Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Exploring Nanjing: A Visit to the Jiangsu Art Museum 江苏省美术馆

It can sometimes be challenging to find the time to explore and get out into the city of Nanjing while busy with school activities and studying for classes. That’s why I took advantage of the last week of our long Chinese New Year holiday to dedicate some time exploring new parts of the city. I’d heard great things about the Jiangsu Art Museum from both teachers and classmates so I hopped on the subway with a friend and we made our way over.

 The Jiangsu Art Museum is located in the heart of the city, only three subway stops away from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and right next the enormous and also well worth-visiting Nanjing Library. The Nanjing Library is closer in size to a shopping mall and its impressive modern architecture makes it impossible to miss. Arriving at the Jiangsu Art Museum, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that entrance is free to everyone.

The museum is a vast, multi-story building but only a select number of galleries are open at a particular time. I recommend asking which floors and galleries are open ahead of time so you know where to go and what to see. A schedule of different artists and openings is also available on the museum’s website.

I’ve personally never had a very discerning eye for fine art, so my main goal in visiting was to get some exposure to modern Chinese artists and explore one of Nanjing’s famous museums. Fortunately for me, the main gallery that was open that day featured renowned Chinese calligraphists from the late 20th century. Since moving to Nanjing I started taking classes in 笔画, which is basically Chinese hand-writing, a step below calligraphy in terms of sophistication but, as my 老师 tells me, 笔画is a necessary foundation to learning to write with a brush. The gallery exhibit was a great opportunity to see works of some of China’s most renowned calligraphists and gain a deeper appreciation for the skill and finesse that goes into 书法.
While making our way through the gallery, we paused at many of the couplets, trying to think of viable English translations.  Since many of the pieces were written in highly stylized script, or using classical Chinese (文言文), this presented some new challenges not found in most readings assigned in class. Though classroom experience at the HNC has been an invaluable part of my education here in China, I highly recommend the many diverse learning opportunities offered by life in Nanjing, a city with a vibrant culture and countless places to explore.


Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate '17 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alumni Profile: Julia Lovell, Acclaimed Translator and Author

I was given the wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumnus and award winning author, translator, and Professor of modern Chinese history at the University of London, Julia Lovell. Professor Lovell was a certificate student at HNC from 1997-98 and has since published numerous acclaimed historical writings, including The Opium War: Dreams, Drugs, and the Making of Modern China, The Great Wall: China Against the World, and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Prior to our interview, Professor Lovell had been traveling on academic leave to conduct research on Maoism in Nepal and India.

Can you briefly introduce the research you’ve been doing on the propagation of Maoism outside of China? You described your recent work as tracking the “transnational history of Maoism”, what does that imply?
Transnational history, as I see it, is not just tracking the global travels of certain ideas; it’s exploring how these travels change the original ideas. Moreover, the global reception of these ideas can also change the way they are perceived or implemented in their territory of origin. In the case of global or transnational Maoism, I’m looking at how the theory and practice of Mao’s revolution was translated (and mistranslated) into other languages and cultures, and how the international vogue for Maoism (amongst certain constituencies) from the 1940s to the present day changed the way Mao and other Chinese people viewed Chinese communism.

I’m curious about how you first became interested in historical writing and translation? Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you first came to the HNC?
I studied at the center for one year from 1997-98; during that time they only offered the one-year certificate program. The way that I saw my time there was as a preparatory year before beginning full-scale academic graduate research in Chinese studies. I knew that I wanted to go into academic research but I also knew that I needed to “up my game” linguistically and also in terms of engaging with Chinese-language readings in their historical context. As you’ve probably experienced, the curriculum at the Center is a kind of “fast-track” towards using Chinese, not just as a mode of communication but also as a tool for academic analysis.

Aside from the language-training aspect, how else did your time as an HNC student help you center the focus of your future academic work?
While at the Center, I was also given the time to read widely. Not only was the library at the center really great but I also had the chance to explore book shops, to talk with experts at the center and at Nanjing University to get reading suggestions, and just to get more of a background in contemporary Chinese literature. So at that time I didn’t have an exact topic or specific titles in mind that I wanted to translate or research, but I probably did know that was what I wanted to do. My year at the center gave me an ideal springboard to the next phase of my career.

After you graduated from the center what was your next step in your path to becoming a published author and translator?
I remember how David [Davies, alumni and current American Co-director of the HNC] during our time at the Center had once mentioned Feng Ji-cai and his work writing about the memory of the Cultural Revolution. That seeded some kind of idea in my head and I ended up actually writing my M.Phil., my master’s dissertation on Feng Ji-cai and his 报告文学 “Reportage Literature”, so that forms a nice academic link between my time at the Center and my next step.

Are there any other academic connections or highlights that stand out in your mind when thinking back to your time studying at the HNC?
One academic highlight was definitely being taught by a professor from Nanjing University, Professor Gao Hua. While I was at the Center he taught two papers, one each semester, on 20th century and contemporary Chinese cultural issues. Those papers were absolutely fascinating and invaluable to me in terms of content and analysis, but also I did an independent study with Gao Hua in which I started to investigate a topic which I ended writing on for my PhD, which was the quest of Chinese writers for the Nobel Prize in literature. It was really that professor who enabled me to start exploring and testing some of the ideas that I would later develop in my PhD. The opportunity to have Gao Hua as my first supervisor in my research into Chinese literary history was an extraordinary privilege.

I can certainly relate to appreciating the amount of guidance and patience that has been provided by my professors here at the HNC…
Exactly, and Gao Hua also had extraordinary patience because I was working through ideas and materials much more slowly than his Chinese students at Nanjing University, so he was a terrific mentor to have at that stage because he was incredibly helpful in guiding me to think more seriously and practically about primary but also secondary sources.

Due to recent technological developments in this field, I’ve sometimes been met with cynicism when talking about studying a foreign language and translation as a potential career. Why do you think foreign language study is still important?
When you are speaking directly to professional contacts – and this has been particularly important to me, as I’ve always done a lot of interview work for my research – you can’t use Google Translate; you either have the language or you don’t. We live in an information age, in which communications are vastly improved compared to the time that I was at the Center. And yet, what’s going on in world politics today shows us that miscommunications, misunderstandings, misperceptions occur as easily as they ever did. The ability to communicate directly with individuals from very different linguistic and cultural backgrounds remains as important as it has ever been.

What are some obstacles you’ve faced related to your work as a researcher and translator?
Learning foreign languages is crucial to being able to communicate directly and immediately, and I felt this myself very strongly when I was doing research in India and Nepal. Although India is supposedly one of the easiest places in Asia for an English speaker to get around, even in that context I felt quite hampered by not knowing any Hindi. When I was in Nepal I had to rely on an excellent translator, but given that I’m used to working directly without the mediation of a translator when I’m in China I felt the difference because when you’re talking to someone directly its easier to understand the nuances of what someone is saying. And every work that I have translated has posed its particular challenges of recreating the original’s content, tone and style. Going back to your previous question, I believe that literary translation requires human mediation – however good Google Translate gets. Though I don’t understand exactly the nature of the technological advances translating software, I would be somewhat surprised to discover that these advances would be able to cope with the great stylistic and tonal demands that are made on the translator of a literary text.

Finally, do you have any advice to current or future students who are interested in pursuing a similar career path in translation or academia?

The way that I started was to read as much as I could and find individual works of literature that I felt passionate about. I often came to those works of literature through recommendations from friends and professors. In fact, the first Chinese novel that I translated into English was recommended to me by professor Gao Hua, who I mentioned earlier, and I first read it sitting in the Center library. Looking back to what I got out of my time at the Center, it was a fantastic time to develop and explore academic interests, and to meet new professors, classmates and friends around the city. I have very appreciative memories of my time at the Center.

Thank you again Julia for your time and the insightful conversation!

Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC Certificate '17

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meet MAIS Student Brennan Leong

Meet Brennan Leong, a 2nd year student in the Master of Arts in International Studies Program.

Brennan is an International Economics concentrator who is currently writing a graduate thesis in Chinese on the empirical factors that influence the craft beer market in China. Partnering with the Kentucky company, Alltech, alongside a number of Chinese breweries, Brennan is assessing market entry for craft beers, both domestic and foreign.

A double-major in Chinese and Neurobiology from the University of Wisconsin, Brennan has previously worked in the health care industry as a children's behavior therapist and was enrolled in medical school. Ethnically half-Chinese, a longing to improve his language abilities and a compulsion to grow closer to a culture he was disconnected with in his childhood inspired Brennan to move to Chongqing to teach English. On a whim, a friend brought up the possibility of attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to further his academic study while simultaneously honing his Chinese language skills, and Brennan was sold.

During his time at the HNC, Brennan has taken classes on game theory, international law, trade theory and policy, and China's environmental development all in Chinese. As captain of the HNC basketball team, Brennan helped lead the team to its highest tournament finish in recent history. Brennan says he was most drawn to SAIS and the HNC for the ability to impact his career trajectory and help him find out “where he fits in as a piece of the puzzle” that is China's growth and US-China interaction. Having already interned with KPMG's US-China Strategic Corridor and interning with the Royal Bank of Canada this winter, Brennan hopes to utilize his research, language, and management skills to work for an international consulting firm.

Written by Logan Pauley, MAIS '17

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Women's Sports Mentoring Program

Current MAIS student and Laura Chen Memorial Fellow, Maguire Padley, thesis research on gender inequality in Chinese sports led her to start a women’s sports mentoring program at a local Nanjing elementary school. Read about her experience below. 

When I first moved to China almost five years ago, I was looking for a way to get involved in sports and decided to take up soccer. To my surprise, it was impossible to find a women’s team to join. Consequently, I began to play for a men’s team. I was astonished to find that every time I stepped on the field, the men on the opposing team would be completely baffled, advising me that a woman should not be playing soccer.

While this experience was bewildering to me at first, it soon became a regular part of my life in China. For example, when lifting weights at the gym I would routinely be told that this kind of activity wasn’t for women. This was so contrary to my impression of women’s sports in China. For years, I had watched China’s brilliant female Olympians on television win medal after medal. I had witnessed, in person, the epic final game of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in Pasadena, California when China and the U.S. battled fiercely all the way to a penalty shootout.

I became so puzzled by this contradiction that I decided to research gender inequality in Chinese sports for my master’s thesis. I wanted to find out how Chinese women could have made such tremendous accomplishments at the elite level, whereas grassroots sports remain so underdeveloped for girls and women. Through my research, I have found that due to the highly competitive nature of the college entrance examination, parents and teachers often disapprove of students participating in sports. This is especially true for female students, who generally have higher expectations placed on them in regard to academic performance. Additionally, due to the pervasive influence of Confucian values, girls tend to be discouraged from doing activities that will build muscle or are seen as “too aggressive” for females.

With this in mind, I decided to start a program to reach out to young girls and their parents here in Nanjing. The program is composed of mentees—girls from a local elementary school— and mentors —international women from both the HNC and Nanjing community. Every week we meet with our group of mentees to introduce and play a new sport with them, while the parents are invited to observe or participate. The goal is to demonstrate the abundant benefits of sports to the mentees and parents by establishing an environment in which the girls not only can improve their fitness and health, but can increase confidence and develop skills in leadership, teamwork and communication. The program has also allowed me to conduct primary research for my thesis regarding what parents’ principal concerns are in allowing their daughters play sports, and how attitudes toward female participation in sports change with increased exposure to sports.

The program has not been without challenges. Recruiting parents who would allow their daughters to join the program was not easy. The bilingual environment of the program is what eventually persuaded most of them. Furthermore, we have met some difficulties in teaching the girls sports they are unfamiliar with. For example, explaining a game such as kickball to a group of girls who has never seen any sport even remotely like it is no simple task. Nonetheless, I think I speak for all of the mentors in saying that working with these girls has been an absolute delight. I feel that the most rewarding aspect is getting to witness how much enjoyment the girls experience through the activities we plan. One mother even sent me a message after our first week, informing me that her daughter had written a poem at school about how much she loved playing Frisbee with us.

Thus far, I believe the program has been a success. We are thrilled to be continuing next semester and in fact, are expecting our participation to double. We are optimistic that our efforts will have a long-term impact in shaping our participants’ and their parents’ attitudes towards female participation in sports.

 Written by Maguire Padley, MAIS '17