Announcing the Winners of the Freedom Lab Essay and Creative Writing Competition (Spring 2021)

Freedom Lab is excited to announce the results of the Essay and Creative Writing Competition (Spring 2021):

Essay Writing
1. “The Queer Movement in Palestine” by Anisha Joshi
2. “#Hashtag Activism and its impact on the BLM Movement as a Counternarrative Tool” by Rachel Darius
3. “Modern Indian Economy and Inequality” by Yue Qiu

Creative Writing
1. “The Wok” by Hua Chai
2. “Jiatang” by Xiaomeng Yan
3. “My Skin” by Haley Williams

All the entries have gone through a rigorous review process. Thanks are due for Professor Stephanie Anderson and Professor Caio Yurgel who were the honorary judges for the creative writing category.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

The Thursday Night Tea Research Group Event Report: Skin with Yuting Liu

By Jade Jen

Class of 2023

We go gentle into that good night, in white suits, in paints, in illusions, and in skins that mark our nakedness. In the final installment of the four-part series on intimacy by The Thursday Night Tea Research Group, Yuting Liu presents an interactive performance to delve into the contradictory nature of intimacy by testing a theory in quantum physics, which claims we can never touch anything because the feeling of “touch” is a result of electrons repelling each other. As a costume and set designer, Yuting Liu’s interest focuses on exploring our relationship to the construction and deconstruction of our selves with visual design, cultural restoration, and performance art. He is an experienced designer for several plays and has also worked as a researcher on cultural restoration of traditional Chinese outfits at the National Museum of China, among other institutions.

Unlike previous events where lectures happen in a room, Liu stages this workshop outdoor at the platform between the basketball court and the Innovation Building. He begins the workshop by asking us to put on white suits, leaving only our eyes uncovered, and to gather in a circle. He defines the white suits as our skins and in the new skins we forsake our labels and our old selves. At a platform where people rarely pass by and in suits that forbid us from recognizing one another, intimacy is put to test in a strange sense of alienation. The space becomes heterotopic in isolation from the rest of the campus and the connection between people is distanced by the thin layer of plastic: our intimacy is nowhere, touching nobody.

Liu guides us through the first part of the workshop with meditation. “Think about a time when you felt happy,” says Liu, “think about details – the place, the time, and the people nearby…” Our thoughts wander away to different directions yet come back to the same point in the sharing of individual experience. It is contradictory, as we think about people who accompany us without having them by our sides and recollect past memories while never going back. Inevitable parallelism is generated: at the moment when we feel intimacy, our loss begins simultaneously. It is retrospective, then we proceed with expressions.

Continue reading “The Thursday Night Tea Research Group Event Report: Skin with Yuting Liu”

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”

Literature Lunch JAM

Excited about a great book you just read and wanting to share it with more people? Come join our second Literature Lunch JAM. It doesn’t get any better than bonding with like-minded faculty, friends and souls over a free meal and books we love!

When: May 14 (Friday) @ 12pm

Venue: AB Cafe

Please rsvp with Prof. Selina Lai-Henderson

Kunshan Digital Humanities Exhibition

11:00-14:00, Thursday May 6th, 2021

Academic Building Lobby

Refreshments will be provided

Join the student artists of the Kunshan Digital Humanities Project for a virtual tour and a digital exploration of Kunshan on May 6!

Scrawls: City’s Secret (Zheng Zou and Zichao Chen)

Fading Memories: Life in Watertown (Anne Liu and Rudy Lu)

Kunshan Biodiversity Protection: Efforts and Achievements (Kechao Lu, Yixuan Liu, Zhiyuan Liu, Xinzhe Jiang, Shuyue Liao and Chen Lv)

Kunshan Sound Map (Dongchen Zhu)

Sides of Kunshan (Ruoyu Li)

Underneath the Peacefulness (Jiaxun Cao)

The Melting Town (Eldar Wang)

SPRING SPRING! The 2nd Action of the Bird Collision Prevention Project

  • Film Screening: October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1927) dir. by Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov

Time: 19:00 – 21:00 Thursday 29th 2021, Place: Water Pavilion

  • Guest Lecture: The Mise-en-Scene of Disenchantment: Eisenstein’s Glass House, and the Dream of Transparency by Elena Vogman

Time: 14:45 – 17:15 Friday 30th 2021, Place: Water Pavilion / Zoom: 770 275 7156

Plate 10: Eisenstein, “Girls pour le numéro de ‘Pierrot,” draft for the GlassHouse, diary from June 23, 1928, RGALI, 1923-2-1109, pp. 77-78. courtesy of Elena Vogman

Between 1926 and 1928, while working on his film October and the Capital project, Eisenstein conceived The Glass House—an unrealized film envisioned in a transparent skyscraper, a satire on bourgeois society, a “nightmare” and a “symphony” of glass. Basing on a series of visual materials from Eisenstein’s Moscow archive (RGALI), my talk proposes to examine the stakes in the unfulfilled Glass House project. The recently discovered notes and sketches for the film show how the ideological tension between transparency and opacity is translated in the most vertiginous formal experiment with the material of glass: the inclusion within the frame of several actions and perspectives, their multiplication and dissection, and finally the realization of montage within these qualities of the material. Eisenstein combines visions of mass ornaments of bodies—dancers of cabaret and “girls”—with dynamic fractions of vision which not only enact the new conditions of visibility under capitalism, radically politicizing it through sensuous experience, but also serve as an “experimental training for Capital,” one of Eisenstein’s most enigmatic projects following Marx’s script and employing literary techniques of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Elena Vogman is a literature and media scholar, currently holding a visiting assistant professorship at NYU Shanghai. She has published two books: Sinnliches Denken. Eisensteins exzentrische Methode (Diapahnes 2018) and Dance of Values. Sergei Eisensteins Capital Project (Diapahnes 2019). Her current research project is titled Madness, Media, Milieus Reconfiguring the Humanities in Postwar Europe and will be based from June 2021 at Bauhaus-University in Weimar.

Spring into Literature Reading Series Presents: Cecily Parks

Date and Time: Wednesday April 28, 11am China

Location: AB 2107

Zoom: 614 954 2152

Cecily Parks is at work on a third collection of poetry, poems from which appear in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Best American Poetry 2020. She edits the poetry section of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment and teaches in the MFA Program at Texas State University.

Freedom Lab Essay / Creative Writing Competition

To celebrate the end of an incredibly challenging, and nonetheless fruitful, academic year, the Freedom Lab is inviting DKU students to submit essays or creative writing pieces for consideration of various prizes with topics related to the themes of the Lab (more information about the lab and its research themes can be found here

Topics could range from the recent conversations on Covid-19/Black Lives Matter/Anti-Asian Hate, the legacies of slavery and imperialism, Afro-Asian engagements in the age of Cold War, feminist voices, the histories of women suffrage, labor and migration, environmental history and settler colonialism, to any other forms of inequality that have continued to inform and shape our human experience.

Students are invited to submit writing pieces of a maximum length of 5000 words to Chi Zhang ( by May 25. There will be two competition categories: essays and creative writing. Essays can take a variety of forms; they can be papers from classes or based on signature work projects. Creative writing pieces can be poems, personal reflections, short stories, or a mix of multiple forms.

Three essays and three creative writing pieces will be selected for a first prize of 500 RMB, a second prize of 450RMB, and a bronze prize of 400 RMB respectively.

Results will be announced by the end of May.

Journey of the Universe: Science, Philosophy, Cosmology

Tuesday April 27, 5:30PM China

CC 1095 / Zoom (Passcode: JOTU123)

Refreshments will be provided. RSVP here!

Dear DKU community,

You are all cordially invited to attend the presentations of student researchers of the PETAL Journey of the Universe Project.  Below is a brief introduction of all the projects.

Student Projects:

Kunshan Sound Map (Dongchen Zhu)


For city dwellers, it might be easier to answer the question “what does a city look like?” than “what does a city sound like?”. A place can remain static during a period of time; but sound—with a location, is dynamic. This project is to collect sound in Kunshan and locate them in the city map using GPS, trying to provide a way of answering the question mentioned above, though limitations inevitably exist. By engaging in the project, the participant is able to mark her trajectories in the city. Moreover, the participant with a recorder becomes a cursor on the map showing sonic information in certain location. This can also provide a perspective to the exploration of the journey of the universe from Kunshan in contemporary context.

The Scientific God and the God of Science: The Parallel Beauty of Life Sciences and Indian Philosophy (Yixuan Wu, Reiheng Xu & Trailokya Raj Bajgain)


What is the origin of life? What are the extremes in which life can survive? How does life evolve? These are the fundamental questions in astrobiology, but also essential to religious worldviews. In this project, we go through the scientific theories explaining these problems, including the chance theory, the chemical revolution theory, Darwinism, Anthropocentrism, and others, to compare them with the religious worldviews of Jainism and Hinduism. We aim to discover the potential connections and mutual influences between science and religion equipped with interdisciplinary research methods.

The Path We have Gone Through: An Understanding of the Universe in Ancient China (Sihan Wang & Yinan Zhao)


Ancient Chinese has devoted great wisdom to exploring the origin of the universe. They have developed rich ideas concerning the generation and evolution of the universe, and the relationship between heaven and human. Based on such a wealth of astronomical knowledge,we will present the intertwined relationship between Yin-Yang, Qi, Five elements, and Qiyao.Using citations of Huainanzi, Lingxian, and Huangdi Neijing, we are trying to show how these terms have their origins from the observations of planet movement in the universe, how they subtly resonance with contemporary scientific cosmogenesis, and how they affect the Chinese philosophy and cosmology beliefs.

Parallels between Buddhist Cosmology and Modern Science: Two Sides of the Same Coin? (Jiayang Ling & Yuan Li)


There seem to be strong parallels between the Buddhists and scientific way of perceiving and understanding the reality. Surprisingly, Buddha’s descriptions of the universe resonate harmoniously with modern scientific discoveries in physics, psychology, and new concepts that went ubiquitous in the past decades. In this presentation, we would like to unveil the connections between Buddhist cosmology, quantum theories, and modern society. We will firstly explain Buddhist tenets and concepts related to cosmology, including fundamental emptiness, interconnectedness and Indrajala, and then relate them to the parallel ideas from scientific findings, including the wave-particle duality and quantum theories. Since both science and Buddhism bear fundamental assumptions that determine their standpoint, logic and approach to explain the world, there remain discrepancies between their perceptions of reality and the reality itself. The core value we want to convey is that the two seemingly opposite ways, one intuitive and spiritual, the other rational and scientific, are essentially two means of exploring the same reality.

The Evolution of Chinese Ecological Civilization: From Past to Future (Yutong Lu, Yin-Chu Lu & Xiaoliang Yang)


The project will ideally focus on analyzing Chinese recent eye-catching ecological civilization and the evolution of this idea from two main perspectives, which are ideally philosophical and political.

First Section (Ancient Chinese Philosophical Tradition and Its Comparison with Current Policies) :

Ecological civilization (EC) is a response to the increasingly serious environmental issues and a brand new “civilization ” aiming to figure out a sustainable way for economic development and achieve the harmonious and holistic balance between human society and nature. EC was first explicitly proposed and then widely spread by President Jintao Hu at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2007. Next, EC was included into the overall plan for China socialism development and was endorsed in the constitution of the CPC in 2012. However, the divine thoughts of sustainability and
achieving harmony between human beings and nature reflected from EC were shining brightly in Chinese traditional philosophy schools. For Confucianism, the proponents mainly support the idea of Harmony between human beings and nature(天人合一, Tian Ren He Yi), and benevolent people love their all creatures (仁民爱物, Ren Min Ai Wu). For Daoism, the proponents mainly argue that the Way is cultivated by nature (道法自然, Dao Fa Ziran), and all things are combined as one (万物合一, Wanwu He Yi). What are the differences between traditional Chinese philosophy’s interpretation of the relationship between human beings and nature and current Chinese domestic and foreign policies by virtue of ecological civilization? This section argues that the EC in traditional Chinese philosophy services for the stability of ancient Chinese states and policies, while current Chinese government and policies service for the development of EC in China and all around the world.

Second Section (Analyzing the Cause of “Ecological Civilization” to both External and Internal Factors)

The section is primarily designed to analyze the causes of Chinese recent adovaction and approach in environmental protection. Before 2006, China was largely criticized especially by the developed countries for its intense pursuit of economic benefit at the cost of the environment. However, after the year China has dramatically changed its image in this aspect and been widely praised by its building on renewable energy as well as sustainable development approach, especially after Xi Jinping came to power when new actors in environmental regulation emerged. This section suggests such a transformation is due to both external and internal factors. While being an environmental protector would largely improve Chinese international image fitting into Chinese ambition on enhancing international status, coming with rising economic power, the policy of environmental harmony can also serve as a moral weapon against its international competitor, particularly the US which showed a declining interest in environmental protection in recent years. Also, the transformation is also a result of efforts from the bottom, as independent journalists and other non-governmental actors bravely and continually reported drawbacks in Chinese environmental regulations, raising people’s awareness in this aspect and then pushing the government to reconsider the policies.

After The Myth of the Liberator: Slavery and Places of Memory in the French Petits Antilles

Venue: IB 1010 / Zoom: 261 330 4845 

Time & Date: Friday April 30th,  6-7:30 PM China

Speaker: Yun Kyoung KWON, 

Yun Kyoung KWON (PhD, University of Chicago) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Western History at Seoul National University, South Korea. Her research focuses on the histories of the French and Haitian Revolutions, slavery and abolition in the French Empire, as well as postcolonialism and the politics of memory. Her work has appeared in such journals as Social History and Atlantic Studies, as well as such edited volumes as France’s Lost Empires and Abolitionist Places.

Today, when the extreme right’s racism and anti-racist struggles are simultaneously intensifying, the memory of slavery is a subject of sharp debate around the world. France had long suppressed this memory to maintain its national identity as the “Republic of liberation.” Now that the repressed memory of slavery has returned at the head of the French “war of memories” (guerre de mémoires), I would like to think about how the descendants of slavery and colonialism now living as French citizens are processing this painful memory. Based on my research trip in 2020, this presentation overviews the landscape of memory on the two islands of the French West Indies, Martinique and Guadeloupe. It analyzes the various mnemonic strategies found in the places of slavery memory and examines how new monuments have challenged the dominant national discourse of ‘liberty granted by France’ and the myth of ‘Schoelcher, the Liberator.’