Professor Peter Eckersall (Theater, City University New York, New York): Okada Toshiki’s Laboratory for an Ecological Theatre – The Eraser Series (2020-21)
Mar 3 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Join us for a live talk and Q&A with Peter Eckersall (Theater, City University New York, New York): (Zoom ID: 925 5728 2471)

In this paper I will discuss the recent work of playwright and director Okada Toshiki (born 1973) and his theatre group chelfitsch. Okada is one of Japan’s most important artists working in the contemporary performance scene. His work is known for its innovative dramaturgy: for its colloquial and fragmented postdramatic texts and estranged, distended use of gesture and the body of the actor as site of exposure. He is also working with media and design elements and regularly collaborates with visual artists and musicians. Thematically his work explores the emptiness of life in Japan after the end of the bubble economic ‘boom time’ of the 1980s – and life in the hyper-capitalist world more generally. Moreover, since the Fukushima ‘triple disaster’ in March 2011, Okada’s performances have addressed existential and biopolitical questions that have great bearing on how we live today and on what terms. To this end, my paper will offer an analysis of Okada’s Eraser series (2020-21) made in collaboration with the sculptor Kaneuji Teppei – as a laboratory for an ecological theatre.

Theatre has been linked to ecology since the 1960s and ecological praxis and ecocriticism are now at the forefront of scholarly work, activism, science and politics, as well as in the arts. Theatre can be both thematically about ecological themes, offering stories highlighting environmental crisis, for example, and it is also materially made from the reactive, transforming properties that define an ecological system. Increasingly artists and scholars have begun to think about and create theatre in terms of assemblages, material cultural forms, slow dramaturgy and non-human forms. Hence, Okada’s Eraser series begins with the question: ‘Can we use theatre to present a world in which people and objects are completely equal, rather than trapped in their usual subservient relationship?’ (Okada 2020).

The Eraser series is three dramaturgical linked nonlinear, mixed media art works that place chelfitsch actors in a forest of objects and continually defamiliarize and flatten their presence. The motivation for the work was Okada seeing a mountain literally erased and transported to the Fukushima region to fortify the landscape against future disasters. In my paper, I read this work in relation to Kohso Sabu’s Radiation and Revolution (2020) in which he argues that Fukushima has ‘become a big laboratory for testing the endurance of individuals and communities to radioactive contamination’ (Kohso 2020, 108). My point is that, if, as Kohso says, post-disaster Fukushima is a laboratory for the nuclear industry and for the biopolitics of living in a time of environmental collapse, then what is the Eraser series? I will explore Okada and Kaneuji’s work in a similar vein, as a laboratory for an ecological theatre and showing where theatre might need to go in the future.

Peter Eckersall is Professor and Executive Officer in the PhD program in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and is a Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne. Recent publications include: Machine Made Silence (ed. with Kristof van Baarle, 2020), The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (ed. with Helena Grehan, 2019), New Media Dramaturgy (co-authored with Helena Grehan and Ed Scheer, 2017), and Performativity and Event in 1960s Japan (2013). He was co-founder/dramaturg of Not Yet It’s Difficult.  Recent dramaturgy includes: Everything Starts from a Dot (Sachiyo Takahashi, LaMama), Phantom Sun/Northern Drift (Alexis Destoop, Beursschouwburg, Riga Biennial).

Professor Kelly Hammond (East Asian History, University of Arkansas) | Supporting the Faith, Building the Empire: Imperial Japan’s Islamic Policies in World War II @
Apr 21 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Join us via Zoom: (Zoom ID: 925 5728 2471)

This talk will examine some of the ways that the Japanese Empire curried favors to Muslims in China, and later throughout East Asia, in the lead up to and throughout World War II. Drawing on examples from my recent book, China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire: Centering Islam in World War II, the talk will present viewers with concrete policies and explore some of the ways that the Japanese Government envisioned themselves as the benevolent protectors of Islam while at the same time advancing their imperial, expansionist visions. For their part, Muslims from around the colonial world found the anti-western and anti-Soviet rhetoric expounded by the Japanese Empire appealing to a certain extent. By placing Muslims at the center of Japan’s imperial ambitions, it becomes clear that their visions for empire went far beyond what we would now consider to be the geographic boundaries of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere into predominantly Islamic spaces like Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

SPEAKER: Kelly Hammond is an Assistant Professor of East Asian history at the University of Arkansas. Her recent work has been supported by the ACLS/Luce Foundation, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Asian Studies.   

Professor Pierce Salguero (Asian History and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania): Metadisciplinary Reflections on Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China
Oct 14 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Professor Pierce Salguero (Asian History and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania): Metadisciplinary Reflections on Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China

The transmission of Indo-European medicine to China in the medieval period represents one of the most significant and best-documented instances of cross-cultural medical exchange anywhere in the premodern world. A survey of medieval Chinese Buddhist texts from approximately 150-1000 C.E. shows that Buddhism played a surprisingly central role in facilitating this instance of medical exchange. Dr. Salguero, organizer of a large international research project on this subject, will discuss how Buddhism and medicine were intimately intertwined in this period, and will raise a series of methodological and interdisciplinary challenges this fact poses for contemporary researchers in the History of Medicine and Religious Studies alike.


Dr. Pierce Salguero is a transdisciplinary medical humanities scholar who is fascinated by historical and contemporary intersections between Buddhism, medicine, and crosscultural exchange. He has a Ph.D. in History of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (2010), and teaches Asian history, medicine, and religion at Penn State University’s Abington College, located near Philadelphia.

The major theme in his scholarship is discovering the role of Buddhism in the global transmission and local reception of knowledge about health, disease, and the body. He approaches this topic using methodologies from history, religious studies, translation studies, ethnography, and documentary filmmaking, among other fields.

Professor Tobie Meyer-Fong (Director of East Asian Studies, Department of History, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland): A Life in Print: The Paradoxical Worlds of a Late Qing Traveler @ SS&MS 2nd Floor Conference Room 2135
Nov 3 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Publishing in the late 1870s and 1880s often under the byline “The Circumnavigator,” Li Gui (圭) made himself known as a cosmopolitan, a reformer, a commentator, and a victim.  He attended the Philadelphia World’s Fair in 1876, making him one of the first Chinese to travel around the world first class via the then newly opened Suez Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad.  He published dispatches from his journey in Shen bao, making use of new communications technologies to share insight into the wonders and challenges that he encountered abroad.  His travelogue, A New Record of a Trip Around the World (環遊地球新錄), and his memoir of captivity among the Taiping army, A Record of Pondering Pain (思痛記), both were published in book form after his return to China.  They also were advertised in contemporary media.  By looking both at advertisements and articles, this talk will examine the life of a late Qing traveler in its global and local contexts, with particular attention to the changing market for print in the very late 19th century.

Tobie Meyer-Fong, Professor of History and Director of East Asian Studies, received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University (1989) and her doctoral degree from Stanford University (1998). She served as editor of the journal Late Imperial China from March 2007-December 2018. Professor Meyer-Fong is broadly interested in the history of China especially from 1600 to the present.  She is the author of Building Culture in Early Qing Yangzhou and What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China.  Her recent research deals with a survivor of the Taiping civil war who circumnavigated the globe in 1876 and on recollections of childhood in the Zhoushan archipelago during the 1940s from the vantage point of both subsequent emigration and the island’s rapid 21st century urbanization.