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The Australian National University

The need for an ANU Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies Network

The establishment of the Faculty of Asian Studies and the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies in the 1960s reflected a national level commitment to improving understanding of the histories, cultures, politics, and economies of the countries geographically closest to Australia. In the half-century since the university was established, the ANU has become recognised internationally as a major centre for teaching and research on modern Asia and the Pacific.

A range of scholars and graduate students at ANU are involved in critical new approaches to the study of Asia and the Pacific. However, the institutional structure of the University has not kept pace with changes in the international academy. The structure of the ANU has tended to isolate Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies scholars and students from one another. The new college structure of the University has also tended to cement established disciplines and area studies methods in their current forms, setting up additional institutional barriers that have had the effect of inhibiting emerging multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches such as Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies.

The transnational scope of much research in Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies means that it often does not mesh with single country or even regional area studies models, and much innovative research on the region is now taking place outside departments labelled as "Asian studies" or "Pacific Studies". At the same time, the newer critical methods drawn upon in Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies research cross the intellectual divides that separate established disciplines, and scholars based in discipline-oriented departments may have limited engagement with colleagues in the same department working on predominantly Euro-American issues.

Because of a lack of institutional support, ANU Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies scholars have often developed more productive networks with colleagues in other Australian universities and overseas than locally within this University. This has prevented the development of a public profile for Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies at ANU. Rightly or wrongly, many younger scholars, both in Australia and internationally, tend to see the ANU as an institution more concerned to preserve established disciplines and area studies approaches than to support theoretically innovative approaches to the study of Asia and the Pacific today.

The ANU Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies Network aims profile the numerous internationally important initiatives in Asian and Pacific cultural studies being undertaken at this University and to provide a campus-wide forum for the significant body of research and teaching that crosses the frontiers of the region's nation states and traverses the boundaries of established disciplines. Some of these initiatives in research and teaching at ANU are detailed below.

The establishment of an Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies Network will have a number of long-term benefits for the ANU:

The network will alert undergraduate and postgraduate students to the scope of Asian and Pacific Cultural Studies research conducted at ANU, potentially increasing enrolments from students who currently look to other universities to pursue their interest in contemporary Asian and Pacific cultural issues.

The network will enhance the public profile of studies of Asia and the Pacific at ANU. The Asia- and Pacific-oriented research of scholars based in departments outside the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific is at times overlooked in promotional information about the ANU. This means that the ANU often undersells the full range of Asian and Pacific expertise amongst its staff and research students.

The network will promote research by helping graduate students interested in pursuing transnational and cross-disciplinary topics find PhD and MA supervisors, and establish supervisory panels that marshal the expertise of scholars from a range of fields across the University's colleges.

Updated:  21 September 2016/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific /Page Contact:  web.cap@anu.edu.au