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Summer Institute 2018

Call for Applications
2018 Penn State Asian Studies Summer Institute
“Infrastructure”


Penn State University invites applicants for its annual Asian Studies Summer Institute, to be held June 10-16, 2018. This year’s Institute, co-directed by Leo Coleman (Hunter College/CUNY) and Jessamyn Abel (Penn State), focuses on the topic of “Infrastructure.”

Institute participants spend a week reading and thinking about the annual theme, as well as significant time workshopping their work in progress. Particularly strong work will be considered for publication in an upcoming special issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias (https://www.upress.umn.edu/journal-division/journals/verge-studies-in-global-asias).


Penn State will cover housing and meals, and offer an honorarium to help defray travel costs (USD 400 from the East Coast, 600 from the Midwest, 800 from the West Coast; USD 1000 from Europe; USD 1350 from Asia). Applicants must have completed their PhDs no earlier than June 2013, or be advanced graduate students who are completing their dissertations.


On the theme:


We invite applications from the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences for projects that examine “infrastructure” as both concept and material reality in Asia, Asian America, and Asian diasporic communities around the world.

The infrastructures of the modern world shape everyday life, popular perceptions of space and movement, and prominent images of the individual, corporation, nation, region, and world. This includes not only physical infrastructures, such as sewer systems, communications networks, roads, and airports, but also the virtual systems that define spaces, control movement, and mediate interactions: computer operating systems and platform designs; the international system of passports and visas; and legal definitions of borders, territoriality, and citizenship. Attention to infrastructure, which has recently emerged as a key site of study across the social sciences and humanities, brings together disparate concerns with space, mobility, and circulations (of images, commodities, resources, people, and ideas). It enables a focus across scales and boundaries (whether political boundaries or those that run between rural and urban), highlighting political ecologies, physical processes, and material connections that link places and people while illuminating the often-hidden categorizations and mediations that inform local aspirations and political understandings.


In this workshop, we will explore the relationships between real and conceptual infrastructures, concrete materials and codes of practice, and means and motivations, both in particular parts of Asia and as Asian people, goods, and ideas circulate globally. We will examine how the study of infrastructures, broadly conceived, can help us better understand urban spaces and rural landscapes, development projects, technological changes, and emergent political and social realities. Key questions will include how infrastructure studies might renew classic approaches to Asian societies and their national or global histories, provide new insights into Asian and Asian diasporic literatures or arts, or help focus attention on current ecological and political concerns—for example, by mobilizing new concepts such as redundancy, resiliance, and repair. We will also consider how the study of infrastructure impacts our understanding of Global Asias—itself a nebulously defined, contested, and generative concept. A close examination of the evolution of the infrastructures that are fundamental to economic and political relations, and to the daily lives of billions of people, reveals the ways in which material technologies, sociotechnical processes, legal forms, popular culture, and the natural environment interact to produce the physical and imagined spaces of city, nation, region, and empire.


To apply, please send the following documents in a single PDF file to by March 15, 2018.
1. An abstract of 1500 words outlining research project and clarifying its connection to the Institute theme.
2. A sample of current work.
3. A current c.v. (no longer than 2 pp).
4. A letter from a principal advisor about the advanced status of work (in the case of graduate students).

Decisions will be made by the first week of April 2018. Other inquiries regarding the Summer Institute may be directed to Jessamyn Abel ).