Future of the Humanities: Program

Humanities Research Center Fall Conference 2019: The Future of the Humanities: The Gender/Sex Turn

Register to attend the conference here.


Friday, September 20, 2019

All events take place in the Academic Building Auditorium unless otherwise noted.

James Miller, Co-Director, Humanities Research Center
Carlos Rojas, Co-Director , Humanities Research Center
Scott MacEachern, Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Josephine Ho
Gender as Governance: Sexual Politics in the Age of Globalization

While gender has been constructed by the feminist movement as a matter of social justice, developments in recent decades have revealed that it could just as easily serve as an instrument for less than benign (global) governance. The concept of governance was promoted by the UN, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund since the 1990s as a highly rationalized, civilized, modernized, and juridified apparatus that aims to transform local cultures and laws of the Third World so as to comply with transnational/multilateral operations that work to reconfigure the post-Cold-War world order. Notwithstanding such ideologically potent and suspect implication, the gender equality imperative has taken up the governance model, and garnered exceptional energy and vitality to the extent of becoming key policy protocols in certain locations. Significantly, gender governance has taken the form of juridification and is most sensitively concentrated in the realm of “sexuality,” where detailed legislations have come into place to regulate all sexual expressions and interactions. This new form of sexual politics, propagated by a globalizing civility that presumes Western values and practices, now makes resistance in the sexual realm ever more difficult. This talk, using the case of Taiwan as a prime example, will delineate the development and consequence of such gender governance.

1200–1300 HUMANITIES CAREER FORUM (Water Pavilion)
Meet guest of honor, Andrew Sohn, who majored in English at Columbia University before embarking on a career in investment banking, and then founding his own company, Due West Education. Light refreshments will be served.


Nellie Chu, DKU: “Just in Time” Capitalism: Transnational Subcontracting, Urban Villages, and Fast Fashion in Guangzhou, China
Liqi Ren, DKU: Meaning in Absence: The Case of Tampon Use among Chinese Women
Mengqi Wang, DKU: The Clash of Homely Imaginations: Marriage House in Post-Reform China
Qian Zhu, DKU: Creating “New Men” in Everyday Life: “New Villages” in China and The Cultural Politics of Accumulation


Titas Chakraborty, DKU: Saari Gaan: Situating Boatmen in the Cultural World of Eighteenth Century Bengal Mysticism
Dave Hare, DKU: VR Affordances Expand Chinese VR Policy Outcomes
Seth Henderson, DKU: Offerings, Architectures, and Curses: A Conversation With Seth
Penelope Scott, XJTLU: The Concept of the Sacred in Ælfric’s Lives of Saints


Zach Fredman, DKU: Making Our Friends at Home: China’s Hostel Program for U.S. Armed Forces during World War II
Jesse Olsavsky, DKU: Runaway Slaves, Abolitionists, and the Origins of Prison Abolitionism
Selina Lai-Henderson, DKU: Color Around the Globe: Langston Hughes, Black Internationalism, and Translation in China
Bryce Beemer, DKU: Creole Islam in the Shadow of Ethnic Cleansing: Histories of Myanmar’s Kaman Muslim Communities

1530-1600 Tea Break

Yingying Huang
Changing Sexualities in Mainland China Since the 1980s

In this presentation, I will try to address the following questions: what are the key emerging issues of ‘sexualities’ rooted in mainland China since 1980s? How to understand the changes, trends and tensions under certain social, political and economic contexts? What are the local responses from the Chinese academic and the key discourses being formulated? By answering these questions, an overall picture of sex and sexualities in contemporary China since its opening up and economic reform will be drawn. Further, I also expect to think more deeply how to stimulate better situated knowledge, and think broadly how such China experience could enrich knowledge production in global south and contribute to dialogues transnationally, and vice versa.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Selected students are invited to participate in a seminar with the keynote speakers.
AB3101         Josephine Ho
AB3103        Yin-bin Ning
AB3107        Yingying Huang
AB3109        Yueyue Wenren

Yin-Bin Ning
Sex Work and Modernity: a Recap and Reflection

Why or why not is selling one’s sex alienating one’s self? This question can be traced back to a more general question which Hegel and others were concerned when paid labor became prevalent, that is, why or why not is selling one’s labor power or service alienating one’s self? Like sex work, various types of modern work, especially in their emerging stage or in their informal sector, are also full of risks of alienating one’s self in the form of self being appropriated, privacy encroached, or boundary of intimacy violated. To understand exactly how the alienation of self in question proceeds, the approach of social interactions instead of philosophy is required. As my speech shall demonstrate, it is through the techniques of self-presentation during the actual human interactions that the private self of the service worker is appropriated by the customer, or vice versa. Hence, for this phenomenon of alienation of self, the Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman’s writings provide the most relevant interpretive framework, which will be sketched in my speech.

However, this Goffmanian approach to the question of alienation of sex worker’s self still needs to be located in a wider context concerning the dynamics and structural conditions of the modern self and its formation. Thus, in the second part of my speech I will situate the interactions and the boundary maintenance of modern selves in five kinds of modern conditions that also constitute the core elements of (late) modernity. The implication of this discussion is to show that the sex worker’s success in not alienating herself during the interaction is not due to personal idiosyncrasy, but deeply rooted in the conditions of modernity. Since the main theme of my speech is a recap of my previous works in Chinese (which has not been published in English), at the end I will give a brief self criticism of my analysis in light of my recent reflection on multiple modernities.

1200 Lunch Break


Daniel Lim, DKU: Philosophy Through Machine Learning
Alex Oprea, ANU: Litigators and Legislators: The Role of Courts in Education Policy
Philip Santoso, DKU: The Nature and Meaning of the Left-Right Metaphor in Politics
Daniel J. Stephens, DKU: Value Pluralism and Later Mohist Ethics


Tabe Bergman, XJTLU: Trump in the Chinese Media: A Content Analysis
Xuenan Cao, DKU: Irretrievable Documents: Fictions of Absented Presence
Kaley Clements, DKU: Low Hanging Fruit
Anna Greenspan, NYU Shanghai: China and the Wireless Wave


Yitzhak Lewis, DKU: Invisible Differences, or: What is Literary Marginality?
Ben Van Overmeire, DKU: Carnival in the Zen Temple: A Bakhtinian Interpretation of Janwillem van de Wetering’s Afterzen
Yuexi Liu, XJTLU: Hearing Voices: The Extended Mind in Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold
Leksa Lee, NYU Shanghai: The Number One Fake Museum Under Heaven and the Embodied Experience of Realness in China

1530-1600 Tea Break

Yueyue Wenren
Commonsense Morality in History: Stories Sealed in Amber

That amber sealed a moment of history
after a long and forgetful flow of years
still reflecting thrilling lights from the time
However, it is not the whole picture of history
what had happened already disappeared
yet the possibilities in history are in fact endless

History often repeats itself, and what really happened is not always recorded. Novels can be used as a means of not only observing hidden history but also exploring possible outcomes while learning lessons.

Amber is an epic novel that connects the historical events and fragments throughout the last century, while weaving together the concepts of basic human values in times of different conflicts when humanity is under attack. It is written from the point of view of a female protagonist, Mo Hsiao Hsien. Her story starts with Soviet involvement in Mongolia in the 1920s when communism took hold in Asia, and ends in New York around 2010 when many still believed globalization was the way to solve world problems. Caught in a complex intelligence service network, involving the Soviet Union, the United States and two Chinese political parties on the verge of the Cold War, Mo Hsiao Hsien eventually positions herself as a bridge, serving as a special channel between different camps. Her role in espionage games opens a new feminine perspective in power struggles, and it transcends gender and ethnicity. She witnesses the regional conflicts in Xinjiang in early the 1930s, the political purge in the late 1930s Soviet Union, World War II in Europe, the Civil War in China, the Cold War and the power struggle in the global markets in contemporary times. Her life becomes an entwined path of hope and struggle, on which commonsense morality played an important role. She always remembered her mother’s motto: “Always believe in the value of humanity built upon common sense.”

1730-1900 DINNER
Dinner is provided for all presenters and invited students in the Academic Building Ballroom.

All participants are invited to the Academic Building lobby for dessert to celebrate the closing of the exhibition Where Love Is Illegal, a photo project led by Robin Hammond to document and to share LGBT+ stories of discrimination and survival from around the world. For the past two weeks DKU has been honored to host this exhibit and has helped to spark a campus-wide discussion about difference and discrimination in gender, sexual, and romantic identities.