05/10 Yang Shen PhD

Associate Professor in Anthropology, Zhejiang University

Secularism and the Arguments of Intellectual Freedom:

Revisiting an Encounter between Ma Yifu and Cai Yuanpei in Early 20th-Century China


Presenter: Yang Shen Ph. D. (Assistant Professor in Anthropology, Zhejiang University)

Time: 3-5pm CT, Friday, May 10

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)


Abstract: The paper suggests that the global arena of secular universities—rather than the national realms of “religion”—allows us to explore diverse pathways of intellectual freedom in a broad range of modernizing regimes. It focuses on the contrasting views of two key figures in early Republican China, Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) and Ma Yifu (1883-1967), who had divergent perspectives on the idea of a university. Cai, a secularist and institutional reformer, advocated for the creation of a German Enlightenment-style secular research university, while Ma, an independent classical scholar, was critical of the university institution and instead favored a model based on Chinese Buddhist monasteries. Aware of the condition of financial independence of modern universities, Ma explained that the Buddhist monasteries were a rare example of supporting organized scholarship by social contribution-rather than through state patronage and public funding—in the context of Chinese histories. The paper argues that Ma’s reservations about the university framework reflect a critical examination of the core promise of modernity and its organizational possibilities. By re-visiting the Ma-Cai encounter, this paper highlights the diversity of visions for intellectual freedom under secularist conditions. It also sheds light on the discrepancy between personal ethics and institutional policies and the cultural and societal contexts of the university institution.

Presenter: Dr. Yang Shen is a cultural anthropologist of religion and secularism. Her work explores forms of Chinese secularism and how Chinese conceptions of religion and secularity transform global projects of modernity. Yang received her Ph.D.in Anthropology from Boston University  and was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. She also taught at the Department of Asian Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a Frieberg-Glorisun Fellow at the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies. Dr. Shen is currently an Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the Department of Sociology at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

Discussant: Dr. Wáng Yōu 王悠 (she/they) is an economic and environmental historian of early modern and modern China and a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences Division. Her current book project, Crafting the Waterscape: Environmental Governance and Rural Communities of the Lower Yangzi Delta, 1500-1850, examines the everyday interactions of village women and men with water- and landscapes and how their labor was self-organized, textualized, and gendered.

05/03/2024 Dissertation Proposal Workshop

PhD students from EALC who are working on their dissertation proposals will present on their dissertation proposal writing. The primary focus of the workshop is to brainstorm on the introduction section of the proposal. We will also be mainly addressing the pre-circulated materials themselves, though we will dedicate time to questions about the projects in general. Please do not circulate the materials without the consent from the authors.

EALC Dissertation Proposal Workshop


Hang Wu, EALC & CMS

Yiwen Wu, EALC & TAPS

Yuwei Zhou, EALC

Time: Friday, May 3, 3-5pm CT

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)

04/19/2024 Dissertation Proposal Workshop

PhD students from EALC who are working on their dissertation proposals will present the basic ideas of their projects and discuss their progress and needs in the process of writing proposals. Please do not circulate the materials without consent from the authors. This session will be held over Zoom.

Dissertation Proposal Workshop


Lilian Kong, EALC & CMS

Danlin Zhang, EALC

Yunjun Zhou, EALC

Time: Friday, April 19, 3-5pm CT

04/05/2024 Jue Hou

PhD Candidate, Committee on Social Thought and Comparative Literature

Criticism’s Body: Literature and Carnality in Maruyama Masao and Takeuchi Yoshimi

Presenter: Jue Hou (Committee on Social Thought & Comparative Literature)

Time: 3-5pm CT, Friday, April 5

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)

Kichijōji, a Western suburb of Tokyo where both Takeuchi and Maruyama lived after the war.


Abstract: Taking as a point of departure the nihilistic sentiments in Japan after the war and the perverse demand by writers of the so-called “carnal literature” that culture “return to the flesh,” this chapter interrogates the roles of corporeal sensibility and of literature—a medium that inhabits both the realm of the senses and that of ideas—in the nation’s postwar democratization. My inquiry focuses on two figures who would come to define postwar Japanese intellectual history, Maruyama Masao 丸山眞男 (1914-1996) and Takeuchi Yoshimi 竹内好 (1910-1977). The prominent role the body plays in the writings of both, I contend, reveals an important thread in postwar Japanese intellectual history, namely the tension between the overwhelming embodied experience of the fact of war and the intellectual attempt, both on behalf of the nation and on a radically individual level, to make sense of that fact. Carnality plays radically different roles in Maruyama and Takeuchi’s thinking. In Maruyama’s ambitious attempt at a comprehensive intellectual history of Japan in the wake of the nation’s surrender, he faults tendency of the Japanese to trust immediate bodily feeling over abstract ideas as resulting in the people’s lack of critical reflexivity and hence giving rise to fascism. Takeuchi, by contrast, consistently emphasizes the corporeal aspect of both literature and politics—from his commending of Lu Xun as, above all else, an embodied “agent of living” to his foregrounding of “feeling” as a central faculty for political action during the Anpō protests. Despite these differences of approach, I contend, the two thinkers make the problem of the body central in the Japanese intelligentsia’s quest for an ethical mode of living after the war. Furthermore, a comparison of Maruyama and Takeuchi’s theses on corporeal sensibility sheds light on certain premises that condition our thinking on the act of theorizing—or thinking itself—and on modalities of processing reality such as feeling and intuiting that are often excluded from the history of ideas.

Presenter: Jue Hou is a joint degree PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Comparative Literature. His interests revolve around modernism and modernity, history of technology, and the literary and intellectual exchanges between Europe and Asia in the 20th Century.

Discussant: Hang Wu (She/They) is pursuing the joint Ph.D. degree in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Their current research projects focus on China and television. Their work on animation and radio broadcasting has appeared in journals and edited volumes such as Animation: an interdisciplinary journal and Sound Communities in the Asia Pacific.

03/29/2024 Jianqing Chen PhD

Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and of Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis

Play, Rewind, and Swipe Forward: The Emergence of Horizontal Flow in the Age of Streaming Media

Time: 11am-12:30pm, Friday, March 29

Location: Cobb 311

Please note the unusual time and place for APEA!

★Co-hosted by the Digital Media Workshop★

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.

Abstract: Known alternatively by various names such as the seek bar, the progress bar, or jindu tiao in Chinese, the playback bar is a standard graphical control element in the (haptic) graphic user interface of streaming media today. It is the major tool for video streaming and simultaneously the key metaphor for the progression of time and life in our media-saturated societies. The playback bar is pervasively presented in our streaming experiences – so pervasive that its techno-cultural connotations are often unnoticed. This paper focuses on the often-ignored playback bar with the aim of exploring the streaming interfaces and serial narratives in contemporary China. It traces the replacement of media control buttons with the progress bar in the virtualization and computerization of the audio/video playback process. The paper further examines the emergent design of seek-able playback bars controlled by swipe gestures with the advent of the touch-based streaming interface. I argue that the playback bar that stretches itself horizontally from left to right solidifies a visual representation of the hitherto abstract concept of progress. It subtly transforms the time spent or consumed watching videos into time used or invested in accumulating information, knowledge, and capital. Through a comparative study of the playback bar and interface design strategies of American streaming services providers (YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu) with their Chinese counterparts (iQiyi, Tencent video, and Mango TV), I show how Chinese streaming platforms develop a distinct (tactile) interface design – swiping left and right across the touchscreen to rewind and fast-forward videos. This design bifurcates from the default designs that American media players stipulate: the quick 10-second rewind and fast-forward icons. This distinction underscores a divergence in interface design philosophies: unlike American interface design’s desire to retain older media experience hinging on control buttons, the Chinese approach creates a new perception of “streaming,” which envisages streaming as a continuous, horizontal flow of moving images across the screen. This perception reimagines how users interact with and engage in streaming videos and reshapes the contemporary experience of streaming time.

Presenter: Jianqing Chen (PhD in Film and Media, the University of California, Berkeley) is an Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Washington University in St Louis. Her fields of research and teaching cover cinema and media culture in China, Hongkong, and Taiwan, new media technologies and aesthetics, surveillance, global techno-capitalism, post-socialist culture and critique, and feminist media theory. Combining a global perspective with a critical race and gender approach, her research explores popular emergent media and their roles in creating new modes of subjectivity and subjectivization in post-socialist China. She is completing a book manuscript titled Touch Screen: Everyday Media in Contemporary China.

Discussant: Thomas Lamarre (PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, the University of Chicago) is a scholar of media, cinema and animation, intellectual history and material culture, with projects ranging from the communication networks of 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription, 2000), to silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics, 2005), animation technologies (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, 2009) and on television infrastructures and media ecology (The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media, 2018). Current projects include research on animation that addresses the use of animals in the formation of media networks associated with colonialism and extraterritorial empire, and the consequent politics of animism and speciesism.


The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our schedule for the Spring 2024 Quarter. All events will meet from 3:00 to 5:00pm at the Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.). As usual, we will send reminder emails with information for the exact time and location prior to every workshop session, along with the link to the pre-circulation materials. For meetings via Zoom, we will send the registration link prior to the workshop session.


March 29th (in-person)

Jianqing Chen Ph. D., Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and of Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis

“Play, Rewind, and Swipe Forward: The Emergence of Horizontal Flow in the Age of Streaming Media”

Discussant: Thomas Lamarre Ph. D., Gordon J Laing Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College

Time: 11am-12:30pm

Location: Cobb 311

★This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S Department of Education; this event is also co-sponsored by the Digital Media Workshop★


April 5th (in-person)

Jue Hou, Ph. D. Candidate, Committee on Social Thought & Comparative Literature

“Criticism’s Body”

Discussant: Hang Wu, Ph. D. Student, EALC & CMS


April 19th (in-person)

Dissertation Prospectus Workshop 1

Presenters TBA


April 26th (in-person)

Sound and Writing in East Asia Conference

Time & Location TBA


May 3rd (in-person)

Dissertation Prospectus Workshop 2

Presenters TBA


Coordinators: James Kennerly and Danlin Zhang, EALC

Faculty Sponsors: Professor Paola Iovene and Professor Melissa Van Wyk

Please do not hesitate to contact Danlin (danlinz@uchicago.edu) or James (kennerly@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you at APEA in the new quarter!