These include:

  • tools to assess how universities’ research and teaching missions are aligned
  • methods to assess what universities are contributing to the development of human knowledge
  • applications for analyzing, classifying and visualizing knowledge production at universities
  • proposals for how knowledge can be related, synthesized, recombined, or repurposed across disciplines and fields

At the same time, as a vertically-integrated lab, students at various stages in their careers will work with faculty at various stages of their careers in order to share ideas, and build a research and training cluster that will support the mission of the whole university in terms of knowledge innovation and scientific discovery.

Reading Group

The lab will recruit students at an orientation session on February 24. Lab members will then meet weekly in session four in a reading group to deepen their interdisciplinary knowledge in areas related to lab’s mission. These could  include:

  • algorithms for natural language processing and semantic analysis in English and Chinese
  • taxonomy of knowledge as trees, hierarchies, networks or other structures
  • visualization of knowledge networks
  • network models
  • analysis of research paper metadata, citations etc
  • development of applications for academic institutional assessment and analysis
  • biosemantics and cognitive neuroscience
  • social / political implications of the above

This process of building up a cross-disciplinary body of research and training at DKU will enable to lab to support the development of signature work projects in Data Science, Computation and Design, Ethics and Leadership, and Behavioral Science. It will also support the work of faculty researchers whose work lies at the intersection of philosophy of mind, neuroscience, data science, ethics and society. Towards the end of the spring semester the lab members will work on the development of specific research projects and seek funding to carry them out beginning in the summer and fall.

Core Leaders

Charles Chang, Assistant Professor of Environment and Urban Studies

Prof. Chang’s research interest hinges on the intersections between computation and design. With the rise of smartphones and other internet-connected devices, design choices become increasingly data-driven and dependent on information’s credibility in the construction of the human habitat. Chang’s research focuses on human habitat design, environmental impact, and information credibility in the big-data age. His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan include computational social science, digital humanities, and urban informatics.

Wanying He, (student co-director), DKU’22

Wanying He is an undergraduate of the class of 2022 majoring in Data Science. Her research interests lie in knowledge architecture, natural language processing, semantic analysis and modeling, and the theory and practice of interdisciplinarity.

Sze Chai Kwok, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

Prof. Kwok’s research lies at the intersection among neuroscience, behavior, and psychology. He is head of the Laboratory of Phylo-Cognition and his research team studies the neural bases of episodic memory, metacognition, and other related higher cognitive processes in the primate species. Elucidation of such intricate brain/mind/behavior relationships is attained by armamentaria of methods including multimodal neuroimaging, in vivo electrophysiology, neuromodulatory methods, state-of-the-art behavioral paradigms and computational techniques. His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan include topics within cognitive neuroscience, behavioral sciences, and psychology.

James Miller (faculty co-director), Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Strategy

James Miller is known worldwide as a scholar of Daoism and Ecology. He has published three monographs and four edited volumes, and his writing has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese and Farsi. He is Professor of Humanities, co-director of the Humanities Research Center, and Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Strategy at Duke Kunshan University.

Ivan Mura, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ivan Mura has a computer science background and a passion for interdiscilinary applications of modeling. His research interests focus on techniques and applications of predictive and prescriptive data analytics to artificial and living systems, and the integration of measurement data into axiomatic modeling.

Daniel Weissglass, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Daniel Weissglass has two major research programs: the fundamentals of cognition; and science, health, and technology policy. The fundamentals of cognition program explores intersections between philosophy and the cognitive sciences to improve our understanding of the mind and its operations. His science, health, and technology policy research explores ethical, epistemic, and political challenges arising from contemporary advances in technology and develops policy recommendations to address these challenges.


To register for. the information session please fill out the survey here or scan the QR code.

Spring Writing Retreat

During the break between the two Spring sessions, the Humanities Research Center and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China will collaborate to offer an intensive writing retreat from Monday 15 to Friday 19 March. The aim is to offer time and space for DKU faculty to make serious progress on an important project and to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and discussion.

The retreat will take place in a quiet location (TBD) in Jiangsu not too far from Kunshan. Transport from and to DKU, meals, and accommodation will be provided by the two research centers. Faculty are expected to work on their writing projects during the day. An optional light exercise activity such as a walking tour will be offered in the afternoon. Faculty will be grouped into small thematic clusters and invited to discuss their research with their colleagues after dinner in the evening. Each center will fund eight to ten faculty, who will be expected to participate for the full five days.


All DKU faculty working on writing projects broadly related to arts and humanities, interpretive social sciences or contemporary China are eligible to apply. Faculty working on equivalent projects in creative arts, such as editing a film, are also eligible to apply. Priority will be given to tenure-track professors who will make substantial progress on an project relevant to their eventual tenure application. Other applications will be considered if space permits.

Application Process

Applications are due via Qualtrics form by January 31. Faculty will be asked to briefly describe their project, its state of completion, its significance for their research career, and the concrete goals that they hope to achieve by the end of the retreat. Decisions will be made by the center directors and announced within one week.

Further Information

For further information, please contact James Miller, co-director of the Humanities Research Center, or Keping Wu, co-director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China.