2013 Emerging Scholars Symposium in India and China

Emerging Scholars Transparent Logo 287x300 2013 Emerging Scholars Symposium in India and ChinaWe’re excited to announce two upcoming international symposia to support young emerging scholars in India and China. The China symposium will take place at Yunnan University in Kunming, while the India symposium will take place at the University of Calcutta and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS).

The symposium is a part of ICI’s continuing commitment to build a community of scholars who are engaged in research that focuses on innovative approaches to understanding India China relations. For nine years ICI has provided a space for the establishment and strengthening of scholarly networks for emerging scholars of India and China who wish to share their research and explore opportunities for advancing individual and collaborative scholarship. The emerging scholars program also draws on The New School’s tradition of fostering horizontal and vertical knowledge-sharing across disciplines and amongst scholars in different stages of their careers. You can find more information about both symposium below.

Kunming, China

Yunnan University
Nov 1, 2013
Event Flyer (PDF)
Event Schedule (PDF)

Kolkata, India

University of Calcutta and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS)
Nov 7-8, 2013
Event Flyer (PDF)
Event Schedule (PDF)

Kunming Adventures…!

The past two weeks were exciting for the Mobility and Livelihood Group. After interviewing more urban villagers and exploring Kunming, we decided that the most feasible way to narrow our research topic is to focus on the impact of migration for migrant workers in the food industry. In particular, we thought it would be interesting to focus on migrants working in restaurants or as street food vendors for five reasons. First, many migrant workers in China are concentrated in these two occupations. Second, these occupations are not gender-specific, unlike construction or domestic work, and would allow us to examine the realities of migrant men and women. Third, studying the formal sector of the restaurant industry and the informal sector of the street food industry will give us a good sense of the issues associated with both sectors. Fourth, to our knowledge not much research has been done on the challenges facing food industry migrant workers so we would be adding something new to the existing literature. Fifth, since many of the migrant workers we had already interviewed were employed in these two industries it seems to be a useful way to build on the research we have already conducted.

Despite the preliminary stage of our analysis, we have already come across some interesting findings that we’d like to share. In our interviews and interactions with the respondents/informants engaged in this industry, ‘prior skill’ perse was not a required qualification. Secondly, the level of education among them was mostly skewed as majority of them were primary or high school graduates and drop-outs. Majority of them are migrants living in urban villages, and the dominant literature on migration studies in China has ignored them or not adequately studied them.

At the same time, fieldtrip to Shangri-la (Gyalthang), Lijiang and DaLi was a much needed break from our active work. However, we did not miss to interview some respondents. It was educative and adventurous. The visit to the Songzanlin Si (Sungtseling Monastery) is the most important Tibetan monastery in southwest China was enchanting. The paintings on the walls and its architecture show the fusion of rich Tibetan iconography and Han Chinese. Walking tour with Prof. Eric Mortenson through the monastery and the stoned-bylanes of Gyalthang gave us glimpses of old Tibetan culture, religious and social lives of the people.

Our orientation in Thangka Centre with Dakpa Kelden (Shangri-la Association of Cultural Preservation) and elaborate presentation by Ms. Uttara Sarkar (Gyalthang Ecotravel) on preservation of old traditional crafts such as thangka paintings, safe and sustainable ecotourism gave us new insights to the tourism industry in Shangri-la .

Homestay in Trinyi village and hiking up the mountains above 3300 metres was adventurous. With all the three members of the group ( Lu Qian, Danielle K. Smith and Bhim Subba) making to the top was special. The drizzle and the slippery terrain made it more challenging both while ascending and climbing down. The majestic view of the Gyalthang town and the village surrounded by beautiful hills on all sides could be seen from the mountain top. The next day visit to Tiger Leaping Gorge, and overnight stay in Lijiang and DaLi were exploratory in nature and recreational. We had an adventurous and pleasurable biking tour of the Erhai Lake with a beautiful landscape at the foreground.

INDEED…THE TRIP WAS A MUCH NEEDED “BREAK”

Colorful Kunming

Since last 13 days I stay in Kunming, it really a colorful experience for me. Life here take a shape like a fair. For my project work daily I meet lots of new people, lots of new thinking, lot  of fresh aspiration. It is a really a huge learning experience for me. Kunming people life style, their Charm, excitement, lots of young folks fun, people’s food attraction, people fascination on different pets all these things make the city more illuminated. Another  things which give the city an extra flavor which is the weather, Kunming is really a eternal spring city.

Mushrooms in translation

Hi all!

I want to share this section of my fieldnotes. Rather than description, it is my analysis. It is very much a thought in progress, so I would love any feedback!

A description of mushrooms and mushroom sellers at a Kunming market

Analysis:

There are two important variables concerning mushroom sellers in Kunming’s farmers market. The first variable: Is the seller also the picker, or did the seller buy from a distributor? The second variable: whether the mushrooms are wild or not. While the word ‘wild’ seems to translate into English quite nicely, and without confusion, describing ‘not wild’ is more open to interpretation. Andree, my Chinese counterpart, prefers the term ‘artificial’. Indeed, after spending a good week chatting with Kunminese about mushrooms, it seems that ‘artificial’ is the most commonly used English word. Other translations would include, ‘cultivated’, ‘industrial’, ‘farmed’, ‘mass-produced’, etc.

In my opinion ‘cultivated’ is the most accurate term. Afterall, cultivation is exactly what is being done. As opposed to mushrooms growing without the aid of humans, in the wild (interestingly, most wild mushrooms still cannot be cultivated), this other category of mushrooms ARE grown by humans, they are cultivated.

But, that point aside, the fact that these Kunminese prefer the translation ‘artificial’, is very telling. ‘Artificial’– to describe not-wild– is by far the most polarizing term to use. To say ‘artificial’ implies that something is not real, it is not genuine, and thus inferior if not critically flawed. It goes far beyond terms such as ‘cultivated’, ‘industrial’, or ‘farmed’. And indeed, when discussing this choice of translation with various Kunminese, I have questioned whether or not they mean ‘industrial’ or ‘farmed’. They tell me that they also mean these other, nearby terms. But still they insist that ‘artificial’ better expresses what they are trying to say when describing those mushrooms that sell at a cheaper price and are lacking in robust flavor and aroma.

Additionally, this view of wild vs ‘artificial’ mushrooms applies to other produce. At one point, when walking around the market, we found ourselves in an area that strangely lacked the hustle and bustle occurring everywhere else. I wasn’t the one to bring it up. Rather, Andree pointed it out by asking Shiladitya and I why we thought this section was so quiet. We gave many guesses but couldn’t figure it out. Finally, she said that unlike the rest of the market, where the farmers themselves sell food, this section was comprised only of distributors. Andree explained that these distributors get their food from industrial farms (of course she said ‘artificial’). She said it wasn’t as fresh, or natural. And evidently everyone knew it. (Now I have to also admit that on average the price is slightly lower, and it is easier to bargain with the farmers. But still Andree stressed that the quality of the food was of higher consideration to the scurrying consumers.)

In other words, what Im trying to say, is that Kunming doesn’t need Alice Waters to come and lecture on the importance of naturally grown, locally sourced food. Such values run deep in Kunminese culture.

And to really take this thought too far… I will say that this story is very interesting in relation to the macro picture of an industrializing, urbanizing China. If there is such concern over naturally-grown, fresh foods, how do people swallow such obscene industrialization? Throughout my interviews, I am surprised to find so much acceptance over industrialization (and its consequences on food quality, including pollution in general). Obviously people aren’t happy about it, nor am I inferring any sort of apathy. But still, there seems to be a sense of trust, or calm, maybe understanding that this is part of a process, a cycle, and that resolution will be found. It is hard for me to express. And it is hard for me to say how I feel about it, but it is what I observe.

Dian Lake and the Gateway to South East Asia

Apologies for the lateness of this post, I was out of town and didn’t have net access.

Friday morning I managed to pull myself out of bed around 7:30.  I stumbled my way to the dining hall, eager for some steamed buns and a heaping bowl of boil-them-yourself noodles and broth.  As I slurped up my breakfast and sipped my leafy tea I wondered what exactly a trip to Dian Lake and the new Yunnan Campus would entail.  The significance of the lake was lost in the barrage of information I’d received in the past seven days but I was looking forward to getting out of town and seeing a bit more than the blocks surrounding Yunnan University.

We miraculously were all able to get on the bus on time and soon we were on our way to Dian Lake.  The weather was quite overcast but I for one was glad when we pulled over by the side of the lake and were invited to take a walk.  It’d been a while since I’d been able to walk around such a spacious, not-so urban area (I’d spent the past week on crowded flight from New York City to Shanghai and then a packed train car to Kunming, which may be a smaller city in Chinese terms but it’s still a bustling metropolis) and the lapping of the water mixed combined with the serene Sleeping Beauty was calming.  This portion of the lake had undergone a massive cleaning overhaul but the section we were about to visit was still highly polluted.

Teams of workers in orange vests could be seen on rafts as we rolled past the lake.  The massive project they were undertaking was made clear by Ruyong when he explained that the water was so dirty that it could not even be used for industrial purposes.  While this fact was jaw dropping, the portion of the day that left the largest mark on me was the drive back to the city.

The fact that China’s urban migration is of an unprecedented size is well known (a figure I read recently claimed that a decade of rural to urban migration in China has eclipsed the entirety of Irish immigration to the USA and the number continues to rise) but until you see the dozens upon dozens of high rises being built around the outside of the city and recognize that it is just a single Chinese city among hundreds, the reality of the situation is impossible to grasp.  Furthermore, after seeing the While giving me a much clearer sense of the scale of China’s urbanization situation, the skeletal frames of the high rises, the unfinished freeways leading toward them before ending abruptly and the cranes dotting the landscape created many more questions.  With Dian Lake still on my mind, I wondered about the environmental effects of such development.  I also found myself wondering who exactly was going to be living in such complexes and what sort of work would they be doing?  As we entered the city proper I became more aware of the work occurring within the city as well.  What I took for renovation was in fact construction and reconstruction.  All of this lead me to wonder what the Kunming represented to the its long term residents and how that differed from how it is being understood in the state development projects that view it as the gateway to the markets of South and South East Asia.

Talk about why I choose this topic

Time really flies. It have been eight days past, and I want to explain why I chose this topic. I think having a well-defined set of objective will give me a hand to complete this research program.

Firstly, many people work hard to earn money for their family’s living, and the house is one of the biggest expenditure in their living cost. My friends also strive to earn a living, who just have graduated from the university in these years, with the hopes for their future and happiness living and marriage. House is the indispensable things for their future. Because the house is the symbol of the stable life for our Chinese, and also linked with many social problems, such as household register system, medical care and child education, etc.

Secondly, In our Chinese traditional values, land and house are the best choice as a store of wealth. In the modern society, the land is strictly controlled by the government; But the house always is one of the best choice as a store of wealth. And in Kunming, lots of house are stockpiled for investment to have the sudden profiteering.

Thirdly, according to some surveys, 13.04% of China’s GDP today comes from the house market, and the house market have the huge influence for our country’s economy. Between 2009 to 2011, our Centre government has published many policies and regulations to protect the normal house market. Changing house price will be influenced the continuing development of china economic, and the normal life of citizens.

At last, I thought that it’s a critical problem for the huge rural country with 1.3 billion people and India will also face this problem in the future or maybe now. Because both China and India share similar national conditions, for instance, the rapid economic development, the huge population , the rapid urbanization and the emerging middle class. I am very interested in this topic, and I will try my best to complete this research program.

 

Amigo

Aloha!

Welcome to Kunming, friends! How is your stay in the town?

It has already been a week since we’ve met with each other. And I’m really looking forward for the following 7 weeks that we can work and talk and have fun all the way together. I’m pretty sure that we will find more commons than we imagine. Frankly, I was pretty exhausted since the tight set schedule of the 5 days. But I’m confident about all the projects that all of us have worked with and about to work with. I think it was and will be worthy and fun. I am ready to work on our most interesting projects. How about you guys? Actually I don’t know what else can I say. Probably it’s because we are still in my town. So there are just few things that can surprise me just a little bit. And are you guys going to watch the Euro Cup Final tonight? Which team you think is gonna win the game? I bet the champion will be Spanish.

Oh by the way, do I really look like that I am serious all the time? Please do tell me if you do think so since Sreerupa told me that on the night we saw the show of Yunnan Dynamics. Trust me, my appearance could be deceiving. I’m not that serious.

In search of "US"!

They may not be written, articulated, or learned even, but with kindness, tolerance, and a sincere respect towards the host, one can easily feel at home in Kunming, as I have. Having never been to Asia, I was looking forward to a major culture shock. An environment, a culture, and language so different from the Western world, and completely unfamiliar to an Ethiopian eye; instead I was met with the recognition of one in the other. A smile will take you further to the heart of the residents making it easy for them to welcome strangers with open arms, eager to share their culture and novice craft of living that’s unique to them. And indeed no less apparent, we too get to share each of our own unique story as they observe how we each carry ourselves in a strangers land they call home. A wonderful experience that’s currently hard to author in just few words, our journey continues … Looking forward to it.

In search of “US”!

They may not be written, articulated, or learned even, but with kindness, tolerance, and a sincere respect towards the host, one can easily feel at home in Kunming, as I have. Having never been to Asia, I was looking forward to a major culture shock. An environment, a culture, and language so different from the Western world, and completely unfamiliar to an Ethiopian eye; instead I was met with the recognition of one in the other. A smile will take you further to the heart of the residents making it easy for them to welcome strangers with open arms, eager to share their culture and novice craft of living that’s unique to them. And indeed no less apparent, we too get to share each of our own unique story as they observe how we each carry ourselves in a strangers land they call home. A wonderful experience that’s currently hard to author in just few words, our journey continues … Looking forward to it.

Coming to Kunming

Its a candid feeling to reside in Kunming from few days.The weather is very romantic here. Greenery, fog, cold wind everything reminds one thing that, ‘Kunming is really the city of spring’.
The night-life of Kunming is very charming here. People from different country, culture, language are roamed everywhere. The ambience of cultural ally is marvellous.

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