Freedom in Quarantine

Message from Co-Directors of the Freedom Lab:

Would you like to learn more about the dramatic implications of the COVID-19 crisis for freedom? 

Incoming Arts and Humanities faculty member, Professor Zairong Xiang, has just published a short essay “Freedom in Quarantine” in the journal Critical Times, which explores this theme as well as many others, including xenophobia against Chinese nationals and people of Chinese origin, solidarity in our world, and environmental crisis. This illuminating essay can be read here:

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. Continue reading “Freedom in Quarantine”

Report on Interdisciplinarity and the Future of Life

By Anisha Joshi

Class of 2022

In the fourth installment in the Interdisciplinarity series, Professor Ed Turner from Princeton University discussed astrobiology and interdisciplinarity in science. As an astrophysicist who has published a plethora of papers that also discuss astrobiology, in this conversation Professor Turner discussed the implications the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology has on life on earth, as well as what it means for society and culture.

From Galileo theorizing that the moon might have life on it to the boom of science fiction in the 50s that aroused public interest in astrobiology, Professor Turner stated it has had a long and interesting history. With his sustained interest in big questions, some of which gain their impetus from the more fundamental questions of humanity and existence, Professor Turner was lured into the area of astrobiology after participating in a 2000 NASA study of exoplanets. Finding himself with an increasing interest in exoplanets rather than just cosmology, he ventured into the highly interdisciplinary area of astrobiology. Continue reading “Report on Interdisciplinarity and the Future of Life”

Report on Interdisciplinarity and the Future of Knowledge

By Sinan Farooqui

Class of 2022

Interdisciplinarity lies at the heart of Duke Kunshan University’s innovative curriculum for the 21st century. Building on the work of the Humanities Research Center in Planetary Ethics and Artificial Intelligence (PETAL) and Digital Humanities, the HumanSpace+ Research Group, investigates the goals, values and practices of interdisciplinary integration in the production of knowledge. Thereby, Duke Kunshan University through Professor James Miller (Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary Strategy) and the HumanSpace+ Research Group held a series of conversations with leading theorists and practitioners of interdisciplinarity in the world today to explore how interdisciplinarity is tied to innovation and future of knowledge. Continue reading “Report on Interdisciplinarity and the Future of Knowledge”

Arts and Humanities Division and Freedom Lab Presents | The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore

Thursday June 11, 9am EST / 9pm China Time

Zoom Meeting ID: 2613304845

Speaker: Sandeep Banerjee, Associate Professor, Department of English, McGill University


In this talk I aim to situate decolonization as a kind of the utopianism. I contend that decolonization is not, as is typically understood, simply a set of political events from the twentieth century; not only a utopian desire that was actualized through the dismantling of European political regimes through the course of the twentieth century. Rather, the utopianism called decolonization is more processual in nature. It seeks to transcend the rule of capital that forms the condition of possibility of colonialism while also seeking to decolonize the minds of the colonized.

In this talk, I draw on the creative as well as critical corpus of colonial India’s pre-eminent literary figure and public intellectual, Rabindranath Tagore, to think about the imbrication of decolonization and utopianism. These works show not only the relentless attempt to imagine the lineaments of the postcolony freed from the depredations of capital and nationalism but also stress the cultural labor undergirding the process of decolonization. Tagore’s writings, then, gesture towards a materialist theorization of decolonization that aligns him with theorists of culture and colonialism such as Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.


Sandeep Banerjee

Sandeep Banerjee is a literary critic, theorist, and translator and Associate Professor of English at McGill University, Canada. He is the author of Space, Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony (Routledge, 2019). His articles have appeared (or will appear) in Modern Fiction Studies, Utopian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Mediations, in addition to several anthologies. A General Editor of the Routledge Series in the Cultures of the Global Cold War, he is currently working on his book project that examines the question of aesthetics in an uneven world.

*This talk is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division and the Freedom Lab

Report on Exploring Bio-Art and “Pan Bio-Art”

By Momoko Mandere

Class of 2022

On April 17 at 9pm China Time, the AH Division and the Humanities Research Center held a talk on Bio-Art and the concept of “Pan Bio-Art”. The talk, which was held as part of the Media and Arts Speaker series, was graciously given by Beijing-based curator and researcher, Jo Wei. Jo Wei is currently based at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In consideration of the current global situation with COVID-19, the talk was given on the Zoom platform.

Although the interest in Bio-Art has boomed over the past decades, it is still a relatively new field in the art world. As such, Jo Wei began her talk by first walking her audience through a brief history of Bio-Art. Jo Wei explained how bio-art has evolved as the field of genetics evolved, from the initial excitement and fame that genetics-based science brought, to the ethical and political dilemmas raised by projects such as the cloning of Dolly the Sheep.  Through this explanation, she was able to contextualize the growth and importance of Bio-Art in the 21st century. This would lead us to our working definition of Bio-Art, which can be understood as the manipulation, change or creation of life or living organisms. Continue reading “Report on Exploring Bio-Art and “Pan Bio-Art””

Report on the Launch of Third Space Lab

By Junyi Tao

Class of 2023

Third Space Lab (TSL) held its first launch event on April 6th at 9PM CST. Considering the COVID-19 epidemic, this event took the form of an online zoom meeting and was also recorded and posted on the TSL Sakai site. In total, 97 students, faculty, and staff from DKU and Duke, and from various institutions in China and in the US, attended this exciting event.

Third Space Lab is a research lab at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) which aims to, “accompany and understand students’ experiences and learning in intercultural spaces and encounters” by examining the transformation of multilingual identities both at DKU and abroad. Currently, TSL has a series of workshops and research projects led by co-directors Dr. Chiocca, Dr. Naghib, and Dr. Zhang. Currently, the co-directors are in the process of planning more interesting events in the future, such as panel discussions, other webinars, as well as forum discussions. Continue reading “Report on the Launch of Third Space Lab”

Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism”

By Ruihan Wan

Class of 2022

On April 13, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Nico Slate from Carnegie Mellon University to lead a discussion on the topic of “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism.” The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the discussion. Humanities Research Center co-director Professor James Miller, Lab Manager Tim Smith, Professor Titas Chakraborty, and around 25 students attended the discussion. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism””

媒体艺术系列讲座 | 算法时代的叙述者




该系列第三场Zoom在线讲座将于5⽉1⽇(周五)晚9点举办,特邀来⾃北京的策展⼈、研究员龙星如主讲。本系列讲座由 Vivian Xu (徐维静) 教授和 Benjamin Bacon 教授主办,并由昆⼭杜克⼤学艺术与⼈⽂学科及⼈⽂研究中⼼提供⽀持. Continue reading “媒体艺术系列讲座 | 算法时代的叙述者”

The Media Art Speaker Series | StoryTeller in Algorithmic Times


Series Introduction

The Media & Arts Speaker series at Duke Kunshan University is a bi-weekly event that invites leading practitioners in media and arts to speak about their work and practice and engage with our DKU community.

The first short series focuses on three artist and/or curators from China who’s work can give students an understanding of the broader scope of media and arts in it’s present-day manifestation within the Chinese context. Continue reading “The Media Art Speaker Series | StoryTeller in Algorithmic Times”