Published: March 21, 2014

Every year, the Center for Asian Studies examines a particular theme through multiple lens through events throughout the fall and spring semesters, culminating in a day-long symposium that brings together faculty from across the CU campus and invites scholars from other universities to examine the annual theme in detail through lectures that draw connections between different areas of Asia by tying them conceptually to that theme.

On April 4, we will hold the annual symposium for theme for the 2013-14 academic year, “Catastrophic Asia.” The theme seeks to explore Asian vulnerability to, experiences with, and recovery from natural and/or human-induced environmental disasters such as seismic events, extreme climate events, pollution events, and the broader environmental and social challenges presented by a warming planet, including economic, demographic, epidemiological, and political threats. Asia has been the site of some of the greatest human and natural catastrophes.  From the 2011 earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Japan, to the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, to the legacy of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, to the ever-present risk of nuclear war in South Asia, Asian sites reveal much about the intersection of the political and the natural.  On April 4, the Center for Asian Studies will host four presentations by scholars on the risks, costs and effects of different types and contexts of disaster.

First to present will be Magdalena Stawkowski, Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology at CU-Boulder, who will give a talk entitled “Radiation ‘Adaptation’: Emergent Subjectivities and Health Strategies Among Indigenous Kazakhs at Semipalatinsk.” She will be followed by Jerry Peterson, Professor of Physics and International Affairs at CU-Boulder, who will discuss “Recovery and Lessons Learned from Fukushima Dai-ichi.” Then, Bridget Hanna, Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology at Harvard, will give a talk on “Catastrophic ‘Experiments’ and Corporeal Categories: Bhopal Gas Victims as ‘Special’ Citizens.” Finally, the presentations will conclude with a talk by Brian Toon, Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, on “Self-Assured Destruction: the Climate Impacts of Nuclear War.”

After a short break, a panel of CU scholars will discuss these presentations and draw them into a larger discussion of what “Catastrophic Asia” means and how we can better understand Asia as a region by looking at how it interacts with catastrophe. Panelists include Waleed Abdalati, Professor of Geography; Donna Goldstein, Associate Professor of Anthropology; Laurel Rodd, Professor of Japanese; and Emily Yeh, Associate Professor of Geography. The panel will be moderated by Tim Oakes, Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Asian Studies.

Over the next two weeks, each of the main presentations will be featured here on our front page. We encourage you to check back and learn more about the presenters and their talks.

The symposium will be held in the British and Irish Studies Room on the 5th floor of Norlin Library. It will begin at 1:00.  For more information about the symposium, including the times for the individual presentations and parking suggestions, please visit the event page here.