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Shanghai focus at Asian studies convention
By Li Xiaowei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-23 06:04

By SHANGHAI: At the ongoing Fourth International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) which opened in Shanghai last Saturday, the host city itself became the focus of discussion.

At one panel entitled "Shanghai: City of the world of the 21st Century" held yesterday, participating scholars from home and abroad discussed issues ranging from Shanghai's night life and music scene, to urban dysfunction and international settlement.

At another Shanghai-focused panel held on the same day, participants analysed contemporary Shanghai urban culture at a time when the dramatic transformation of the urban space not only changes the physical outlook of the city, but also opens a new multi-cultural space where cultural elements or factors of China mingle with those of other countries.

"As more and more people from foreign countries and from other areas of China have become temporary or permanent residents in Shanghai, they will bring legitimate needs, demands, rights to the national and local 'host societies.' But the possibilities to satisfy their cultural needs are still limited or problematic," noted Ren Yiming, an associate professor from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), which is hosting the convention.

"For assuring numerous cultural policies, resources and recommendations at all levels, it is important to encourage people with different cultural and educational backgrounds to participate in the cultural policy-making process," Ren said.

Initiated by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in the Netherlands, the US-based Association for Asian Studies and half a dozen European Asian studies associations with the aim of internationalizing Asian studies, the ICAS was first held in Leiden, the Netherlands in 1998. Two more ICAS were subsequently held in Germany and Singapore before it came to Shanghai this year.

"The fact that ICAS came to China is not a matter of choosing but a matter of course, as the country has become a more and more important player in the world," said Paul van der Velde, secretary of the ICAS Secretariat hosted by the IIAS.

The five-day convention subtitled "The future of Asia" has attracted more than 1,200 participants from 52 countries. There are over 250 panels in total, grouped under 13 general topics such as Global Asia, Identity, Economy and Knowledge.

"People in Shanghai, China and Asia as a whole, will benefit from the conclusions drawn at the convention," said Wang Ronghua, president of the SASS.

For the first time at the ICAS, Africa and the Middle East are represented and half of all participants came from Asia.

"Until very recently, many scholars had the idea that Asian studies were a western endeavour but ICAS is proof of the reality that Asian studies are and will increasingly become an Asian exercise," said Wim Stokhof, secretary general of the ICAS Secretariat, in his opening remarks to the convention.

For this fourth convention, new features have been introduced including the ICAS Book Prize, a global competition for publications on Asia. This year's winner in the Social Sciences category is Elisabeth C. Economy with her book "The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future" published by Cornell University Press. In the Humanities category the winner is Christopher Reed, with his "Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism" published by University of British Columbia Press.

(China Daily 08/23/2005 page2)

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