Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore”

By Yue Qiu

Class of 2022

On June 11, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Sandeep Banerjee from McGill University to lead a discussion on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore“. The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the lecture. Professor Titas Chakraborty and around 20 students attended the conference.

Professor Chakraborty introduced the guest speaker. Professor Banerjee is a literary theorist, cultural critic, and historian who studies the literatures and histories of decolonization, particularly in India. Besides writing on colonialism and liberation, he also writes on a wide range of topics such as travel narrative and photography. He published the book Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony last year. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore””

Third Space Lab Initiative – Portraits of Third Spaces: Your DKU/Kunshan Story

Portraits of Third Spaces: Your DKU/Kunshan Story is a community project to create a unique story that captures the intercultural transformation of the people of the DKU and Kunshan communities

The transformation that many students, faculty, staff, and members of the Kunshan community have experienced in the past two years is a result of other experiences: altered spaces, new environments with different languages and cultures, intercultural interactions, celebrations, frustrations, loss, and so much more that cannot be possibly contained in a list. 

Portraits of Third Spaces: Your DKU/Kunshan Story will capture a snapshot of the DKU and Kunshan communities, creating a collective narrative that will reflect transformations resulting from intercultural encounters. TSL’s Portraits of Third Spaces: Your DKU/Kunshan Story campaign endeavors to catalog the uniqueness of individuals and contexts resulting from the interface of multiple cultures, in order to reflect the transformation of individuals and of spaces. TSL hopes that our campaign will encourage moments of reflection as our communities continue to move forward. 

Third Space Lab invites you to submit your personal reflection of transformation from your experiences at DKU or in Kunshan in response to the following themes (Language/Culture, Identity, and Spaces). The sub-themes below each theme are merely examples, and you are free to discuss another topic that falls under the larger theme:

Language and/or Culture

  • How have your (intercultural) experiences at DKU or in Kunshan affected your language or your view of language (Mandarin Chinese, English, or another language)?
  • How has it affected how you view (your) culture(s) and other cultures?

Identity

nativeness vs. non-nativeness
dominance vs. marginalization
self vs. other
insider vs. outsider 

  • How has your experience defined or redefined how you conceptualize or challenge the above (often perceived) dichotomies?
  • How has your experience in the past year or two influenced how you see yourself and others? How so?
  • How has it influenced your relationships with others (family, friends back home, new encounters, etc.)?
  • How has it affected your interests (personal, academic, professional, etc.)?
  • How has it influenced how you perform your identity in front of different audiences (family, friends back home, new encounters, etc.)?

Spaces

public vs. private
online vs. in-person
physical vs. intellectual 

  • How have some of the consequences of the pandemic influenced your conceptualization of the spaces mentioned above? 
  • How has your new environment affected your awareness of how your identity is shaped by these spaces?

Initial selection for the event will not be based on mastery of a medium (e.g. selection will be made based on how well the submission depicts the themes, not how aesthetically “good” or “skilled” it is) and can include poetry, drawings, paintings, photographs, and other creative works (video of alternative dance, etc.). Your submission must be accompanied by an oral or written narrative expressing your unique reflection on how your submission captures your transformation. We welcome submissions in both English and Chinese, as well as bilingual submissions including English or Chinese and another language. 

Shortlisted submissions will be featured in an on-campus exhibition at Duke Kunshan University during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

The project is completely free and open to all ages, statuses, and abilities. Submissions are accepted from now until September 1st and will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

Share your artifacts and narratives with us at thirdspacelab@dukekunshan.edu.cn, and please specify which theme(s) and subthemes you would like to be considered for. 

The audience will vote for their 3 favorite student entries and the best 3 student submissions will receive a prize (more information will come at the end of the summer). 

由昆山杜克大学人文研究中心下设的第三空间研究室策划发起的《第三空间画像  :您的昆杜 /昆山故事》是一个社区项目,旨在创建一个记录昆杜人与昆山当地人的跨文化蜕变的独特群体故事。

《第三空间画像:您的昆杜 /昆山故事》将通过昆杜和昆山社区成员的个人经历,创建一个群体故事,以反映跨文化际遇所带来的转变。 第三空间研究室的《第三空间画像:您的昆杜 /昆山故事》征集活动希望对跨文化的个体和其独特背景进行归类,来反映个体和空间的转变。 第三空间研究室的愿景是我们的活动能鼓励人们进行反思,从而推动我们的社区继续前进。

第三空间研究室邀请您针对以下主题(语言/文化,身份,空间),根据您在昆山杜克大学或昆山社区的经历提交对转变(transformation)的个人反思。每个主题下的子主题仅是示例,您可以自由讨论属于该主题的其他未列出子主题:

  1. 语言和/或文化
  • 您在昆山杜克大学或昆山的(跨文化)经历怎样影响了您的语言或您对于语言的看法(包括中文,英语或其他语言)?
  • 您在昆山杜克大学或昆山的(跨文化)经历怎样影响了您看待(您的)文化和其他文化?
  1. 身份认同
    • 母语者与非母语者
    • 主流群体与边缘化群体
    • 自我与和他者
    • 内部群体与外部群体
  • 您的经历怎样定义或重新定义了您对于上述(通常意义上的)二分法的理解?
  • 在过去一两年,您的经历怎样影响了您对自己和他人的看法?原因是什么呢?
  • 在过去一两年,您的经历怎样影响了您与他人的关系(家庭,在家乡的朋友,结交的新朋友等)?
  • 在过去一两年,您的经历怎样影响了您的兴趣(个人,学术,专业等)?
  • 在过去一两年,您的经历怎样影响了您在不同的群体(家人,在家乡的朋友,结交的新朋友等)面前表现自己的身份?
  1. 空间
    • 公共空间与私人空间
    • 网络空间与面对面
    • 物理空间与思维空间
  • 此次疫情怎样重塑了您对上述空间的概念?
  • 您所处的新环境怎样影响了您对上述空间如何塑造您的身份的认识?

本次比赛的初筛不基于对媒介的掌握。我们的评选将基于提交内容与主题的相符程度,而不是基于其美学上的“良好”或“熟练”程度。作品形式可以有诗歌,绘画,摄影和其他创意作品(舞蹈视频等)。您提交的作品必须随附口头或书面叙述,以表达您的作品如何表现“转变”的独特思考。我们欢迎中英双语的作品和叙述,如果您以其他语言提交,请附中文或英文的翻译。

入围作品将在2020-2021学年期间在昆山杜克大学的校园展览中展出。该项目是完全免费的,并且开放给所有年龄段和不同身份的人们参与。即日起至2020年9月1日,我们将接收所有提交的内容,并将对其进行滚动评估。

请将您的作品发送到此邮箱(thirdspacelab@dukekunshan.edu.cn),并且请标明您作品的参赛类别。 观众将对他们最喜欢的3个作品进行投票,并且最受欢迎的3个作品的作者将获得奖品(更多信息将在夏末时提供)。

Report on Kunshan Digital City of Arts and Culture

By Anisha Joshi

Class of 2022

In the rush and uncertainty with which many of us vacated campus as COVID-19 was taking shape as an epidemic in China, few of us had anticipated how much we would miss Kunshan and beloved DKU. Some of us left, afraid but also hopeful that we could return to campus, or China, safely, hopeful that we would be able to resume at least part of the semester on campus.

And yet, here we are, most of us, five months later still pining for Kunshan, our shining campus with its pristine waters, the trees and lakes most of us have come to recognize as a home away from home. Luckily, students collaborating with the Humanities Research Center under the Kunshan Digital Humanities have been hard at work over last year, carefully archiving unique ways of experiencing this beautiful city.

While initially the student artworks were meant to be displayed in a curated exhibition on campus in spring semester, given the circumstances the projects were presented in an even more innovative way—students who worked on the projects gave Dean James Miller a virtual guide around Kunshan’s many attractions over the course of a day through the ArcGIS StoryMap interface, taking Dean Miller (and the audience) through each of the locations and what was special about them. The student artists’ exploration of Kunshan took place through a variety of mediums, ranging from photography and documentary film making to even performance art. Continue reading “Report on Kunshan Digital City of Arts and Culture”

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

Click [HERE] to watch the recording

Abstract:

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.

Bio-note:

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

Welcome to the Third Space Lab Research Assistants!

This month, the Third Space Lab recruited six new research assistants to help with our three interrelated research projects.

Read their bios below to see who joined us!

Dr. Zhang Xin’s project
Negotiating Third Space Personae: Foreign Professionals in Modern Chinese Workplace

Aya Lahlou

Aya Lahlou
My name is Aya Lahlou, I am a junior student majoring in Data Science. I am a research assistant at the Third Space Lab working on the project Negotiating Third Space Personae: Foreign Professionals in Modern Chinese Workplace. I am hoping to use this experience to deepen my knowledge about applied and social linguistics and ultimately apply it in my future signature work and career prospects. I believe this is a great place for me to reconcile my experience in data science and my passion for linguistics, especially as a prospective working professional in China. In my free time, I enjoy art, learning languages, and solving linguistics puzzles.

Cameron Page


Cameron Page
My name is Cameron. I am a DKU undergraduate student in the Class of 2023, and I intend to major in Global China Studies with a track in Political Science. I am delighted to be appointed as a Research Assistant for Professor Xin Zhang’s project, 
Negotiating Third Space Personae: Foreign Professionals in the Modern Chinese Workplace. I am confident that I will utilize this research experience, and my engagement with the wider Third Space Lab, to help fulfill my future goal of studying Chinese and East Asian law.  In my downtime, I like to watch Shark Tank, read up on Western and Southern Chinese societies, and play football. I am incredibly excited to come on board with Professor Zhang’s project and contribute to the wealth of knowledge produced by the Third Space Lab and greater Humanities Research Center.

Dr. Emmanuelle S. Chiocca’s project
Fostering Perspective Transformation in Intercultural Spaces

Hong Pham

Hong Pham
My name is Hong Pham and I use She/Her/Hers pronouns. I am a Junior majoring in Global Health Public Policy. I am working as a research assistant for the project Fostering Perspective Transformation in Intercultural Spaces. I plan to use this experience in relation to my future plans by developing my research skills. Furthermore, I would like to use the knowledge about international communication, education, and sociolinguistics for future experiences and understanding to work internationally in the global health field. Beyond my involvement in research and as a college student, in my spare time, I like to read, paint, and go on long walks with my dog, Bear.

Chunyuan Shen (Juno)

Chunyuan (Juno) Sheng
I am a junior student at Duke Kunshan University majoring in economics. I work as a research assistant on the project Fostering Perspective Transformation in Intercultural Spaces in Third Space Lab. I am enthusiastic about topics in interdisciplinary social science and am particularly interested in educational psychology. It is my ambition to contribute to developing an educational practice that can teach students to recognize themselves and find their unique life paths instead of simply following the herd.

Dr. Saghar Leslie Naghib’s project
Conflict Management & Personal Transformation in Intercultural Contexts

Ryan Trombly

Ryan Trombly
My name is Ryan Trombly from Arizona in the US and I am a member of the class of 2022. I am majoring in institutions and governance (public policy track) and am excited for the future of my academic career at DKU. I am a research assistant for the project Conflict Management & Personal Transformation in Intercultural Contexts, and am thrilled to be a part of a project that will actively study some of the most distinctive attributes that come with being a student at DKU. One of the most meaningful lessons that I have encountered at DKU- a lesson that is constantly evolving- is how to interact with a diverse student body who are all going through periods of immense personal growth. I feel that this specific field of research is very underdeveloped, thus the opportunity to assist in potentially groundbreaking research on conflict management and personal transformation- subject matters that I am currently trying to navigate- is enthralling to me.
My future goal is to work in an international setting like law or government, so any knowledge I can gather in conflict management and transformation will be invaluable. But regardless of my workplace, the ability to empathize with others who don’t share the same perspectives is increasingly critical. Cultivating this ability underlines all the projects of the Third Space Lab.
As soon as I get back to Kunshan, I’ll most likely be out hunting for the best milk tea or enjoying the few (but very tasty) international restaurants dotted around the city. On campus, I enjoy being involved in the PETAL lab, in the Duke East Asia Nexus club, and as a member of Bridge. In my free time, I love to write creatively, read books, and maybe take a nap or two.

Queena Zhong
As a third-year student at DKU, I am majoring in Environmental Science with Public Policy track but I maintain a strong passion for behavioral and cognitive psychology. I am assisting the project Conflict Management and Personal Transformation in Intercultural Contexts under Dr. Naghib. Despite my major, I continue to seek opportunities to enhance my knowledge and experience in psychology. I hope to use what I learn from this research experience on my signature work and other future projects. As a Chinese-American from California, I feel connected with both Chinese and American cultures and have a great interest in learning about various cultures. I am actively involved in student life, serving as a Resident Assistant for two years in a row and as the Co-chair for the Duke to DKU (D2D) Program under DKU Kunshan Student Ambassador Council (KSAC).