Asian Studies Events
In spite of the pandemic, the Asian Studies program presented several successful events during spring semester. Here’s a brief recap, in case you missed them.
Yokai and Other Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore
Michael Foster, a professor of Japanese and Department Chair of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis, presented “Yokai and Other Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore” on February 3. An audience of 80 students and community members from Bowling Green, Toledo, and Michigan enjoyed this very informative virtual lecture sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Cultures, Asian Studies Program and Japan Outreach Initiative.
Asian Studies Forums
South Korea’s response to COVID-19 has been considered one of the most successful cases. Building on its experience handling Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), South Korea was able to flatten the epidemic curve quickly, without closing businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders, or implementing many of the stricter measures adopted by other countries. The key to its success came from blending technology and centralized control with timely communication.
From the early stages of the pandemic in February 2020, South Korea developed the government led guidelines for the public (e.g. the mask mandate), conducted comprehensive testing and contact tracing using technology, and supported people in quarantine to make compliance easier. The country successfully managed outbreaks in March and August 2000 and gradually gained control of a larger, more dispersed outbreak in December 2020.
To date, the U.S. ranks 10th in its total cases per capita. South Korea ranks 145th. Though it has been slower than other world leaders like the U.S. to vaccinate its population, South Korea is still seeing fewer than 700 new cases per day on average. The United States, meanwhile, is averaging more than 70,000.
On Wednesday, March 17, Dr. Heather MacLachlan, an associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Dayton who specializes in Burmese music, discussed popular music and political mobilization in contemporary Myanmar/Burma.
The presentation was divided into two sections. The first segment dealt with music that targeted Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, which has been victimized by a decade-long campaign of genocide and expulsion affecting nearly one million Myanmar Muslims. According to the presentation abstract, “The words of these songs meet the International Criminal Tribunal's legal definition for incitement; therefore, the creators of these songs are complicit in one of the world's greatest human rights crises.”
The second half of Dr. MacLachlan’s lecture discussed songs that oppose the Burmese military junta that has ruled the country since 1962. After relaxing its grip somewhat in 2011 and permitting civilian leaders to participate in governance, the junta seized power in a coup on February 1, 2021. The people of Myanmar, accustomed to ten years of democratic freedoms, have courageously stood up against the military junta with a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The junta has mercilessly responded to this popular uprising with repressive violence and brutality. Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed or wounded since the start of the coup.
While internet access within the country is quite limited, anti-coup songs have nonetheless circulated online, originating both from within the country and from members of the diaspora and others wishing to show solidarity. The songs are also sung at street protests.
Dr. MacLachlan is the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, a textbook, and two academic books, including Burma's Pop Music Industry: Creators, Distributors, Censors (University of Rochester Press, 2011). She was grateful for the opportunity provided by the Forum to focus on presenting her research and expand its purview to include recent developments following the February coup.
In January, Dr. Milan Vaishnav, Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke about the trajectory of India’s democracy since its independence seven decades ago. He argued that at the time of its independence from British rule, India successfully embarked on a progressive democratic path despite its profound ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. But today, there are growing concerns that India is undergoing a sustained period of democratic backsliding. In his lecture, Dr. Vaishnav succinctly assessed the trajectory of Indian democracy – its surprising origins, its resilience despite the odds, and its uncertain future.
The presentation was very well attended by the Asian Studies faculty, students, and community members. The forum prompted several interesting discussions, including the future of Indian democracy and change in the relationship between India and the U.S., with the newly elected Biden administration.
Congratulations to the following scholarship recipients
Seiko & Charles McCann Family Scholarship
Hiroko Nakamoto Japanese Studies Scholarship
Fujiya Kawashima Memorial Scholarship/Asian Studies
Kiyo Kitahara Asian Studies Scholarship
Asian Studies Research Award
Lee Eitel (runner-up)