In 1877, the German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen coined the phrase “Seidenstrasse” (English “Silk Road;” Chinese “Sichou zhi lu” 絲綢之路). Suggestive of an era of premodern globalization in which China played a central role, the Silk Road concept has had a popular and academic appeal since the 1980s. Dr. Chin's talk will focus on the Cold War period, when China’s diplomacy with the newly decolonized world reimagined an Afro-Asian Silk Road that was at odds with the Silk Road of the West and Japan. This semantic history of the Silk Road offers a window onto the historiography of ancient intercultural contact. While recent books, conferences, exhibitions, and institutes devoted to the subject have helped to give shape to a notional “Silk Road studies,” Dr. Chin aims to draw greater attention to the historical underpinnings and theoretical assumptions of this growing subfield.
Tamara Chin, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, received her BA from Harvard College in Classics and Literature and PhD from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature (classical Chinese, Greek, Latin). Her first book, Savage Exchange: Han Imperialism, Chinese Literary Style, and the Economic Imagination (Harvard, 2014), received the American Comparative Literature Association's Harry Levin Book Prize and Honorable Mention for the Associaton for Asian Studies' Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize.
Dr. Chin works on comparative approaches to antiquity, with a focus on Han dynasty China; ancient interculturality and the Afro-Eurasian "Silk Road"; and with broader interests in early and medieval China, modern conceptions of antiquity; economic and environmental history; literary and aesthetic form; gender/sexuality studies.
Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Assistant Professor Armin Selbitschka.
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