International Conference – Culture, Conflict, and Mediation: A Yale-Qinghua-Cambridge Joint Conference

International Conference -- Culture, Conflict, and Mediation: A Yale-Qinghua-Cambridge Joint Conference

Friday, September 18, 2009 - 9:15am to Saturday, September 19, 2009 - 5:00pm
Room 203, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 6511

“Forgetting, and I would even add, historical error are an essential factor in the creation of a nation, and for this reason the advance of historical studies often presents a danger for nationality…. Take a city like Salonica or Smyrna, where you will find five or six communities, each with its own memories, but as a group holding almost nothing in common. But it is essential to a nation that all individuals have a great many things in common, and also that all of them must have forgotten a number of things.”
—Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” (What is a Nation?), 1882.

春秋無義戰。彼善於此,則有之矣… 征之為言正也, 各欲正己也,焉用戰?
(In the Spring and Autumn period there were no wars of righteousness. Some were better than others, but that is all…. A military ‘correction’ is so called from this idea of correctness. When each state desires to correct itself, what purpose can there be for war?)
—Mencius, “Jin xin,” 2

Conflicts occur even in the best-regulated families—even in 天下 Tianxia, “All Under Heaven.” And the resolution of conflicts must pass through stages of both political and symbolic or cultural negotiation, in which redescription, translation or rephrasing has its part. When wars end, their ending is typically proclaimed in acts of language and multilingual documents mobilizing cultural resources to guarantee a forthcoming peace. But what happens when the requisite speech acts are not performed—when the parties are not on speaking terms, or when the belligerents do not recognize each other as “state actors”? How are conflicts prepared, averted, negotiated, reframed, by acts of language including code-breaking, diplomatic messaging, demands for surrender, peace proposals, final agreements? What new languages are created by conflict, or by the specter of imminent conflict? After language and symbols do their work, what places, ceremonies, events, and calendars need to be fashioned to anchor the resolution or enact its reality, however tenuous, and how can they again become sources of conflicts?

The relation of conflict to the language of governance in East Asia is historically an indirect one, for the ideal of the sovereign is a universal authority that reconciles and subordinates partial views. Yet symptoms of conflicts long buried remain legible centuries after their first sublimation. How can we read both conflict and its neutralization, through documents both original and translated?

The purpose of this joint conference (co-organised by Cambridge University, Qinghua University, and Yale University) is to bring together historians, literary scholars, archaeologists, anthropologists and others concerned with the roles of texts, primarily but not exclusively written texts, in shaping or averting conflict, and in memorializing conflicts once they are past. It seems that the investments (enthusiastic or anxious) surrounding the description of conflict are one of the markers of a cultural field, and perhaps a fruitful realm for comparisons. By assembling an international roster of scholars to discuss conflict under the optimally peaceful conditions of fall in New England, we hope to advance our understanding of the power of texts in making war and peace.

Michael Puett (Harvard): “The Anxiety of Mediation: Ritual Constructions of Peace in Early China”
Hilde de Weerdt (Oxford): “Defeat, Loss and the Other in Twelfth-Century Notebooks: Experiments in the History of Conflict, Language and Empire”
Timothy Brook (University of British Columbia): “Praying for the Dead After You Have Killed Them: Zhu Yuanzhang’s Plenary Masses and the Ming Claim to Sovereignty”
Hans van de Ven (University of Cambridge): “The Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty of 1953”
David Cohen (University of California, Berkeley): “Unconditional Surrender? Ambiguity, Responsibility, and Expediency in the Allied Treatment of Emperor Hirohito and the Imperial Institution”
Mark Edward Lewis (Stanford University): “Conflict Within the Self in Early China”
Peter Perdue (Yale): “Revenge and Reconciliation in Chinese Nationalist Discourse: Thoughts on Zhang Taiyan”
Margaret Hillenbrand (SOAS, University of London): “Photography, Representation, and the Nanjing Massacre”
Wang Ning (Tsinghua): “The Motifs of Conflict and Repression in Freud”
Red Chan (Warwick): “Fame, Fiction and Friction: Transformations of Hong Ying’s Novel K”
Jing Tsu (Yale): “The Republic as Colony: The 1895 Formosan Experiment”
Lydia Liu (Columbia): “1836: The Staging of the ‘Thug’ and the ‘Barbarian’”
Liu Dong (Tsinghua): “Yan Fu and Gu Hongming”

Full Conference Schedule and Poster are also available through the links below.

For More Information

Co-Sponsored with Cambridge University and Qinghua University
China, Japan, Transregional