Imagining Asia – a Symposium (16 to 18 January 2015)


Asia, it has been said, is ‘returning to the centre stage it occupied for eighteen centuries before the rise of the West’. This must account for the current attempts by, say, journalists, academics, and politicians to envisage the continent in numerous and often contradictory ways. There is the totalizing entity, ‘global Asia’, and there is, precarious and frangible, the Asia of ‘dramatic transitions, political, social and economic’; there is Asia, a ‘formidable economic power’, and there is Asia, restive with internal conflicts and external ‘power-political capabilities’; there is a single continental mass bound together by what is known as Asian values and traditions, and there is an expansively open terrain of ‘dizzying contrasts’ and diverse cultures.

Imagining Asia – a Symposium consisting of lectures, panels, workshops, and readings to be held on 16-18 January 2015 at NTU under the auspices of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and in collaboration with the University of Leeds – invites further and new investigations as to how we might set about understanding the overwhelmingly complex idea and material reality that is Asia.

The Symposium takes as its presiding metaphor the Silk Road. When, as part of its Five-Year Strategic Blueprint, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, announced in 2010 a list of Five Peaks of Excellence, one of these was entitled 'The New Silk Road'. Within the wider remit of the institution, the New Silk Road as a Peak of Research Excellence is posited ‘a natural route of progression for NTU. Its Chinese heritage and international standing as a global university make it a unique knowledge hub that combines the best of the East and the West’. As to be expected, behind NTU’s conceptualization lies the ongoing significance of the historical Silk Road. The name, an invention of the nineteenth-century German explorer, Baron Ferdinand von Richtofen, the Silk Road was a scrawl of routes and trails which linked East Asia and the Pacific with Europe and the Mediterranean. For long before and after the second century B.C., it was a contact zone of travellers, merchants, and indigenous peoples; of wars, conquests, and trade; and of cultural borrowings, adaptations, and interchanges. An extraordinarily rich palimpsest of histories, cultures, and cultural interrelations, it continues to speak to us across the long passage of time in potent and instructive ways of our own world and our century.

Click here to review the symposium proceedings.


Two keynote speakers

  • Professor Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the East Asian Institute and University Professor, National University of Singapore. Also Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University.
  • Dr Frances Wood, Lead Curator (until retirement in 2013) of Chinese Collections at the British Library.

Plenary speakers

  • Ho Widing, film director, Taiwan
  • Sean Golden, Professor of East Asian Studies, Department of Translation and Interpretation, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Gail Jones, novelist, Professor of Writing, University of Western Sydney, Australia
  • Can Xue (残雪), novelist, short story writer, critic, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
  • Tash Aw, novelist, writer in residence, NTU
  • Githa Hariharan, novelist, short story writer, critic, New Delhi, and Writer in Residence, NTU (2015)
  • Eddie Tay, poet, critic, Chinese University of Hong Kong, HK

[Organising committee: Shirley Chew, Neil Murphy, Seeto Wei Peng]

 Day 1: 16 Jan 2015


 Day 2: 17 Jan 2015


 Day 3: 18 Jan 2015