Book Launch: Learning from Shenzen w/ Jonathan Bach


Please join us on Wednesday evening, April 26th, for a reception celebrating the publication of Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City, edited by Mary Ann O’Donnell, Winnie Wong, & Jonathan Bach (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

This multidisciplinary volume presents an account of China’s contemporary transformation via one of its most important yet overlooked cities: Shenzhen, located just north of Hong Kong. From an experimental site as the first of China’s special economic zones, Shenzhen is now a dominant city at the crossroads of the global economy, a UNESCO City of Design, and the hub of China’s emerging technology industries. A city of contradictions, it embodies the spatial and temporal intricacies of the contemporary urban experience. The book explores especially how urban villages and informal institutions enabled social transformation. Through cases of labor, architecture, gender, public health, politics, education, and more, this urban case study serves to explore critical problems for modern-day China and beyond.

The book just received prominent mention in the latest Economist magazine special feature on the Pearl River Delta.

Remarks by co-editor and author, Jonathan Bach, chair of the Global Studies Program (New School), Mark Frazier, Professor of Politics (New School), and special guest Na Fu, Luce Visiting Scholar in Urban Studies at Trinity College and head of the research department at the Shenzhen Center for Design.

Refreshments will be served and books will be available for purchase at a discount.

Sponsored by the interdisciplinary programs in Global Studies, Urban Studies, and Environmental Studies, the India China Institute, the department of Anthropology, and the Graduate Program in International Affairs.



Kailash Cartographies – “The Most New School Exhibit Ever”


The India China Institute is very excited to share this Facebook Live event video featuring our Kailash Cartographies exhibition at The New school. Artists Sreshta Rit Premnath (exhibit co-organizer, artist and Parsons Fine Arts faculty) and Nitin Sawhney (artist and Media Studies professor) take viewers on an exhibition walkthrough with The New School social media team.

Kailash Cartographies is an exhibition of artists from India, China, Nepal, and the US exploring conceptions of sacred geography, particularly in the Himalayas.  Devotees encounter the sacred through ritual, art, and acts of pilgrimage and circumambulation of mountains and temples.  The artists in the exhibition pose questions about the nature of both the sacred and the secular by drawing on the points of connection with landscapes and lived worlds.

The show runs from March 13-April 2. More details about the exhibit available here.

A closing reception and faculty talk will take place on Thursday, March 30th from 5-7pm.

Enjoy the video!

A special thanks to Stephanie Leone in the Social Media office at The New School for organizing the Facebook live event and featured image from the gallery.

Kailash Cartographies Exhibition Opening


The India China Institute had a successful opening of the new Kailash Cartographies exhibition Wednesday evening. Despite the cold weather and piles of snow outside, a good crowd came out to join us for the gallery opening and artist talk with Bo Zheng. We want to send a special thanks to Bo Zheng and Steven Lam for their presentation and talks, and also to Srestha Rit Premnath, who helped organize the exhibition. A big thanks also to Radhika Subramaniam, Kristina Kaufman, Daisy Wong and Daniel Chou from the Sheila Johnson Design Center (SJDC) for all of their help and support with the actual show preparations and installation.

Below you can see a few images from the opening reception. The show will run until April 2nd at the Aronson Gallery. More info about the exhibit is available here. The exhibition emerged out of a three-year research project funded by the Luce Foundation as part of our Sacred Himalaya Initiative.

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Review of ICI Fellows Publication


We’re pleased to share a recent review of a new book out by our 3rd cohort ICI Fellows titled Environmental Sustainability from the Himalayas to the Oceans: Struggles and Innovations in China and India (Springer 2017). The book is edited by Shikui Dong, Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Sanjay Chaturvedi. Along with Nidhi Shrinivas, Victoria Marshall and Lo Sze Ping, this group of scholars from India, China and the US were part of the final cohort of India China Fellows working on the topic of Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments (2010-13).

Here is a brief excerpt from the review in PrimePost by Vithal Rajan titled India, China Collaboration Needed To Protect Ecology.

While general public anxiety over our fast degrading environment has produced a plethora of books, none is better than this one, written with so much attention to detail, and history, making complex scientific facts easily accessible as much to the lay reader as to the scientist. The book is delightfully illustrated with carefully drawn maps and charts, and beautiful photos, which all aid the reader in understanding the threats to the fragile ecology of the Himalayan region, affecting both India and China.

A phalanx of authoritative scientists have authored this book, Indian, Chinese, and international. In the present cacophonous political atmosphere, the authors refreshingly argue, repeatedly throughout the book, for joint international action and joint regional bodies between India and China to help reverse ecological degradation in the Himalayan region, which is drastically eroding the quality of life for millions north and south of the mountain range.

The two principal authors, Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Shikui Dong, go into the early histories and theologies of the two great Asian civilizations to highlight the ecological sensitivity embedded in their cultures. Shikui Dong starts his exposition of the present state of play in China with a conventional bashing of the Mao period in the 1950s and 1960s, a period when all governments were equally ignorant and irresponsible.

You can read the full review online here.

Kailash Cartographies PR

Kailash Cartographies Press Release


Artists from India, China, Nepal and US engage with contemporary issues of landscape and sacredness using multiple media at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at The New School.

Opening Reception: March 15, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Lecture by Bo Zheng with Steven Lam from 7:00 – 8:30PM (details below)


Exhibition Dates: March 13 – April 2, 2017

Daily 12:00 noon – 6:00 PM, Thursday until 8:00 PM

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
66 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10003

More event details about the exhibit online here.

The Sheila C. Design Center (SJDC) and the India-China Institute (ICI) at The New School present Kailash Cartographies, a multi-media exhibition of artists from India, China, Nepal, and the US exploring conceptions of sacred geography, particularly in the Himalayas.  Devotees encounter the sacred through ritual, art, and acts of pilgrimage and circumambulation of mountains and temples.  The artists in the exhibition pose questions about the nature of both the sacred and the secular by drawing on the points of connection with landscapes and lived worlds. The photographs, videos, works on paper and installations, deploy cartographic modes that are both personal and political.

The title of the exhibition refers to Mount Kailash, the symbolic center of the Buddhist and Bön cosmos and the seat of Shiva for Hindus. Although associated with a multiplicity of geographical sites and religious representations, its earthly manifestation is most often located in Tibet. “It is the simultaneously singular and plural aspect of this sacred geography that caught our imagination,” said Sreshta Rit Premnath, curator of the exhibition and participating artist. “Every gesture within such a geography is both specifically located yet can be powerfully invoked elsewhere.”

The exhibition emerges from a three-year research project of The New School’s India China Institute focused on Sacred Landscapes and Sustainable Futures in the Himalayas.  In conjunction with this endeavor, a group of artists initiated creative explorations during 2015-2016.  Many of the works in this exhibition were the direct result of a creative workshop convened in Kathmandu in March 2016.

Featured artists are Atul Bhalla, Kevin Bubriski, Vibha Galhotra, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Ashmina Ranjit, Nitin Sawhney, Radhika Subramaniam, Charwei Tsai & Tsering Tashi Gyalthang, Zheng Bo & Jiang Chao and Qiu Zhijie.

The image gallery below includes a sample of some of the artists work which will be in the show.

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Artist Talk: Bo Zheng with Steven Lam

March 15, 7- 8:30pm

Kellen Auditorium, 66 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003

Bo Zheng (born in Beijing, 1974; lives and works in Hong Kong) is an artist, writer, and teacher, committed to socially and ecologically engaged art. He investigates the past and imagines the future from the perspectives of marginalized communities and marginalized plants. He has worked with a number of museums and art spaces in Asia and Europe, most recently Cass Sculpture Foundation (Chichester, UK), TheCube Project Space (Taipei), and Villa Vassilieff (Paris).

He will be joined in conversation with Steven Lam, independent curator and Director of Director for the School of Art and Design, SUNY Purchase.

This talk is part of the AMT Visiting Artist Lecture Series. More details on the Parsons Fine Arts page and on the Facebook event page.

Closing Reception

March 30, 5 – 7:00pm

Come listen as New School faculty and ICI staff share stories about doing fieldwork in India, Nepal and Tibet as part of a three-year research project on religion, ecology and culture in the Himalayas. A photo presentation highlighting some of the key areas from the field research will also be featured.

The SJDC galleries are open weekdays 12pm to 6pm and entry is free to the public. For more information, please visit:

For more information about ICI and the research project, please visit:

The exhibition is sponsored by the India China Institute (ICI), Parsons Fine Arts and the Sheila Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at The New School.



Parsons School of Design is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines, as well as online courses, degree and certificate programs. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center is an award-winning campus center for Parsons School of Design that combines learning and public spaces with exhibition galleries to provide an important new downtown destination for art and design programming. The mission of the Center is to generate an active dialogue on the role of innovative art and design in responding to the contemporary world. Its programming encourages an interdisciplinary examination of possibility and process, linking the university to local and global debates. The center is named in honor of its primary benefactor, New School Trustee and Parsons Board of Governors Member Sheila C. Johnson. The design by Rice+Lipka Architects is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

India China Institute (ICI) works to teach and explore new research and to provide opportunities for both The New School and our international network of innovative scholars, leaders and opinion-makers to engage in critical inquiries involving China, India and the United States. Within the past decade ICI has been successful in the promotion of the academic and public understanding on these issues through providing research and scholarship opportunities through fellowships, courses, publications, public lectures and conferences.

ICI Scholars Featured in ‘Mountain Sentinels in Action’

We’re excited to share one of the 2016 wrap-up posts from the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) that featured several scholars active in the ICI network, among them professor Emily Yeh (US) and Shikui Dong (China). In this 4th 2016 in review post from the MRI, they offer some updates from their Mountain Sentinels Collaborative Network working in Asia. Professor Yeh mentions here recent trip to Tibet as part of our Sacred Himalaya Initiative, while Professor Shikui discusses his new book and work on grasslands and goat herding in Tibet. Professor Shikui was a former ICI Fellow in the third cohort from 2010-2013.

The Mountain Sentinels Collaborative Network takes a social-ecological systems perspective, where the emergent system properties are greater than the sum of its parts. While this systems perspective is one our guiding principles, in some cases, the parts are really, really interesting by themselves. Below are condensed statements from representatives of the Mountain Sentinels’ community regarding personal experiences this past summer.  As anticipated, it seems that it has been a productive and exciting time for all. Curious where your colleagues have been, what their research interests are and what projects they’re currently pursuing? Read on!

You can read the entire post on the MRI site here.

New Book by Former ICI Fellow Jonathan Bach on Shenzhen

Learning from Shenzen

The India China Institute is excited to announce a new edited book from former ICI Fellow Jonathan Bach, along with Mary Ann O’Donnell and Winnie Wong: Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City. The book is published by the University of Chicago Press (2017) and is available now. Here is the book description from the publisher:

This multidisciplinary volume, the first of its kind, presents an account of China’s contemporary transformation via one of its most important yet overlooked cities: Shenzhen, located just north of Hong Kong. In recent decades, Shenzhen has transformed from an experimental site for economic reform into a dominant city at the crossroads of the global economy. The first of China’s special economic zones, Shenzhen is today a UNESCO City of Design and the hub of China’s emerging technology industries.

Bringing China studies into dialogue with urban studies, the contributors explore how the post-Mao Chinese appropriation of capitalist logic led to a dramatic remodeling of the Chinese city and collective life in China today. These essays show how urban villages and informal institutions enabled social transformation through cases of public health, labor, architecture, gender, politics, education, and more. Offering scholars and general readers alike an unprecedented look at one of the world’s most dynamic metropolises, this collective history uses the urban case study to explore critical problems and possibilities relevant for modern-day China and beyond.

To learn more about this book, or to read excerpts and purchase a copy, visit the publisher’s website here.

The authors will be doing a book launch in Shenzhen on January 14th, so if you are in China near the city, check out the event in person. Details in the poster below and here.

Photo Essay of Mount Kailash Kora by Emily Yeh


Emily Yeh Guru Gyam 2016

Guru Gyam Monastery in Tibet

We’re excited to share a recent photo essay from Emily Yeh, Professor and Department Chair of Geography at CU Boulder. We were fortunate to have professor Yeh join ICI for our Sacred Himalaya Initiative trek to northwest Nepal and western Tibet in 2016. As you will see from her photos, this was an extremely amazing–and educational–opportunity for all involved. Below is a brief excerpt from her post accompanying the photos.

Mount Kailash, or Gang Rinpoche (Gangs rin po che), is associated with Mt. Meru, the axis mundi or center of the world, and is thus considered one of the world’s most sacred mountains.  Four major rivers – the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and Karnali – originate in the four cardinal directions nearby.  As such, it is a destination for pilgrimage and circumambulation for Tibetan Buddhists, Bonpos, Hindus, and Jains.   Tibetan Buddhists consider it a dwelling place of Demchog (Chakrasamvara) and for Hindus it is the abode of Lord Shiva. For Jains, it is the place where the first Tirthankara attained enlightenment, and for Bonpos, Mt Kailash is a nine-story swastika mountain that is the seat of spiritual power. Moreover, the region of the mountain and nearby Lake Manasarovar is where Thonpa Sherab founded and disseminated Bon…

Our visit to Kailash, Manasarovar, and the associated sacred site of Tirthapuri was motivated by a proposal by ICIMOD to have Nepal, India, and China nominate the larger Kailash Sacred Landscape as a transboundary World Heritage Site.  Our goal was to understand historical pilgrimage routes, document the cultural landscape, assess current tourism, and seek to understand what effects such a designation, were it to come to pass, might be.

You can read the rest of her post and see her photos here.

You can alse find an earlier account and photo essay from this same trip that she published last October, focused on the Nepal side of the trip in Limi Valley. As she wrote in that post:

In July-August 2016, I was very fortunate to be able to join the Sacred Himalaya Initiative of the India-China Institute at The New School, in a trip through Humla to Mount Kailash.  Led by Ashok Gurung, we were a crew of Americans, Nepalis, and Indians supported by a number of cooks and porters.  Although the centerpiece of the journey was Mount Kailash, we spent much more of our time walking through Humla District in the Karnali Zone and in the northwestern corner of Nepal, much of which was once part of Ngari in western Tibet. Its district headquarters, Simikot, is currently accessible only by plane or foot. We spent five days walking in the Tibetan Buddhist Nyin valley to the east, home of Tshewang Lama, a former politician as well as lama, businessman, and organic intellectual who accompanied us throughout the trip. Then after returning to Simikot, we split into two groups, one taking the shorter route to the border at Hilsa through Muchu and Tumkot, and the other (including me) the longer northern route over the Nyalu pass through the isolated Limi Valley.

You can read the rest of her post and see her photos here.


Former ICI Fellow L.H.M. Ling on New World Making by China


We are pleased to share another new post from former ICI Fellow L.H.M. Ling (2008-2010) in the Huffington Post. In her latest piece, “New World Making: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Policy”, Ling looks at China’s ambitious new “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) policy and what it means for the future of Asia.

It’s another Great Game!, critics charge. OBOR retells an old story: a newly muscular China is contending for hegemony with other great powers like the US, Europe, and Russia. Central Asia and the Indian Ocean constitute the “pawns,” “rooks,” and “knights” on the board. Local “kings” and “queens” may mark the game but only the Great Powers can play it. China’s claim of “mutual complementarity” and “win-win” scenarios under OBOR covers for a Sino-centric division of labor. China acquires what it lacks while selling what it has – none of which helps local development. In fact, critics imply, OBOR is repeating what the West has done to the Rest since the 15th century. We’ve seen this movie before.

But hold on. Why the Silk Roads? What’s the significance of these ancient, segmented trade routes for massive, contemporary investments of labor and capital, concrete and steel? What does it mean for China to revive, both economically and politically, those areas of the globe that have fallen into dusty neglect since medieval Europe re-routed the spice trade?

The Silk Roads, after all, lasted more than a millennia. They represented more than a strip of geography, a venue for commerce, barter and trade from long ago and far away. They also enriched our world-of-worlds with exchanges and flows, languages/religions/goods, despite frequent conflicts and contestations. The Roads brought merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, and nomads in contact with princesses, nuns, shamans, scribes, and settlers. The long, arduous, scenic, adventurous, death-stricken, awe-inspiring routes mandated interdependence, and perhaps reverence for wisdom and insight, learning from the signs and the esoteric, and a basic degree of humility and adaptability that led to a non-individualistic, non-predatory approach to living.

You can read the full article here.

ICS-HYI Fellowship for China Studies – Apply Now


We are pleased to share some information from ICS and HYI about a new doctoral fellowship for Indian students they are offering. Applications are due by Feb 20th.

Applications are invited from Indian citizens for a multi-year doctoral fellowship in China Studies sponsored jointly by the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi (ICS) and the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts (HYI). The Fellowship encompasses substantial support for developing language and pursuing research in India, China and Harvard. The applicants will be either already registered in a PhD programme in an Indian university or in the process of applying to a PhD programme in the social sciences or humanities including anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, economics, geography, history, international relations, language and literature, legal history, philosophy, political sciences, religion, and sociology, and would have adopted a specific China focus in their studies.

More details about the HYI program and how to apply can be found on their website here.

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