Saint Mary’s Welcomes ASPAC Conference in June

ASPAC Steering Committee (from left to right): Jennifer Heung (Anthropology), Isabella Navarro (Conference Local Arrangements Chair), Elena Songster (History and Conference Chair), Makiko Imamura (Communication).Saint Mary’s hosted the 53rd annual ASPAC (Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast) Conference, Reimagining Asia: Innovation and Reflection, from June 7 to 9. More than 100 registered participants came from across the country, Canada, England, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Macao, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASPAC is a regional affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), the national association of professionals, primarily academic, interested in Asian Studies. Next year’s ASPAC conference will be held at University of Hawaii, Hilo.

“The ASPAC conference is a smaller conference that allows for a rigorous and supportive atmosphere to present one’s research,” says SMC History Professor and ASPAC Chair E. Elena Songster. “This is an ideal context for graduate students to present their work and for more seasoned professors to present work in progress and learn from the younger scholars about new shifts and trends in the field.”

No individual can pull off a whole conference, so Songster sends a tremendous thank-you to the hardworking steering committee: Jennifer Heung, Makiko Imamura, and Isabella Navarro, and for webpage design by Kelly Luquet.

Following an ASPAC Board meeting on June 6, the conference kicked off on Friday, June 7, with a panel on “Literature and the National Imagination,” chaired by SMC Professor Yin Yuan. SMC alumnus Brother Andrew Wozniak, who teaches History and Religion at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and is a postulant with the De La Salle Brothers, embraced the Lasallian spirit and led a workshop on teaching: “Reaching the New Generation of College Students: Teaching Asia Interactively in Your Classroom—Lessons from the High School Experience.”

On Friday evening, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Kasimatis welcomed guests to the keynote address. Hilary V. Finchum-Sung, executive director of the Association for Asian Studies, presented “Murmurs of Affection and Pain: The Enduring Female Voice in Korean Southwestern Folk Song.” “Finchum-Sung brilliantly wove together insights from her research on Korean folk music and the value of studying something one loves,” said Songster. “Her research highlighted the human need to belong and therefore to gather. In her explanation of various forms of expression—she even treated the audience to a live demonstration of Korean folk singing.”  A full banquet followed.

On Saturday evening, Astronomy Professor Brian Hill led a walk to the top of campus and gave a small group of conference attendees a tour of the Geissberger Observatory.

Sessions continued through Sunday on such topics as “Art, Dress, and Narrative, Cinematic Makings and Remakings,” “Reformation and Revolution: Chinese Art in the 20th Century,” “Conflict in Asia,” “Women’s Voices and Gender Identity Through Dialogue and Diaspora,” “Asia’s Marginalized Voices,” and “Conceptual and Practical Reimaginings of Asia and Things Asian in Modern Times,” chaired by Songster.