China center at Duke Kunshan hosts its first annual conference

The Center for the Study of Contemporary China (CSCC) at Duke Kunshan University marked its fifth anniversary with a two-day conference featuring expert analysis, student presentations and interdisciplinary exchange on the socio-political, economic and cultural forces shaping the country.

Leading scholars from a wide range of academic fields mixed with students to explore the nuances of contemporary China through a series of thought-provoking speeches, group discussions and research presentations.

Themed “Cultivating Connections: Navigating Contemporary China Studies as a Collective”, the CSCC’s inaugural annual conference was held on Nov. 3-4 with history professor Dr. Dandan Chen from the State University of New York (SUNY) as the keynote speaker.

CSCC director Baozhen Luo-Hermanson (right) at the student poster exhibition

Leading and contributing to discussions were DKU and Duke University experts in political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, film-making, health policy, big data, history and several other areas of profound importance to China.

The conference provided a platform for students not only to engage in high-level discourse but to showcase their research projects on everything from education technology startups and educational inequality to sustainable economic development.

Undergraduate students Tianlei (Ruby) Qiu, a senior majoring in public policy, and Shanshan Wu, a junior majoring in global cultural studies, reported on the event, which was staged primarily in the Academic Building on campus and attended by about 140 DKU faculty and student members.

“Bringing together scholars, student researchers and experts in the field to discuss and analyze the landscape of contemporary China, the conference reemphasized the importance of collaborative efforts and interdisciplinary approaches to understanding China’s complex socio-political, economic, and cultural dynamics,” Qiu and Wu wrote.

Students shared findings from their research projects during the conference

On the first day, Chen from SUNY’s Farmingdale State College delivered a keynote speech delving into the history, culture and identity of China’s Jiangnan region within its global context, before the focus shifted to cluster groups and presentations.

Sessions were held on both days based around new research clusters at the center which are designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars, experts and students.

The clusters include Care and Gender, Digital Technology and Society, Governing China, China and the Global South, Citizens and Representation, China Stories and Images, Meanings, Identities, and Communities, and the N Aging and Care Initiative.

At the conference, the Center also gave out four categories of awards for the first time, acknowledging exceptional work done by faculty and students on contemporary China studies.

The 2023 recipients were: Dr. Fan Liang, assistant professor of media (Outstanding Faculty Scholar Award); Dr. Qian Zhu, assistant professor of history (Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award);
Dr. Stephanie Anderson, assistant professor of literature and creative writing (Outstanding Community Service Award); and Meichen Yap (Outstanding Student Scholar Award).

The CSCC was established in 2018 as an intellectual hub for scholars and students at DKU with the aim of advancing research and teaching in all fields of contemporary China studies. It is one of eight research centers at Duke Kunshan committed to providing knowledge in service of society.

The two-day conference closed with an afternoon social

CSCC director Dr. Baozhen Luo-Hermanson said the conference exceeded expectations and marked a significant step toward the center’s future, uniting a vibrant community of scholars and students studying contemporary China studies at DKU.

“It beautifully embodied our mission to advance world-class research on contemporary China’s society, politics, and economy,” the professor of global health said.

“Through showcasing the high-quality research of the newly established clusters and initiative, we have deepened connections within our community and with Duke faculty on China studies.

“I am excited about the bright future of the CSCC and its role in shaping the discourse on contemporary China studies.”

For more on the conference visit the news section of the CSCC website.

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