February 23 Event: “Speech and Media Freedom – New Lessons of the Umbrella Revolution:” Photos and Audio



Photographs and audio are now available from the February 23, 2015 event “Speech and Media Freedom – New Lessons of the Umbrella Revolution.” The event featured a lecture by Margaret Ng, who is a noted politician, barrister, writer, and columnist in Hong Kong. Dr. Ng’s lecture was moderated by Benjamin L. Liebman, Robert L. Lieff Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, and Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, Columbia Law School. 

During the lecture and the discussion afterward, Dr. Ng addressed current legal issues in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The event was co-sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, Columbia Law School.

For audio of the event on iTunes, please click here.














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. 

Meet the WEAI Authors Event: Emily T. Yeh and “Taming Tibet”




A Report on the Meet the WEAI Authors event featuring Emily T. Yeh, author of the Study of the WEAI  Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development, on March 25, 2014:

Emily T. YehAssociate Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and moderator Robert Barnettdirector of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University, discussed Yeh’s new book Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development, a Study of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute published by Cornell University Press.

During her lecture, Emily T. Yeh provided a brief overview of the key findings and arguments in her book, along with a more in-depth discussion of the book’s final chapter on the New Socialist Countryside housing projects. Her book traces the landscape transformation in Lhasa and the Tibetan Autonomous Region from the 1950s to the present. Specifically, the book follows the changes in Tibet’s “material landscape” and, accordingly, organizes its chronology into three types of development: soil, plastic, and concrete. Yeh argued that the changes represented in those three categories reveal tensions in Tibet about how Tibetans should be incorporated into–and how they should appreciate–the Chinese state’s development of their landscape.

In the book, soil refers to the introduction of scientific agriculture. Many soldiers in Tibet in the 1950s were involved in this process. They recruited poor Tibetan men and women. This period saw a shift from an expectation for the Tibetan people to express gratitude towards socialist liberation to gratitude towards Chinese aid in Tibetan development.

For Yeh, plastic represents the covering of the landscape in plastic by Han migrants engaged in vegetable farming. This material shift was marked by Han migration through family ties, many descended from the soldiers previously stationed there. Officials believed the migrants would help transfer skills to local Tibetans by virtue of residing in the same geographic area. However, instead, Tibetan and Han became segregated residentially and economically. Additionally, many migrants became resentful of the vast amount of money the government invested in the Tibetan economy. They viewed Tibetans as ungrateful for this gift.

Finally, concrete represents urban expansion and the development of housing projects. This material shift is embodied by the rapid urbanization of Lhasa and the New Socialist Countryside housing projects, which have been carried out across Tibet and the surrounding area. Yeh argues that housing has been tied to a broader idea of development as a gift, for which the Tibetans should be grateful.  Yet, a gift is never really free. Yeh noted  that the act of giving forces Tibetans to recognize the role of the state as a “giver,” making Tibetans recognize their relationship with the state as “receiver.” Development projects have a genuine goal of wanting to improve society, but these gifts are also linked to notions of indebtedness.

Audio for the event is available on iTunes here:






Lecture Photos: Jamesian Precisions in Natsume Sōseki: Contending with Light and Dark

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Pictures from the lecture by Japan scholar John Nathan about his new translation of Natsume Sōseki’s novel Light and Dark  (a Weatherhead Book on Asia published by Columbia University Press) co-sponsored by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture on Monday, December 9…

John Nathan, Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, discussed the work and style of Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) and the art of translation on December 9th. Carol Gluck, George Sansom Professor of History and Professor of East Asian Language and Cultures, Department of History and Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University; and Chair, Weatherhead East Asian Institute Publications Program, provided introductory remarks.

Audio for the lecture on iTunes U can be found: here.


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Photos from Yesterday’s CKR Event “Comfort Women Wanted”

Here are some great pics from the video screening and event yesterday sponsored by the Columbia University Center for Korean Research (CKR) of “Comfort Women Wanted.

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