by the Chair of the DGA Board, Prof. Dr. Doris Fischer (Würzburg University)
Dear members and friends of the German Association of Asian Studies,
I am Doris Fischer, and currently chairwoman of the association’s board. I hope you had a healthy start into 2021 and that you will experience this year as good and joyful, even though most of us may not be too happy with the current situation.
The German association of Asian Studies has a long tradition dating back to the 1960, but still we experience and manage plenty of “first moments”. Four years ago we decided to send our biannual conferences travelling, meaning that we since then invite universities to take turns in the conference’s organisation. Two years ago we for the first time organized the conference as an international academic conference at the University of Würzburg. This included the first open call for panels and papers as well as a switch to English as conference language. This year our biannual conference will hosted by the universities of Duisburg-Essen and Bochum and their Alliance for Research on East Asia Ruhr. Again we experience a “first”, as for the first and hopefully only time the conference will be staged online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the past year, the pandemic has not only impacted our conference organisation. Throughout the year we as scholars interested in modern Asia had to experience that most of the countries that are at the core of our research fared much better in fighting the virus than the countries of the so-called West. Still, we see prevailing prejudices and racism influencing the perception of Asian countries’ experiences and success. Actually we have to state a painful lack of both basic and in-depth knowledge about Asia in our society. The reasons for this are manifold, ranging from a lack of education on Asia in schools to a strong transatlantic orientation in politics.
Since its inception, the German Association of Asian Studies aimed at contributing to the knowledge about Asia in our society. In the early years this aim involved the scientifically processed dissemination of information about Asia as access to news from Asia was not easy for most people. Today, news about Asia are easily available through the means of the internet. However, we still experience that many people have difficulties to assess news from Asia, to sort truth from fakes, and to understand developments in Asian countries. Often, information from and about Asia is ignored even if available such as in the current coronavirus situation.
These shortcomings cannot be overcome quickly. In the past year, the DGA supported its members’ efforts to contribute to a better understanding of the virus’ threat but also of solutions to fight the virus by highlighting respective media and research contributions of our members on the association’s website. In general, however, the association’s contribution to improve our society’s understanding of Asia is long-term oriented. We support the researchers in their work through our conference, through our major publication “ASIEN” and by disseminating information about conferences, open positions and funding opportunities with our newsletter. Importantly, the DGA provides a platform for different academic working groups focusing on specific regions of Asia and for the working group of young scholars. And, as an innovation of the past years, the DGA has set up a small grants programme to support research activities of our members.
Last, but not least, we organize the biannual conference as a forum for our members and interested scholars to present their research, to network and to discuss important developments in Asia. This year our conference is scheduled for March 10 to 12 and titled “Transnational Asian Studies – Multi-level dynamics of Idendity Formation and Institution Building”. The conference program covers an interesting range of topics related to modern history of identity formation, economic trajectories as well as issues of migration, populism and climate policies in today’s Asia.
I would like to thank all those of you who submitted panel and paper suggestions and who will actively contribute to the conference as paper authors, commentators or panel chairs. My special thanks also go to the organisers of the conference, namely to Nele Noesselt, Kerstin Lukner and Gwendolin Kleine-Stegemann of the AREA Ruhr team, to Deike Zimmann of the DGA’s office and to all the helping hands in the process of preparing and managing the conference. In addition, I would like to thank the SAP corporation for supporting the conference financially as a sponsor.
Finally, dear members and friends of the German Association of Asian Studies, I cordially invite you to join us for the conference. Please register via the DGA conference website. I am looking forward to meeting you for interesting online discussions in March.