Talks and lectures

Opium’s Long Shadow: From Asian Revolt to Global Drug Control

Friday, 22 February, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Steffen  Rimner will talk about his new bookOpium’s Long Shadow: From Asian Revolt to Global Drug Control (Harvard University Press, 2018). The League of Nations Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs, created in 1920, culminated almost eight decades of political turmoil over opium trafficking, which was by far the largest state-backed drug trade in the age of empire. Opponents of opium had long struggled to rein in the profitable drug. Opium’s Long Shadow shows how diverse local protests crossed imperial, national, and colonial boundaries to gain traction globally and harness public opinion as a moral deterrent in international politics after World War I. Steffen Rimner traces the far-flung itineraries and trenchant arguments of reformers — significantly, feminists and journalists —who viewed opium addiction as a root cause of poverty, famine, 'white slavery,' and moral degradation. These activists targeted the international reputation of drug-trading governments, first and foremost Great Britain, British India, and Japan, becoming pioneers of the global political tactic we today call naming and shaming. But rather than taking sole responsibility for their own behavior, states in turn appropriated anti-drug criticism to shame fellow sovereigns around the globe. Consequently, participation in drug control became a prerequisite for membership in the twentieth-century international community. Rimner relates how an aggressive embrace of anti-drug politics earned China and other Asian states new influence on the world stage. The link between drug control and international legitimacy has endured. Amid fierce contemporary debate over the wisdom of narcotics policies, the 100-year-old moral consensus Rimner describes remains a backbone of the international order. Steffen Rimner is Assistant Professor of the History of International Relations at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has taught at Harvard University and Columbia University and held affiliations at Yale University, the University of Oxford, Waseda University, and the University of Tokyo (Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia).      

Democracy and Growth in the 21st Century: The Diverging Cases of China and Italy

Monday, 25 February, 13:00 - 14:00 at Lucina Ho Seminar Room

Is democracy still the best political regime for countries to adapt to economic and technological pressures and increase their level of prosperity? While the West seems to have stagnated in an environment of political mistrust, increasing inequality and low growth, the rise of the East has shown that it may not be liberal democracy that is best at accommodating the social mutations that technologies have triggered. The cases of China and Italy form the research focus as two extremes in growth performance. China is the star of globalisation in the East, while Italy is the laggard of globalisation in the West and a laboratory of creeping political meltdown now shared by other major Western economies. But is this forever? Introducing the ‘innovation paradox’ as the main challenge to the West and the notion of ‘knowledge democracy’ as key to sustainable growth, Grillo and Nanetti present a new side to the debate on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or fifth as they argue). It is a vital reading for all those questioning what kind of democracy positively impacts innovation as the force whose speed and direction transforms societies and economies. Francesco Grillo is affiliated with the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy. He is columnist at Corriere della Sera, holds an MBA from Boston University, USA a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science and has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University, UK. He is Managing Director of Vision & Value (consulting firm), and advises the European Commission on innovation and smart specialization. Raffaella Y. Nanetti is Professor Emerita of Urban Planning and Policy in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, and part of the core team of the Economic and Social Cohesion Laboratory in London, UK. She is an Associate of Italy's National Research Council (CNR) in Rome.

Transnational Chinese Theatres and Transgressive Imagination

Monday, 25 February, 14:00 - 17:00 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

How can we rethink Chinese-language theatres from the perspective of the transnational? What are the advantages of looking at Sinophone performance cultures through a trans-Asian lens? What can the ‘trans-‘ signify in the performances of the Sinophone? Unlike the field of Sinophone cinemas, where ‘trans-‘ approaches, particularly the transnational, have been widely debated, there has not yet been a comprehensive theoretical reflection of the agentive implications of trans-ing for the performances of the Sinophone, including the performances of memory. This talk will explore the notion of transnational Chinese theatres as a practice and method of performance collaboration constituted by mobile networks of relations. Transnational Chinese theatres present a performative inflection of notions of minor transnationalism and inter-Asian referencing – or (trans-)Asia as method – which foregrounds collaboration as a generative site of counter-memory and transgressive imagination. An overview of recent transnational networks and works originating within the East Asian Sinosphere will show how collaborative practice can mobilize multiple dimensions of the 'trans-' – transmediality, translingualism, translation, transcoloniality – to reconstitute Sinophone performance cultures as platforms for transgressively reconfiguring the nation and enabling the collective memorialization of contested national histories through transnational comparison. Rossella Ferrari is a Reader in Chinese and Theatre Studies at SOAS University of London. She has published widely on the performance cultures of the Chinese-speaking region and is the author of Pop Goes the Avant-GardeExperimental Theatre in Contemporary China (Seagull Books/University of Chicago Press, 2012). She has recently completed a new monograph, Transnational Chinese TheatresIntercultural Performance Networks in East Asia. This event is organised by the Oxford Chinese Studies Society

A Closer Look into Public-Private Partnerships in China

Monday, 25 February, 17:00 - 18:30 at Ho Tim Seminar Room

Chinese Law Discussion Group, with Yuxue Fang, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford. Discussion Group convenor: Mimi Zou, Faculty of Law

Visual History Archive Workshop

Tuesday, 26 February, 14:00 - 16:00 at Ho Tim Seminar Room

This workshop will provide hands-on training on how to use the Visual History Archive, introducing students, librarians, staff and faculty to the archive's history, collections, interface and search engines that are the key to unlocking the research and teaching potential of the archives. Explore the VHA USC Shoah Foundation, Center for Advanced Genocide Research

From Factory to Village, from Third Front to Cultural Revolution

Tuesday, 26 February, 17:00 - 18:00 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China Since the turn of the century, there has been a significant upturn of interest in the Third Front within the PRC, with various academic articles, films, museums and online forums devoted to this Maoist mega-project. However, this coverage of the Third Front has been highly uneven, to the extent that the impact of this huge military-industrial complex on Guizhou and other inland provinces – as well as the specifics of everyday life in Third Front work units – continues to be partially hidden. Paul Kendall draws on two case studies to illustrate the ways in which the Third Front and the hybrid rural-urban qualities of its work units have been concealed by more established discourses in both the Chinese and English languages. For the first case study, Kendall examines how and why the touristic branding of Kaili – a small city in Guizhou province – has emphasized the area’s rural ethnic practices and overlooked its Third Front industrial heritage. For the second case study, he examines two major themes in the English-language reception of Wang Xiaoshuai’s films on the Third Front in Guizhou. Firstly, Kendall suggests that film critics have interpreted these films according to a worldview that divides space into discrete categories of rural and urban, and have thus overlooked the hybrid rural-urban qualities of Third Front work units. Secondly, Kendall suggests that these critics have tended to ignore the centrality of the Third Front to these films as part of an established historical discourse that absorbs events of the 1960s, 70s and even 80s into the vortex of the Cultural Revolution. Paul Kendall is a Lecturer in Chinese and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster. His research interests include urban and industrial space, rural/urban relations, ethnicity, everyday life, soundscapes, and music. His new book, The Sounds of Social Space: Branding, Built Environment, and Leisure in Urban China (2019), examines the production of social space in Kaili, a small city in southwest China, through its branding as ‘the homeland of one hundred festivals’, ethnicized public spaces, high-decibel soundscapes, amateur music-making practices and inhabitants’ conceptualizations of music, ethnicity and the city. His current research explores worker memories and wider representations of the Third Front in urban Guizhou, particularly Kaili, Guiyang and Duyun.  

Neutrality and Collaboration in an ‘East Asian Casablanca’: Macau in the Second World War

Thursday, 28 February, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

The first and last European colonial settlement in China, Macau was the only foreign-administered territory in the country not to be occupied by Japan during the Second World War (1937–1945). Focusing on this relatively overlooked ‘East Asian Casablanca’, this talk investigates the intersection of China’s wartime diplomacy towards a small European power with the ambiguous local practice of neutrality in this enclave. Drawing from multi-sited archival research, and placing the Macau case in dialogue with recent scholarship on China’s War of Resistance, this presentation highlights its similarities to the better-known ‘lonely islands’ of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhouwan. It argues that instead of strict neutrality, Macau’s wartime experience was marked by multiple layers of collaboration that involved a myriad of actors with different nationalities. These attest to the global interactions taking place in China during the conflict and shed light on the interplay of imperialism and anti-imperialism in South China at a time of momentous change. Helena F. S. Lopes is Departmental Lecturer in Modern East Asian History at Oxford. She holds a DPhil in History from St Antony’s College, Oxford, and two MA degrees from SOAS, University of London. She is currently working on her first monograph, based on her doctoral thesis, which analyses neutrality and collaboration in Macau during the Second World War and the immediate post-war period. Caption: Aerial view of Macau city centre, late 1930s (Anuário de Macau [Macau Yearbook], 1939)

Sino-Indian Connections: New Perspectives on 20th Century Conflicts

Monday, 4 March, 17:00 - 18:30 at Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia Seminar. ‘Sino-Indian Connections: New Perspectives on 20th Century Conflicts.’ Zhaodong Wang, University of Edinburgh: ‘Disputes over the China-Tibet-India Road: The Other Side of the Anglo-Chinese Alliance during the Second World War.’ Yang Han, University of Oxford: ‘Building a Feminine Self in Wars: A Postcolonial Account of the State’s Gender Identity through the Case of the 1962 Sino-Indian Border War.’

From Transatlantic to Eurasian: Global Order in the 21st Century

Thursday, 7 March, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Parag Khanna will discuss his new book: The Future is Asian: Global Order in the Twenty-First Century (Simon & Schuster, February 2019) The 'Asian Century' is even bigger than you think. Far greater than just China, the new Asian system taking shape is a multi-civilizational order spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, Turkey to Indonesia — linking five billion people through trade, finance, infrastructure, and diplomatic networks that together represent 40 percent of global GDP. China has taken a lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, but it will not lead it alone. Rather, Asia is rapidly returning to the centuries-old patterns of commerce, conflict, and cultural exchange that thrived long before European colonialism and American dominance. Asians will determine their own future — and as they collectively assert their interests around the world, they will determine that of the rest of the world as well.

The Future is Asian overturns decades of misdiagnoses about Asia while providing a comprehensive analysis and vision for our collective Asian future. Khanna demonstrates how the Belt & Road Initiative will not advance Chinese domination but rather accelerate Asia’s multipolarity, how nationalist leaders have put aside territorial disputes in favour of integration, and takes you into Asia’s dynamic cities that are the hotbeds of next-generation digital innovation. Asians once wanted to emulate the West, now the West wants to emulate Asia. Asians used to produce for the West, now the West produces for Asia. The world has grown accustomed to hearing about 'America First.' Is it ready for 'Asia First'?

Asia’s gravity has profound implications for Europe and Britain’s strategic choices in 2019 and beyond. Germany and many EU members have thrown themselves full tilt into the 'Belt & Road Initiative' to capture business in fast-growing Asian markets. The UK has launched an 'All of Asia' policy, and the China-UK 'Infrastructure Alliance' has been created to boost British participation in Chinese projects around the region. As Parag Khanna points out in a chapter focused on the Asianization of Europe, almost all European countries - including Britain - still need Asian talent inflows to compensate for labour shortages and demographic imbalances. With America ever more unreliable and Brexit pushing the UK to hasten the signing of dozens of new trade agreements with Asian countries, there is no question that Asia will occupy ever more of the European agenda. 

Parag Khanna is Managing Partner of FutureMap, a scenario planning and strategic advisory firm. He is the international bestselling author of six books including The Second World and Connectography. He has been a fellow at Brookings, New America, and the Lee Kuan Yew School at the National University of Singapore, as well as an advisor to the US National Intelligence Council and US Special Operations Forces. A leading next-gen global intellectual, his numerous TED talks have garnered several million views. Khanna holds a PhD from the London School of Economics, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Copies of the book can be purchased at the event  

Mandarin Forum

Friday, 8 March, 13:00 - 14:00 at Lucina Ho Seminar Room

Details to be confirmed.