Another fabulous David Wang lecture, and two questions

David Wang’s lecture this afternoon about ghosts in contemporary Chinese fiction was another tour de force.  Such a wonderful exploration of intriguing question: if China became an atheistic and realist society after 1949, why is are its writers now so fascinated by spirits and the transmigration of souls?Image result for life and death are wearing me out

The lecture left me with a lot of questions about the life of the imagination in China today, but also had me wondering about alternative histories — the particular kind of haunting sense that the world could have been different.  So you can answer either of the following two questions:

  1. What story of imaginary hauntings intrigued you the most, and why?  Is there a novel you will now read based on Professor Wang’s suggestions?  Or…
  2. In what sense do you imagine the world we have studied is in some way haunted by an historical legacy?  If you could write a novel with a haunting or an alternative history, what would it be?  Which of the styles that Prof. Wang mentioned would your novel resemble?

David Wang: Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China

We all thought Professor David Wang’s lectures on contemporary Chinese literature would be interesting.  But from the first one last night, we now know:

  1. The talks will touch on a lot of themes IGS 10a has discussed in class and…
  2. Prof. Wang is very funny.

Last night’s talk, on “Red Star Over America: The Politics of Transgression” got me thinking about the relationship between literature and national identity.  Professor Wang noted that the current Chinese government wants its citizens to “tell the good China story.”   He described this as a nationalist request, and contrasted it to the many examples of current literature that tell all kinds of other stories.

So I started wondering: what is the relationship between narrative fiction and nationalism?  Does nationalism always come from the government?  Is there something nationalist about telling the “xiao shuo” — the small stories — of ordinary people?  Or is the freedom to tell one’s own story the opposite of collective nationalism?

There are two more lectures in the series:

Tuesday, March 6: 4:30-6 pm
“Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out: The Ghost in Socialist Transmigration.”

Thursday, March 8: 4:30-6 pm
“The Dark Night Gives Black Eyes: The Art of Transillumination.”

All lectures are in Mandel G03.  I’ll have questions for each of these as well.

Prof. Wang will also give a lunch seminar on Thursday, March 8 at 12 noon in Mandel 303.  If you want to attend the lunch seminar on Thursday, please read this as background first.

Jesse Appell ’12, comedian in China, returns to Brandeis!

On Monday, February 12, IGS was delighted to welcome back one of its most distinguished alumni: Jesse Appell ’12, former Fulbright scholar in China and now one of a handful of “weiguoren” making a living as a comedian in Beijing.

Jesse had us all laughing at his adventures living in Shanghai and making a “knock-off Saturday Night Live for the Chinese internet giant iQiYi.  With just a week to write every episode of the show from scratch, Jesse and his team from Beijing would scour social media material on the celebrity host, try out stunts in their hotel rooms, type jokes madly and hope for success at the weekly table reads.  Jesse showed us a few clips from his appearances, including his recounting of losing two e-bikes to thieves.  He also detailed what it takes to get material on a major media platform in China once the show’s been taped — the layers of approval, with caution and boldness wrestling at every step.

All of which left me wondering: what surprised you most about Jesse’s stories?  In this incredible tale of a foreigner making his way in Chinese comedy, what impressed you the most?

“One Person at a Time, One Humanity Closer”:Tackling the Syrian Crisis From New Hampshire

Nadia Alawa smiles at the camera wearing a Syria freedom shirt
Photo by Yiyi Wu

with Nadia Alawa, founding president of NuDay Syria

Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7:30 p.m.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m.
Shapiro Campus Center Theater

As Syria’s brutal conflict unfolded, one woman in New Hampshire decided to take action. Nadia Alawa founded NuDay Syria at her kitchen table in 2013. In just four years, it has grown to a multimillion-dollar humanitarian relief organization.

But how can someone on the outside help those in crisis in a way that respects their dignity? How can we ensure we are aiding and empowering them — not undermining or insulting them? Hear how Alawa grappled with these questions as she found a way to address humanitarian needs in one of the most challenging parts of the world, starting with nothing but conviction and commitment.

About NuDay Syria

NuDay Syria focuses primarily on those in need in Syria, both in besieged areas and in the north. It helps people rebuild their lives through work opportunities, social business and self-sustainability programs for women, along with supporting schools. NuDay Syria sends 40-foot shipping containers of donations monthly from New Hampshire to northern Syria and refugee camps in Turkey. Its crowdsourced campaigns focus on aiding widows and children, with a special interest in empowering women to be self-reliant.

About Nadia Alawa

A graduate of Copenhagen University with a degree in pedagogy, Nadia Alawa lives in New Hampshire with her husband and eight children. She grew up in Denmark and has lived in Japan, New York and Massachusetts. She has given a TED talk and has been featured on CBS, NECN’s “The Morning Show” and in The Boston Globe. She also was recognized by The Huffington Post as one of the “Top Ten Muslims Who Save Lives.

IGS Meet the Majors, Celebrate Seniors! Thursday, Oct. 26, 4-6 pm

IGS Seniors: come catch up, see long-lost friends from IGS 10a, and share plans about what you’re going to do for the rest of you life — or least for the months after next May.

First years, sophomores: come learn about new classes, meet faculty and other students and hear about study abroad and affiliated clubs.

And seniors — don’t forget the photo contest!  A $50 Amazon gift card goes to the best shots from your semester overseas.

THURS: We The Peoples: Dissonance in the Democratic Order

Thursday, April 14
4:30-6 pm
SCC 314

Join the Brandeis International Journal for a moderated discussion on current trends in global democratization and democratic governance. Individual presentations and interactive panel discussion will analyze how grassroots, institutional, and international pressures shape the evolution of regimes. Refreshments will be provided.

Panelists include:

Dr. Yuhua Wang – assistant professor in the Department of Government at Harvard University

Dr. William Hurst – associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University and a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

Dr. Chandler Rosenberger – assistant professor of International and Global Studies and Sociology at Brandeis University



WED: Kenan Makiya and all-star panel discuss his novel of the Iraq War

In 2003, as the United States invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, Kenan Makiya supported tThe Ropehe campaign.  After all, Makiya had written The Republic of Fear, the definitive history of Hussein’s rise to power and the brutal police state he ran. More than a decade later, Makiya is out with a new novel and new thoughts on the war and its aftermath. Today Brandeis will have the privilege of hearing his reflections and those of an all-star panel gathered to discuss the book.

Discussants include:

Hayder Al-Mohammad, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dexter Filkins, Staff Writer for the New Yorker and author of The Forever War

Emma Sky, Director of Yale World Fellows and author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.


Wednesday, April 14
4-6 pm
Rapaporte Treasure Hall

Middle Eastern food will be served.


WED: China’s migrant workers, the destruction of China’s social order

If it’s Wednesday, it must be another IGS cosponsored event!  Tomorrow we’re turning our attention to China, with two talks on the emergence of modern life there.  foxconn

First, at 2 pm tomorrow, April 13, Beijing University sociologist Professor Lu Huilin will discuss “The New Generation of Peasant Migrant  Workers.”  We’ve read stories of suicides in Apple’s I-Phone factories, but what are labor conditions like in China’s booming factory towns?  Does unrest there pose a threat to China’s internal stability?

Then at 3:30 pm, we’ll consider: what are the roots of failed governance and unrest?  What happened to China’s traditional Confucian order?  Professor Sun Feiyu, also a sociologist at Beijing University, will speak on “The Tragedy of Mao’s Revolution: The Destruction of the Traditional Elite and its Implications for Good Governance in China.

Both talks will take place in the International Lounge in Usdan.  Hope to see you there for one, or both!

TUES: The EU and its Multiple Crises: The End of Great Dreams?

The European Union was founded after World War II to bring Europe’s nations and people towards new cooperation, peace, and prosperity. Seventy years later the EU is grappling with overlapping multiple crises – in the Eurozone, with refugee, and the possibility that key members like the UK will leave, among others.

What has happened to the European dream? Can it be replaced by a new vision? What if it cannot?

On Tuesday George Ross, one of the great experts on the European Union, will provide some context to the current developments in the EU. He will speak:

Tuesday, April 12, 5-7pm
Levine-Ross, Hassenfeld Conference Center
RSVP here

Professor Ross is presently ad personam Chaire Jean Monnet at the University of Montreal-McGill Center for Excellence on the European Union, Canada (an appointment granted by the European Union to honor distinguished international contributions to the understanding of European integration). He served as chair of the European Union Studies Association (2003-2005), acting director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, executive director of the European Union Center at Harvard University, chair of the Council for European Studies (1990-1997), and as Director of the Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis (1998-2008). Click on the link for a more detailed bio.

Religious Pluralism: Can we be Tolerant and Faithful?

Peter L. Berger, arguably the world’sParis, France, Muslim Women Demonstrating Against Islamophobie, Holding French Sign in Hijab most famous living sociologist of religion, has brought culture back to the center of discussions of everything from economic prosperity to family life.  In his latest book, The Many Altars of Modernity: Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age, Berger makes a new argument in favor of religious pluralism.  We can be sincere religious believers and be tolerant of other faiths, Berger argues.  Tolerance of other faiths need not undermine our own commitment to our own beliefs.

“But how tolerant can we be?” the French might ask, as they worry about women’s rights and terror recruitment in the suburbs of Paris.  “How tolerant have you been?” Muslims offended by the strictures of laicite might ask in return.

Tolerance of religions is one of the hottest topics in a globalizing world.  Berger will speak at Brandeis:

Thursday, March 10
2 pm
Pearlman Lounge

If you are able to attend the Berger talk — or are a member of the broader IGS community and want to weigh in — I hope you’ll post a comment using the link above.