A brief announcement about an NEH-sponsored conference that Professors Nanxiu Qian, Bowei Zhang and I are hosting at Rice University, from March 30 to April 1, 2017. Although this is an invitation only event, you can find further information on it—including a list of participants, the program, and paper abstracts—at our conference website: http://sinosphere.rice.edu/. Best wishes, Richard J. Smith
Title: "Reconsidering the Sinosphere: A Critical Analysis of the Literary Sinitic in East Asian Cultures"
Rice University sponsorship (in addition to the NEH): The Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice; The Faculty Initiatives Fund from the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education; the Dean of Humanities; and the Humanities Research Center
Description: The basic goal of this conference is to explore the way that texts originally written in Classical Chinese ("the literary Sinitic”) circulated in premodern East Asia (China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam). Our focus is thus on historical processes—in particular, the ways that people, products (especially texts), ideas and cultural practices traveled within, and moved beyond, local, regional and national boundaries. Our specific goal is to break down the longstanding dichotomies that have been established in prior scholarship between center and margins, self and “other,” empire and tributary states, “civilization” and “barbarism,” and so forth. Instead, we plan to view each culture and each state as conceptually equivalent, thus avoiding the prejudices so often imposed by a single perspective. When seen in this way, documents written in the literary Sinitic can no longer be considered simply as the extended products of Chinese culture; rather, they become—as they always were, in fact—the products of a complex, sophisticated and continuous process of cultural interaction, exchange, and transformation. The term Sinosphere, then, refers only to the broad geographical area in which the literary Sinitic dominated elite written discourse; it does not privilege China in any way.
Richard J. Smith, Rice University