Chair's Newsletter

Spring 2021

Welcome back! As we begin the Spring 2021 semester, it still feels very much like winter. Our souls have been tried by the relentless grip of the pandemic, and the malevolent wreckage wrought by our (thankfully) outgoing president and his enablers. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to wrap one’s mind around the magnitude of the losses — of nearly half a million souls in the US alone, of democratic norms and competent governance, of unrecoverable time that might have been spent averting climate change and preserving a livable world for all of us. On a recent visit back to my Dwinelle office, now gathering the dust of nearly a year of dereliction, that loss felt even more personal and more palpable. Lost time. Lost opportunities for teaching and learning and camaraderie. The vibrant campus of a great public university gone eerily quiet; a magnificent collective resource left unused.

Yet even in our pandemic-induced exile from campus and from each other, our department has remained wonderfully resilient. We have not been separated or brought to a standstill. On the contrary, life and learning have gone on, through the heroic efforts of our staff, and the unflagging energy and commitment of our faculty and students. And for the first time, we now have some reason to expect that the notional “2020” will finally come to an end sometime late in 2021, and that it just might be possible for us to return to our beautiful campus in the fall. So, hang in there! Just one more semester of Zoom to go. And there is so much to look forward to when we get back.

New Faculty, New Courses and Curricula, New Initiatives

As most of you know, we are currently in the midst of a search for a new faculty member in Korean studies. Everyone is welcome to take part, so please look out for announcements and information from Professor Jinsoo An about the upcoming campus visits of the short-listed candidates. We are very much looking to welcoming a new colleague in Korean in the coming year.

During the pandemic, EALC faculty have also been in the thick of designing an exciting new cross-regional and interdisciplinary major for our undergraduates in the “East Asian Humanities.” Stay tuned for more announcements on this front in future newsletters!

In the meantime, many of us, faculty and graduate students alike, have been creating and implementing fantastic new courses. Julia Keblinska taught "The Golden Age of Dead Media" in Art History this past Fall, and will repeat the course this spring. Linda Zhang will also be offering a new “Reading and Composition” (R1B) course on “The Uncanny, the Alien, and the Strange: Technological and Futuristic Alterity in East Asian Media.” Bonnie McClure and Hardy Stewart are also co-teaching an R1B course, lyrically titled “It Blooms but Briefly: Memory, Mortality, and Flowers in Premodern Chinese and Japanese poetry.”

This past Fall, Weihong Bao taught a collaborative “Compass” course called “World Cities: Shanghai-Berlin-St. Petersburg.” She will also offer a brand-new iteration of Chinese 188, “Popular Media in Modern China” focused on questions of genre and media this spring. Brian Baumann will teach a course on “Buddhist Astral Science.” Alan Tansman will lead a Townsend Center seminar on “Beauty” this spring (which will also be developed into an undergraduate class at a later date), and also plans to roll out two new courses in the fall of 2021, an “Art of Writing” seminar “Writing the Limits of Empathy” and another campus-wide “Compass” course, co-taught with Professor Colleen Lye (English) and Chenxi Tang (German), and asking students to consider “What is Asia?”

Finally, thanks to the initiative, expertise, and hard work of Chris Elford, the department has finally (!) and for the first time hung up its shingle in the world of social media — and already attracted nearly 600 followers. Visit our sparkling new Twitter account here: and look out for exciting new profiles of people in the department, ongoing research, and announcements about departmental events such as our series of “EALC Talks!” on-line.


Scholars in EALC and Buddhist Studies have also continued to publish at an impressively brisk clip.

Mark Blum’s edited volume, The Selected Works of D.T. Suzuki, Volume IV has just come out from the University of California Press:

Robert Sharf’s co-edited volume What Can’t Be Said: Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Thought will appear later this year:

Weihong Bao’s essay “Documentary in the Age of Mass Mobility: Minzu wansui and the Epic Gesture of Ethnographic Propaganda” will appear next month in A Companion to Documentary Film History. Ed. Joshua Malitsky and Malin Wahlberg. London: Blackwell-Wiley, 2021. She will also be editing not one but two (!) forthcoming special issues for Critical Inquiry and Representations, on “Medium/ Environment” and ‘Climate/ Media,” respectively.

Ling Hon Lam has recently published a book chapter on “Allegory and the ‘World’ Formation in The Journey to the West.” In A Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature, vol. 2, ed. Christine Chism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2020.

Xiangjun Feng’s “Rhythm Revolution: How Music Modernized China” is forthcoming in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 32.2.

Look out also for Korean minor Ishani Ghosh’s series of on-line interviews with Koreanists on, the official web portal of the South Korean government.

And, just for fun, Andrew F. Jones’ translations of the lyrics of the latest album by the Taiwanese folk-rock artist and activist Lin Sheng-xiang have recently dropped. The record is a suite of songs called “Water Snowflake Goes to Market” about local foods and the social and ecological and familial stories they tell, and the videos are uplifting (and appetizing), especially in these dark (and lean) times:

(Use closed captioning for the English lyrics if you don’t understand Hakka/Chinese):

Arrivals, Departures, Homecomings, Felicitations

David Bratt filed his dissertation this past December, and will be taking up an appointment right here in Berkeley as a Hitchcock Postdoctoral Scholar in the Gradate Division. Congratulations, David, we are delighted for you!

Chen Tai, an incoming graduate student focusing on early China, will be beginning his studies at Berkeley this semester. Welcome!

Professor Dan O’Neill is returning from sabbatical leave and will be back to teaching this Spring. Welcome back— we missed you.

Professor Yoko Hasegawa will be on leave this semester, Spring 2021.

Mark Blum and Sophie Volpp will be on leave beginning in Fall 2021, and Weihong Bao has received a Townsend Center Fellowship for Associate Professors for 2021-2022.

A Final Word

Despite all that we’ve been through in the past year and the parlous state of our politics and our biosphere, I am always buoyed by our little community, and the many ways we continue to open up new frontiers of inquiry, light up minds, preserve and transmit precious historical knowledge, and support each other by way of countless acts of collegiality and kindness. Thank you all for that. It’s difficult to muster a great deal of optimism about the world beyond Berkeley, perhaps, but here at least, I know that Spring has arrived, and a new semester beckons…