Letters of Welcome

AAS Welcome Message

I would like to personally welcome you to this online conference. As a participant, you are helping The Association for Asian Studies break new ground in our pandemic era and beyond. This is our first all-virtual conference, and I want to thank our partner, IAFOR, for paving the way in making this happen. The pandemic has forced us into a world only made possible through technology, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I would rather see this as a unique opportunity. What you will and are experiencing in AAS-in-Asia is our new Plan A. In this virtual conference, we can span space and, to a certain extent, time in order to engage with each other in the ideas about Asia that we find so valuable. Our engagement is different – and many of us will be learning the ropes anew – but no less valuable. It is both mediated (internet and its capacity) and pure (content-rich exchange of ideas). Above all, it is our first step into the future.

For that, I am tremendously pleased and excited to welcome the several hundreds of you to our inaugural event! We are glad that you are here as we reconfigure what it means to gather and think through Asian Studies in the 21st century.

Professor Christine R. Yano (University of Hawaii)
President Association for Asian Studies

IAFOR Welcome Message

Dr Joseph Haldane, The International Academic Forum (IAFOR), JapanDear Delegates, Colleagues, and Friends,

On behalf of IAFOR, and the local consortium of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto Universities, I would like to extend to you a very warm welcome to this AAS-in-Asia Conference 2020.

This conference is exceptional in terms of the range and quality of the submissions, but also in terms of the circumstances in which it is taking place. First, we need to mention that this AAS-in-Asia 2020 was originally to be co-hosted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, but due to the difficult situation there it came to Kobe with us as co-host. Then the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, throwing all of us into unchartered waters in search of a new normal. Uncertainty has hampered organisers and participants alike of international gatherings and conferences, of which AAS-in-Asia 2020 is one. The political fallout over the pandemic has made COVID-19 not only an international health hazard challenge to international mobility, but also a poison ivy to free exchanges of intellectual thought. The conference theme, "Asia at the Crossroads" could never be more apt for this AAS-in-Asia, which itself sits in this intersection of challenges. The need for trusted platforms that encourage, nurture, and protect free speech and academic exchange in Asia is pressing, and this conference provides such a platform, underlining the importance of the work of the AAS, and its continued strong presence in the region.

On a practical level, IAFOR has spent the past several months working with venues, conference committees, local partners, stakeholders, governments and various policy experts to respond to the still-evolving situation as regards COVID-19, as the event shifted first from Hong Kong to Japan following the political crisis, and then from an on-site event to a hybrid event, and then finally to the wholly online form that the situation has dictated. Like many other institutions and individuals, this has involved stress testing the protocols, operations, and technologies that will allow a conference of this size to function, and for its participants to present and participate over a very full week of great and diverse programming.

I would like to thank my fellow AAS-in-Asia committee members, colleagues within IAFOR and its network, as well as the AAS leadership, for their enormous work behind the scenes to ensure the delivery and success of this very important conference.

At the time of writing (early August), Japan has been effectively in self-isolation since early April in a second period of sakoku (closed country/isolation), and this time I hope it doesn’t quite last the 214 years it did previously... and we need to show Japan is intellectually open and welcoming, if not physically.

This conference will bring people together at what is a very difficult time for us all, and I encourage your very active and enthusiastic participation: we have so much to learn from each other.

With warmest regards,

Dr Joseph Haldane
Chairman & C.E.O, The International Academic Forum (IAFOR)