Proposals Invited From Columbia Faculty and PhD Students for WEAI Workshops and Conferences Programs


This year we are continuing the Weatherhead East Asian Institute Workshop and Conference Program, established thirteen years ago as one of a number of exciting new programs supported by the Richard W. Weatherhead Fund. The purpose of the Program is to encourage faculty members to explore new ways of looking at the modern East Asian Region through small-scale conferences, workshops, and collaborative research.

This RFP is also open to any PhD student studying East Asia. Students have the opportunity to execute projects on a range of topics including the humanities, arts and culture, the social sciences, history, policy, and security with financial support from the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Students are required to secure a WEAI faculty sponsor.

Our expectation is that projects supported by the Program will promote enquiry that crosses geographic, temporal, or disciplinary boundaries, creates new opportunities for dialogue with the region, and/or explores new teaching and research strategies. Funding decisions will be made by the WEAI Research Committee. This year the Committee consists of Charles Armstrong, Myron Cohen, Eugenia Lean, Andrew Nathan, Tomi Suzuki (Fall 2015), and Jonathan Reynolds (Spring 2016.)

The Committee will give the highest priority to integrated programming initiatives that combine the following elements:

  • Create opportunities to bring new research to the fore
  • Collaborate with non-WEAI faculty and other CU units within CU
  • Incorporate student activities and/or curricular components
  • Cut across disciplinary approaches

(Examples might include a workshop with students on China’s trade and investment lending in Africa; a contemporary Asian theater/music program involving EALAC and the music department and visiting artists; or a project involving environmental global NGOs and students from the Environmental Sciences program and Columbia College.)

All Columbia applicants are invited to submit proposals for funding for projects to be carried out during 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 academic years. The guidelines for such applications are as follows:

Programs should further the efforts of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute to develop collaborative and cross-disciplinary research and teaching. Projects to fund the research of a single faculty member will NOT be considered. Collaborative efforts may be among several faculty members or student groups, with faculty and students in other disciplines or areas, or with scholars in other universities, especially in Asia. Projects that lay the foundation for long-term development of WEAI resources and facilitate the meeting of new research and teaching goals are especially encouraged.

Project sponsors should include a plan for securing outside funding for the later development of the project. While it is not always possible, the Workshop and Conference Program Fund should predominantly be used as seed money to start projects and to provide evidence of Columbia’s commitment in attracting outside support.

Inasmuch as annual funds are limited, the maximum grant awarded will not exceed $7,000. It is expected that the Committee will not approve all applications and that, in some instances, it will recommend partial rather than full funding of projects, so as to make support available for a number of projects.

In the event that the Committee does not allocate the full amount this year, funds will revert to the competition pool for future years.Proposals should include the following information:

Proposals should include the following information:

i) A brief description of the project and how it will enhance the research, teaching, and exchange efforts of the Institute.

ii) A timetable for specific elements of the project.

iii)  A reasonably accurate budget. Remember that for every salary included (from research assistant to visiting scholar) you must include 30.5% in fringe benefits for 2015-2016 and 30.5% (subject to change) for 2016-2017, which is added on by the University. Tax rules also apply to some honoraria.

iv) Adequate funding for project staff and/or student-workers, including finance staff, to support the scope of work outlined in the proposal. WEAI cannot provide staffing assistance. Note: funds may NOT be used to offset or augment salaries or to make add-comp payments to full-time Columbia staff and faculty.

v) Calculate and ICA of 10% (subject to change) as part of the budget.

The WEAI encourages any publications resulting from funded workshops or conferences to be submitted for consideration into one of three book series sponsored by the Institute.

The principal investigators of each project must submit a progress report to the Institute by     April 1st of each year in which they receive Workshop and Conference Program Fund support and a final fiscal and narrative report at the end of the project. These reports are mandated by the Endowment Compliance office and will also be used in evaluating Institute activities and goals, in preparing WEAI publicity, and for reports to the Weatherhead Foundation.

Proposals for this round should be for projects whose key or initial elements can be largely completed before June 30, 2017. Faculty members with awards or portions of awards that remain unspent after this date will be asked to return the unused amount to the competition pool. The deadline for receipt of proposals is November 13, 2015.  The results of the competition will be announced in early December 2015.

Mail or e-mail proposals to:


Waichi Ho

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute

Columbia University

420 W. 118th St, 914B

Mail Code 3333

New York, NY 10027



Apply to Columbia’s MARSEA Graduate Program for 2016-17



Interested in furthering your study of East Asia by learning from some of the world’s leading scholars of the region?  Apply to Columbia University’s Master of Arts in Regional Studies–East Asia (MARSEA) program: 

Columbia University‘s Weatherhead East Asian Institute administers the Masters in Regional Studies—East Asia (MARSEA) through Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The MARSEA program is perfect for students wishing to focus on a social science approach to the modern politics, international relations, modern history, and cultural and social formations of the region with a country focus.  The program, completed in two full-time semesters, is tailored to meet the needs of individuals entering professional careers, mid-career professionals, students preparing for entry into doctoral programs, and those pursuing a professional degree, such as the J.D. or M.B.A., who want to gain regional expertise.  As a MARSEA student, you will have the opportunity to study at an Ivy League university in one of the most exciting cities in the world.  Applications for spring semester 2016 are due November 1, 2015 and applications for fall semester 2016 are due January 15, 2016. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until April 15, 2016. Information about applying is available here.

Here are perspectives on the program from two MARSEA alumni:


“One of the most valuable aspects of the MARSEA program for me was the amount of flexibility its structure allowed, even within its 30 credit requirement.  I was continually impressed with how the MARSEA faculty and administrators were willing to work with me to craft a program that best fit my own needs, interests, and goals, while also keeping the scope of focus from becoming too narrow.  I was able to parlay an internship with a local Chinese-American theater company into an independent study, which had a direct influence on the work I am doing now at a Chinese language and culture institute here in New York.  The fact that the program is smaller in size is also a great asset.  I feel it is easier to reach out to a fellow MARSEA alum even if we were were not in the same cohort.  Being a MARSEA grad feels like being part of a special, unique group.”

-Lindsay Bennett, MARSEA ’11, Program Manager, Confucius Institute, Pace University


“The MARSEA program’s great strength is its flexibility. Rather than focusing on one subject and one country, MARSEA students are required to pursue a multi-national and multi-disciplinary course of studies, creating graduates with a mind keyed to interconnectivity. As a journalist working in the U.S. for the Japanese market, the ability to find these intersecting threads has been invaluable to my work and career.”

-Daniel De Simone, MARSEA ’09, Senior Staff Reporter, Asahi Shimbun




Photos from the 2014 MARSEA Convocation and the WEAI’s MARSEA/SIPA Graduation Reception



On May 18, 2014, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute celebrated the convocation for its Master of Arts in Regional Studies–East Asia (MARSEA) students. Three days later, on May 21, the Institute hosted a graduation reception for MARSEA students and for students in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs with regional specializations in East Asian Studies. Below are photos from both events:


2014 MARSEA graduates

Convocation photo

2014 MARSEA graduates

Group Toast 2

2014 MARSEA graduates

Alexandra, Waichi

MARSEA graduates and WEAI Executive Director Waichi Ho

Family taking photos

MARSEA graduates and family


Shuo Yan Tan, SIPA ’14

Sonya +Family

Sonya Kuki, SIPA ’14, and family

Yuan Zhi Lau + Professor Zelin

Yuan Zhi Lau, MARSEA ’14, and Professor Zelin

Professor Lu + MARSEA graduates

MARSEA graduates and Professor Lü

Reception food

MARSEA and SIPA graduate reception


WEAI Director Myron Cohen


Leslie Paisley, SIPA ’14, and Vivian Coyne, SIPA ’14

Lauren Sprott, SIPA DRA-East Asia Region Specilization + Mary

Lauren Sprott, SIPA DRA-East Asian Regional Specialization, and Mary Trieu


Christine Swanson, MARSEA ’14, and Alexandra Tirado, MARSEA ’14

Caitlin hopping + Family

Caitlin Hopping, SIPA ’14, and family


MARSEA graduates and Mary Trieu

Chris, Ranming, Alex, Sungoh, Chrisine, Daniel

MARSEA graduates and current students

INTERACT fellow Shi-Yan Chao discusses upcoming April 25 event “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.”


Shi-Yan Chao, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, discusses the upcoming Friday, April 25, 2014 event “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.,” which will feature the screenings of Cui Zi’en’s “Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China” and Barbara Hammer’s “Nitrate Kisses”  followed by a discussion with both filmmakers. The event will take place from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM in Hamilton Hall 602. 

It is a great honor to bring two well-respected queer filmmakers, Cui Zi’en and Barbara Hammer, to Columbia University through the film event, “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.” This event will showcase two important documentary films, “Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China” (Cui Zi’en, 2008) and “Nitrate Kisses” (Barbara Hammer, 1992), and feature an in-depth discussion with their directors. While “Queer China” presents the oral histories and recent developments concerning the emerging LGBTQ community in modern China, “Nitrate Kisses” retrieves the queer history in the U.S. and Europe, emphasizing the “processes” of history writing. Whereas “Queer China” largely takes a talking-heads approach that, by way of the interviews with numerous queer activists, captures a sense of communal agency and creates a kind of “embodied knowledge” about being queer in contemporary China, “Nitrate Kisses” is characterized by an unorthodox filmmaking method that, through aural and the visual juxtapositions, blurs the boundaries between subjective/objective and past/present, exemplifying the “performative” turn in documentary practice in the U.S. In addition to a conversation about the filmmakers’ differing formal considerations, our post-screening discussion may include questions about the filmmakers’ artistic agendas, their influences from and on experimental film, the challenges to queer filmmaking in the past and present, the significance of queer identity politics, film censorship and the Beijing Queer Film Festival (where Cui has been the chief organizer and Hammer has attended), and the continuing queer movements in both Mainland China and the U.S. Please join us for a wonderful afternoon.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world. 

INTERACT fellow Saskia Schaefer discusses upcoming April 18 event on Islamic Urbanism in Jakarta and Istanbul


Saskia Schaefer, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and part-time lecturer in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, compares the dynamics between Islam and urbanism in Jakarta and Istanbul. On Friday, April 18, 2014, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life will present a full-day event, organized by Shaefer, that is dedicated to the topic “Islamic Urbanism?: Space, Consumption, and Development in Istanbul and Jakarta.” It will take place from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM in Knox Hall 509. 

 When the Gezi Park protests broke out last summer, I was teaching a class on Islam and Democracy at Humboldt Universität in Berlin. My students discussed the media coverage of the events. The Economist dedicated an issue on the protests, carrying the title: “Democrat or Sultan?,” and observers stressed the cliché schism between Islam and democracy. The more interesting question remains what the protests mean for a politically divided society. As a Southeast Asianist, I was also intrigued by something else: Why is there protest in Istanbul, but not in Jakarta? Public space is shrinking in most cities of the world; formerly public and often neglected areas are turned into shiny private houses, hotels, or business complexes. Whether I am in Istanbul, in Kuala Lumpur, or in Jakarta, schools seem to be moving out of the city centres, and parks seem to be turned into shopping malls. Ironically, the word ‘mall’ was once used for broad, tree-lined promenades. In Jakarta, a concrete jungle of more than 10 Million people, publicly accessible parks are rare. Rather than on tree-lined promenades, wealthy Jakartians take their weekend strolls along the air-conditioned tunnels that link the city’s network of glitzy shopping malls. They browse through silken headscarves and handbags that cost as much as whole houses in the outer islands. They often pay with supposedly Sharia-compliant credit cards. The poorer population feels lucky if they get to work as security personnel or cleaners in these places with their filtered air-systems. When the malls close at night, you’ll see that parts of the city’s pavements are home to those who are even poorer. They are shut out from the consumerist tunnels, and shut out from the gated communities that are mushrooming everywhere. Why then, I wondered, are there no protests in Jakarta?

Last fall, I had the chance to discuss this question with Karen Barkey, the Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life here at Columbia. We were intrigued by the disparity of protests and by the phenomena of Islamically-themed public spaces, such as in the form of Muslim gated communities. To learn more about the dynamics between Urbanism, Islam, and newly emerging middle classes, we invited a group of experts on the two cities to hold a panel discussion together. We want to look at the following questions:

Who are the main actors and engineers of current urban developments in major Indonesian and Turkish cities such as Istanbul and Jakarta? What visions of the cities’ futures drive them? Who are the protesters contesting these visions? How are Islam and consumption interconnected with regard to urban space? Who benefits and who suffers from the recent economic growth; what new elites are arising? What are the religious, ethnic and gender dynamics of the new middle classes?

In the full-day event with anthropologists, geographers, historians, and sociologists from Canada, France, Germany, Malaysia, Turkey, and the US, we will address these issues in two panels, one on Urban Planning, and one on Muslim Urban Lifestyles. Throughout the day, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions and to participate in the discussions.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world. 

INTERACT fellow Saskia Schaefer discusses her recent Indonesia election research

Saskia Schaefer portrait

Saskia Schaefer, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and part-time lecturer in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, discusses her recent visit to Indonesia to study the country’s 2014 elections.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world.     

[During my annual visit to Indonesia, in January of the election year 2014, I meet more pessimists than optimists.]

“Expectations? I am not expecting anything. I didn’t vote last time and I am not going to vote this time. During the first elections, in 1999, I wore a T-shirt with a slogan on it and went campaigning. They promised that we would be paid back all the efforts in cash. But that never happened.” Rudi’s eyes flash as he looks at me through the rear mirror. He is from West Java and has been working as a taxi driver in the capital Jakarta for 12 years. He knows about politics, he follows the debates. But he hasn’t voted since 1999. Asked about the upcoming parliamentarian elections in Indonesia, he smiles resignedly: “What for?”

In the late 1990s, when I first visited Indonesia as a student, most people I encountered were in a euphoric mood. Suharto’s crusted regime had just fallen in 1998, the new temporary president Habibie had been educated abroad and seemed willing to hand over power to democratically elected representatives. The media landscape was transformed into one of the freest in Asia; foreign-funded NGOs were blossoming and spreading an air of progress and optimism. From far, I followed Indonesia’s elections: 1999, 2004, 2009 — all classified as free and fair by international observers. Throughout my time as a student of political science and Southeast Asian history, I spent good parts of my holidays at Indonesian universities. Indonesian students love discussions; they meet and sit down to talk for hours while sipping sugary jasmine tea. They invited me to give small talks; I would find myself surrounded by curious students, keen to jump in and challenge and debate every little sentence. There is an indescribable energy in a room full of young eager students of politics, law, and philosophy who sense that they are living in a time and place in which they can newly shape their country. I remember drawing a circle on a blackboard, surrounded by small boxes: the elections, central to democracy, surrounded by political and civil rights and by the separation of powers. The Indonesian students and I looked at each other and knew that it wasn’t complete. We had a nice and neat model of the wisdom of liberal democratic theory here — but it didn’t help us grasp reality. “Should the elections really be in the center?” somebody asked. I shrugged: “I’m not sure. That’s what I’ve been taught. What do you think?” They weren’t so sure either. And this was what they had been taught too. I have since been trying to find out what else could possibly be in the center. Additionally, or instead.

This rainy season, while Jakarta suffers its annual floods, the Indonesian media is celebrating and watching Joko Widodo — known as Jokowi — the current governor of Jakarta. He is a potential candidate for the presidential elections that are scheduled for July. Famous for his spontaneous visits to slums and hospitals, people see Jokowi as “one of them” and admire the strength with which he seems determined to combat inefficiency and corruption. Another main contender is Prabowo Subianto, a businessman, politician and former Special Forces soldier. His background in business and the military, I was told many times, promises political potency. Neither of them has very detailed policy plans, nor do the other potential and confirmed candidates. Indonesian politics — as increasingly elsewhere — are more about personalities than about parties and their plans and programs. “They’re all the same!” sneered Rudi at the end of our ride.