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?

BSIA goes to the Harvard India Conference!


I recently attended the Harvard Business School’s and the Harvard Kennedy School’s conference on India along with three other members of the BSIA board. The conference began with an early 7:15 AM breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday, followed by some amazing keynote speakers. One of the most memorable keynotes from the weekend was a man by the name of Biju who had developed a learning app for Indian children that allows kids to study in a more interactive and game focused manner. Another amazing speaker was the Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee who has reached stardom in the fashion world with his portrayal of the modern sari. Throughout the day, my team and I attended a number of incredible panels ranging from women in leadership, to the evolution of news and media in India. Panelists such as Barkha Dutt, an Emmy nominated reporter and Washington Post columnist spoke to her struggles of being a female war correspondent, and how she has been able to overcome prejudice to retain her journalistic integrity.  Other panelist such as Abhinanda Sekhri playfully articulated some of the struggles that Indian television personas face as a result of the current political climate in India. Overall the conference exposed me and my board to some of the coolest Indian innovations on the market today, the modern hardships of an Indian journalist, and the division between Indian politicians (not so far from the political situation in America). Thank you to the graduate students who put the conference together and to my fellow board members for a memorable weekend!

Panel on the Effect of Refugees on Europe

The Brandeis European Graduate Student Association is hosting a panel event on how the influx of refugees in recent years is affecting Europe. The event is going to feature professors from both Brandeis and Harvard University, centering around topics like migration, smuggling, and the state response to the Balkan route. The event will give IGS students a chance to interact with some graduate level professionals who are experts in immigration and the modern refugee. Come to the Glynn Amphitheater (G4) at the Heller School, February 15, 12-2PM, if interested.

“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.

LGBTQA+ Culture in China Event


Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF), Brandeis Queer People of Color Coalition (QPOCC), and Brandeis Chinese Culture Connections (BC3) are eager to present a discussion on LGBTQA+ culture and art in China. The event features Zi’en Cui, a Chinese avant-garde director and producer who has paved the way for LGBTQA+ films in China, starting projects like the Beijing Queer Film Festival, which was forcibly shut down. Cui aims to discuss his activism, intersectionality, queer culture, and many other interesting topics. Dinner will be provided at this event, which will be held in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater on February 9th at 6:30 PM.

“Nowhere to Call Home” Film Screening

“Nowhere to call home” is a documentary that highlights the struggle of a Tibetan farmer who is torn between her traditional way of life, and being able to provide a better future for her son. The film covers the mothers journey from a remote village in Tibet to the slums of Beijing. It offers students a unique and emotional opportunity to observe the real world struggles of labor migrants. Additionally, the filmmaker, Jocelyn Ford will be attending the screening to both introduce the film and answer questions after the viewing. If you are interested in attending this free event, come to Liberman-Miller Lecture Hall in the Women’s Studies Research Center on Thursday, February 1st from 12:30-2:30PM.

What is the BSIA?

My name is Eli Wasserman and I am a current sophomore at Brandeis majoring in IGS and HSSP. I am also the president and one of the co-founders of the Brandeis Society for International Affairs.  The BSIA aims to both educate the Brandeis community on foreign affairs topics, and to create a safe, non-partisan environment where you can talk about these sensitive issues among your peers. One of the ways we engage the student body is through our group meetings. We have students give presentations on a current international relations topic they are interested in, which is followed by a discussion of the global ramifications of the current event. Our first group meeting is Thursday the 25th, 7-8 PM, in the Mandel Reading Room (303). Join us for a great student-led conversation about Germany’s rise to power in a post-brexit world!

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