AAS-in-Asia 2020

"Asia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship"

June 29–July 1, 2020 | The Kobe International Convention Center, Kobe, Japan

Late last year, in the context of political unrest and mass protests in Hong Kong, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) decided, in consultation with partners at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), to move its annual Asia conference from Hong Kong to Kobe, Japan. In Japan, the Association will co-host with The International Academic Forum (IAFOR), and in partnership with three national universities in the Kansai area, Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto Universities.

The theme of the conference selected by the previous organizing committee was “Asia at the Crossroads,” in large part in reference to Hong Kong as sitting at the crossroads of Asia, with its unique historical, cultural, and geopolitical place in the world. The new organizing committee, following discussions with CUHK, has decided to keep this theme because it underlines the extraordinary circumstances that led to the moving of the conference on the one hand, while emphasizing the unique nature of this new partnership with Japanese institutions on the other. Both reflect the reality that Asia is, indeed, at a crossroads.

The current social and political landscape in Asia only goes to demonstrate how timely the theme is. Individuals as well as political entities in Asia are grappling with existential questions of modernity, such as identity, diversity, and freedoms. The direction of Asia’s present and future has never appeared less certain, as rising authoritarianism, nationalism, and ethnic divisions increasingly threaten open society that allows universities and academic institutions to flourish.

To this end, the AAS is grateful to The International Academic Forum (IAFOR) and Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto Universities, who in the spirit of scholarship solidarity provide us with an alternative venue at the heart of the most historically, culturally and academically vibrant region of Japan. This conference is an opportunity to underline our commitment to the academic freedoms that sustain the great universities in Asia. In the spirit of solidarity through scholarship, we seek to highlight the continuing relevance and importance of such cooperation in providing necessary intellectual and physical spaces for the meaningful and free exchange of ideas, in an atmosphere that nurtures, encourages, and protects great scholarship.

We look forward to seeing you in Japan this summer.

Co-chair: Joseph Haldane (Osaka University), Chairman and CEO, IAFOR
Co-chair: Christine R. Yano (University of Hawaii), Vice President, AAS

On behalf of the AAS-in-Asia 2020 Organising Committee

Key Information

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About Kobe

The Kansai area is the heart of Japanese culture and history. The legacies of the past are intertwined with the impulses of progress and modernization, as home to the quaint ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara as well as industrial port cities of Kobe and Osaka.

Kobe, the host city of the AAS-in-Asia conference, opened its doors to the world in 1867, one year before the Meiji Restoration. Kobe has since been one of the leading Asian ports for trade alongside Shanghai and Hong Kong, making its name in the early last century as the international face of a modernising Japan. It has one of the oldest Chinese and Indian communities in Japan because of this history, and has been home to many European and Russian (Jews) emigres. More recently, it has come to represent resilience, as it overcame the crippling destruction of its city centre and port facilities in the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.

The Kansai area, 500 km east of Tokyo, boasts the cities of Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Kansai represents the inherent strength (sokojikara) of Japan as the vortex of Japan’s cultural, political and commercial activities for nearly 13 centuries. In times past Kyoto and the older capital Nara were the repositories of religion, knowledge, technology, and civilization that reached Japan by way of the Silk Road. Osaka has been the biggest commerce centre since the Edo period (1603 – 1868), pioneering in futures trade and giving birth to many large trading houses that would provide the social capital for rapid industrialisation in the Meiji era (1868 – 1912). Even though the capital has moved to Tokyo, Kansai continues to flourish in this rich cultural heritage and tradition of innovative thinking, as a place where East mingles with the West over time and space in ways that Tokyo cannot match.

The symbolism of Kobe and Kansai is important to Japanese identity, as it faces its own post-industrial challenges since the economic slump. The key to Japan’s renovation and continued relevance to the world is to rediscover and reappraise our own history of modernisation with a view to opening up to and engaging with the world in a more dynamic way.


“Inspiring Global Research Collaborations”

Founded in 2009, The International Academic Forum (IAFOR) is a politically independent non-partisan and non-profit interdisciplinary think tank, conference organiser and publisher dedicated to encouraging interdisciplinary discussion, facilitating intercultural awareness and promoting international exchange, principally through educational interaction and academic research. Based in Japan, its main administrative office is in Nagoya, and its research centre is in the Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), a graduate school of Osaka University. IAFOR runs research programs and events in Asia, Europe and North America in partnership with universities and think tanks, and has also worked on a number of multi-sector cooperative programs and events, including collaborations with the United Nations and the Government of Japan.