Event Report on “Who travels thousands of miles? Gender Dimensions of War Dead Accounting and Memory Making in Post-war Vietnam”

On May 2, 2024, the Humanities Research Center hosted Dr. Tâm T. T. Ngô, a senior researcher and associate professor at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Tâm first had an informal discussion with students and later proceeded to give a talk on her research about the gendered dimensions of war dead accounting and memory making in post-war Vietnam. This event was attended by 20 students and 3 faculty members. Continue reading “Event Report on “Who travels thousands of miles? Gender Dimensions of War Dead Accounting and Memory Making in Post-war Vietnam””

Student Report on “Ritual, Anti-Ritual, and the Efficacy of Reform” Lecture by Dr Peter van der Veer.

On April  22, 2024, the Humanities Research Center hosted Dr. Peter van der Veer, a distinguished scholar in the field of anthropology and religion. Dr. van der Veer is Director Emeritus of the Max Planck Society in Germany, and Professor Emeritus at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has taught at the Free University in Amsterdam, Utrecht University, and at the University of Pennsylvania. This event was divided into two sections: an informal discussion with students and faculty followed by a lecture by Dr. van der Veer. In total, over 80 people were present across the two sections.  Continue reading “Student Report on “Ritual, Anti-Ritual, and the Efficacy of Reform” Lecture by Dr Peter van der Veer.”

Exploring the “Superdeep”: The third DKU Undergraduate Humanities Research Conference

By Junyan Li, class of 2026

The Humanities community at Duke Kunshan University recently hosted its third annual Undergraduate Humanities Research Conference on April 26th and 27th at the Academic Building. Co-hosted by Professor James Miller from DKU, and Professor Carlos Rojas from Duke, the event served as a platform for researchers and students from diverse backgrounds across China and abroad to share their insights and research findings. More than 120 individuals registered for the conference.

This year’s theme, “Superdeep,” was inspired by an ecosystem of activities at DKU designed by Professor Nathan Hauthaler, which aimed to stimulate philosophical thinking in its most expansive sense.

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Scott MacEachern addressed the conference, highlighting that this annual gathering has evolved into a significant event that strengthens the bonds within the humanities community.

The conference schedule included four keynote lectures and twelve parallel sessions featuring contributions from students not only from DKU but also from universities across China. The discussions covered a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from literature and art to gender and power, and extending to beliefs, philosophy, and globalization.

Prof. Tang’s lecture: Attention and Practical Knowledge

DKU was more than delighted to welcome four keynote lecturers. (Chenshan Tian) discussed the Confucian philosophy of family feeling (qinqing), exploring Confucian philosophy as a potential resource for a new geopolitical order. Associate Professor Ru Ye from Wuhan University delivered a thought-provoking lecture titled “Can Rational Beliefs Be Arbitrary?” This sparked deep contemplation among the audience about the possibility of multiple rational responses to the same body of evidence. Hao Tang, Professor of Philosophy from Tsinghua University, led a discussion on attention and practical knowledge, enriching the concept of practical knowledge as a form of self-knowledge or self-consciousness. Seth Jaffe, Associate Professor of the History of Political Thought at LUISS, provided a unique interpretation of Thucydides’ account of the causes of war, delving into debates surrounding the “inevitability” of conflict between America and China.

The central premise of this conference is that while not everyone may be a professional philosopher, we can all benefit from engaging more deeply with the intellectual tools that philosophers are developing.

Jackson Li, a sophomore at DKU, found inspiration in the diverse topics presented, particularly resonating with Jaffe’s perspective. He commented, “Applying ancient Greek stories to modern international relations offers a compelling way to consider the complexity of relations between great powers. It suggests that cooperation between China and the United States is a crucial prerequisite for a mutually beneficial situation.”

In addition to the keynote speakers, student presentations in the parallel sessions also brought fresh insights to the conference. Xi Xiong, a junior majoring in philosophy from Wuhan University, expressed her pleasure in exploring topics that have previously been overlooked or unnoticed, with the aim of eliminating hidden evaluative bias within the field of philosophy.

Xi Xiong was participating in a heated discussion.

Renyuan Zhang, another DKU sophomore, reflected on his journey from being a participant last year to a presenter this year, stating, “My role in the HRC may have changed, but the spark of enlightenment remains.” 

Renyuan Zhang presented his research about Shanghai Lockdown in 2022

The conference was not solely about academic discussions; it also incorporated social events such as a gala dinner, a music and dance night, and student film festival, creating a relaxed atmosphere after a day of intellectual engagement.

Professor Miller expressed pride in what the HRC has achieved, not only fostering intense academic discussions in humanities but also providing “a warm and rich social atmosphere with food and wine to help build a shared community of learning.” He noted that over the years, DKU students have formed friendships with their peers at other universities through these conferences, which he described as “beautiful to see.”

Echoing Miller’s sentiments, DKU sophomore Yuequ Dou said, “It’s amazing to hear all the interesting thoughts that people brought up and to make connections with friends all over China.”

The conference indeed served to reinforce Duke Kunshan University’s (DKU) brand identity as China’s premier global liberal arts university. The mission of the Humanities Research Center is to advance interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences, contributing to DKU’s goal of becoming one of the world’s leading cross-cultural, research-intensive liberal arts universities.

This year’s event was particularly notable for the launch of the Nexus Journal, a humanities and social science journal created by and for undergraduates at DKU and Duke. This initiative not only strengthens DKU’s brand identity but also fosters a platform for intellectual discourse and exchange in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences. It’s a testament to DKU’s commitment to advancing interdisciplinary research and contributing to its mission of being a leading global liberal arts university.

The launch ceremony of the journal, Nexus

Miller expressed his appreciation for everyone’s enthusiasm, adding, “Hosting the conference with my co-director from Duke, Carlos Rojas, was a bittersweet experience for me, as this is my last semester as co-director. I wish the center every success in the future.”


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

On Friday, April 19, 2024, DKU faculty, staff, and students were invited to our last Session 4 reading group on “Embracing Diversity: Developing Cultural Competence for Inclusive Education”. During this session, we commenced our discussion with a brief overview of the study conducted by Allen, Cowie, and Fenaughty (2020), titled “Safe but not Safe: LGBTTIQA+ Students’ Experiences of a University Campus.” This study sheds light on episodes of name-calling, fear of coming out, and the lack of gender-neutral toilets and inclusive practices for addressing discrimination, highlighting the nuances of queerphobia on campus. Although the institution had a “Zero tolerance for discrimination” policy in place, it lacked the necessary structures and processes to ensure true inclusivity. Departing from this point, we further discussed three diversity statements from different universities and elaborated on what we can do as the next step to truly promote cultural competence among DKU students and address DKU students’ specfic needs on campus.

Building upon the discussion from the previous reading group event, where we delved into various aspects of fostering cultural competence, we collectively identified an essential next step in our endeavor to promote diversity and inclusivity on the DKU campus. Recognizing the importance of understanding the specific concerns and experiences of our student body, we unanimously agreed to initiate a comprehensive survey aimed at soliciting feedback from DKU students. This survey will be designed to explore a wide range of topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, allowing students to voice their perspectives, challenges, and suggestions regarding these crucial issues. By actively involving students in this process, we aim to gain valuable insights that will inform our strategies for creating a more inclusive and supportive environment at DKU. Moreover, the survey results will serve as a foundation for faculty members to tailor their pedagogical approaches, ensuring that classroom practices align with the diverse needs and perspectives of our student community.

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.

Who travels thousands of miles? Gender Dimensions of War Dead Accounting and Memory Making in Post-war Vietnam

Date & Time: May 2, 17:30 -18:30
Location: AB 1079

Description: Dr. Tâm T. T. Ngô, Senior Researcher/Associate Professor at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies, part of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In the last four decades, to find, to identify, and to commemorate more than half a million fallen soldiers who died for the Vietnamese state in the three international wars that the country fought in the twentieth century, nearly the entire Vietnamese population has been mobilized. While the public face of this mass mobilization is dominantly male, the private and intimate driving force behind this work of war accounting and war memory making is saliently female. Millions of Vietnamese mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters who have been waiting, grieving, and mourning for their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers who did not return when the wars ended. In addition to emotional pain and the psychological anguish of not knowing the faith of a missing loved one, these women also had to deal with the social, economic, legal and familial implication of the absence of their men, and often had to deal with these issues in a social context laden with patriarchal values and hierarchies. Since the 1990s, many of them joined the search for the remains and the spirits of their fallen men. This presentation sketches out a few among those million journeys to search for their male missing relatives and voice women’s perspectives about warfare and its human cost. In so doing, it aims to go beyond the uncomfortable yet established link between war and gender to restore the agentive power of women in keeping memory, healing wound and suturing the social fabrics torn by war violence.


Date and time: 6:00 PM, April 29th
Location: Water Pavilion

Description: Join us for an engaging discussion on the intersection of gender and language with Professors Zhenjie Weng, Stephanie Anderson, and student speakers. Explore how language shapes and reflects gender norms, identities, and perceptions.


HRC Student Film Festival

Date & Time: 4.26 8 PM
Venue:  IB Lecture Hall

Featuring works including:

  • Eternity by Chujie Cao (02:35)
  • Dreams of Skateboarding by Liew (4:52)
  • Lost in Art by Yinan Wang (8:31)
  • Hand Book by Lan Wei (4:13)
  • My Bamboo Teacher by Jessie Cao (8:18)
  • Bubble Gum by Chengxi, Hanxi, Yile, & Mengyue (3:24)
  • Emotional Holiday by Ruikang Wang (4:41)
  • The Answer by Chujie Cao (2:39)
  • Relearning to Breathe by Matilde Molinari (4:51)
  • Dog-cute-mentary by Jackie (15:08)
  • Final Project by Group X (3:13)
  • Final Video Essay by Jiaxin Wang (6:33)
  • MEDIART Project by Aastha Mangla (2:05)
  • Excerpts from Katie by Jimmy (3:35)

Cultural Domination:Philosophical Perspectives

Date: Friday, April 19th
Time: 205 pm
Location: IB1056

Thomas M. Besch is Luojia Professor of Philosophy at Wuhan University and Honorary Associate at the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney. He mainly taught in Sydney, Wuhan, and Ankara, with stints in Hradec-Kralove and Oxford. His research focuses on ideas of public reason and justification, political liberalism, and related ideas of discursive respect and discursive equality. He published widely on these themes, including a monograph on political liberalism, Über John Rawls’ politischen Liberalismus, and papers in journals like the Southern Journal of Philosophy, Philosophia, Theoria, Social Theory and Practice, or The European Journal of Philosophy, amongst others.

Student Report on “Buried in the Red Dirt: Race, Reproduction, and Death in Modern Palestine”

Reported by Lia Smith, Class of 2026

This lecture and workshop was a part of the Gender Studies Initiative’s event series. Each event connects gender to a range of topics where gender, sexuality, and feminism are discussed.

On March 29th, 2024 this event brought Professor Frances Hasso from the program in gender, sexuality and feminism at Duke University and 14 event attendees for a discussion of Professor Hasso’s most recent book, Buried in the Red Dirt. This book brings together a myriad of sources to tell a story of life, death, and reproduction, and missing bodies and experiences, during and since the British colonial period in Palestine. The discussion was based upon chapter 3, which focused upon the eugenic practices of both the British and Zionist colonizers of Palestine.

British colonial authorities blamed Palestinians for poverty, hunger, and disease, conveniently sidestepping the harsh realities of colonial extraction. This perspective, deeply rooted in gendered and racialized dynamics, perpetuated inequities in healthcare provision for Palestinians.

Central to the discourse was the exploration of demographic anxieties and eugenicist ideologies that tainted British and Zionist approaches to birth control in Palestine. Despite legal constraints, contraception and abortion emerged as vital methods of birth control for women across all communities, challenging simplistic explanations based solely on religion or culture.

The event unveiled the fallacy of portraying Palestinians as hyper-reproductive, offering a nuanced understanding of their reproductive desires and practices. Contrary to popular belief, Palestinian demographic competition with Jews has been largely irrelevant since 1948, with Palestinian fertility rates shaped by multifaceted factors beyond Zionist anxieties of demographic competition.

DKU faculty and students raises numerous questions throughout the discussions. Many questions tackled methodology, in particular Professor Hasso’s creative use of both archival sources and oral testimonies. Other questions pertained to the modalities of colonial rule, from the level of collaboration/conflict between British and Zionist colonizers, to the ways religious and racial differences were simultaneously deployed by the British to govern Palestine. Finally, questions concerning the contemporary situation in Gaza were raised, such as the differing positions towards the war amongst various Middle East and North African States, to the effect of the war in Gaza on US domestic politics.

The 2nd Gender Studies Initiative Student Conference Program

Date: Friday, April 19th, 9 AM – 3 PM

Venue: AB 2107

9-9:15 AM: Keynote Speech by Professor Selina Lai Henderson

Session 1 – Challenges to Heteronormativity

9:15-10:15 AM Presentations and faculty discussions

10:15-10:45 Q&A

Heteronormativity in Korean Boys Love Comics: A Case Study of Chinese Queer Women’s Gender Discourse – Shuzhe Wang

Faculty discussant: Keping Wu (Zoom)

Masters tools: Oppression, Representation, Stereotype, and Heteronormativity – Sadey Dong

Faculty discussant: Hwa Yeong Wang

A Queer Metamorphosis: Animal Narratives and Lesbian Love in Contemporary Chinese Cultures – Ruohan Wang

Faculty discussant: Nathan Hauthaler

Session 2 – Gendered Economy and Environmental Challenges

10:50-11:50 AM: Presentations and faculty discussions

11:50-12:20 PM: Q&A

The ‘Invisible’ Female Riders in Food Delivery: Exploring the Impact of Platform Algorithms on Female Workers in the Gig Economy – Hanyang Zhou and Yixin Gu

Faculty discussant: Megan Rogers

Gender, Health, and Catastrophe: The Impact of Patriarchal Gender Dynamics on Tribal Women’s Health Outcomes amidst Pakistan’s 2022 ‘Superfloods’ – Arabela Iggesen Valenzuela

Faculty discussant: Hyun Jeong Ha

Gendered Dimensions of Climate Change: A Critical Analysis of Women’s Vulnerability and Representation in Global Environmental Governance – Manal Bidar

Faculty discussant: Jaehee Choi

12:20-13:30 PM: Lunch

Session 3 – Feminist Critiques to Culture and Society

1:30 – 2:30 PM: Presentations and faculty discussions

2:30 – 3 PM: Q&A

A Feminist Triumph or Flop?: Exploring Public Perceptions of Barbie- Yihan Chen, Ni Zheng, and Hsuan-kai Liao

Faculty discussant: Lindsay Mahon Rathnam

The Ornamental Personhood: A Reparative Reading of K-Pop Femininity – Vicky Yongkun Wu

Faculty discussant: Titas Chakraborty

Navigating Ideologies Rifts in the Digital Age: Understanding Relationship Dynamics Amidst Gender Discourse Polarization in China – Wenjing Xu

Faculty discussant: Qian Zhu