Research Groups

Relocating Empires in the Asia-Pacific – From within and beyond postcolonial studies, there has been a resurgence of interest in the study of empires and concomitant attention to the colonies. Much of the new scholarship, however, remains constrained within the pales of exceptionalism as well as in pursuits of universalism. On the one hand, non-western imperial/colonial experiences such as that of the Japanese empire have not been properly engaged in scholarly dialogues as European empires prevail as the focus of major critical discourses. On the other hand, scholars of Japanese and American empires have not fully come to terms with the complicity of these late-imperialist powers with past and ongoing imperialist races. As a result, the experiences of former colonies and their legacies in the Asia-Pacific have been subject to multiple imperialist blind spots from the colonial to the postcolonial eras. The collaborative project “Relocating Empires in the Asia-Pacific” (REAP) brings studies on the Japanese empire into long overdue conversations with ongoing debates in colonial and postcolonial studies. We are interested in substantively and methodologically probing a nexus of comparable and overlapping issues that inter- and intra-regional approaches in the former empires and colonies in the Asia-Pacific can offer. By associatively thinking together and collaboratively inquiring into a cluster of comparable and interlocking topics such as modernities, visual cultures, religion, tourism, the Cold War, race relations, and so forth, we hope to address significant gaps and the unevenness extant within the current terrain of empire studies. By bringing together conversations that have been sequestered into separate camps, we plan to open a new chapter in studies of colonialism, empires, and postcoloniality. We plan to build an expanding and decentralized network of scholars not only in the triangle area (Duke, University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University) but also beyond, both in the U.S (The University of Chicago, University of California-San Diego, University of Toronto, among others) and abroad (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia), ultimately forming a global consortium of comparative empire studies. Contact: Nayoung Aimee Kwon (

East Asian Religions
– This research group, sponsored by APSI, meets monthly to read the work of a scholar in East Asian religious studies. Wherever possible, the group invites the author to join the discussion group. Once a semester, the group sponsors a special lecture on East Asian religions. Current membership includes faculty members from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, East Carolina University, Wake Forest University, Davidson College, UNC-Charlotte, NC State University, and Elon College. The group also includes a number of graduate students from area universities. More than half of the participants are Japan specialists. The group maintains a mailing list for the purpose of planning events. Anyone with an interest in East Asian religions is welcome to participate. Contact: Matt Mitchell (

The Triangle East Asia Colloquium (TEAC) was begun in 1972 to improve contact between East Asian faculty at the three major research universities in the Triangle Area-Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. TEAC has since expanded to include East Asian specialists and other interested scholars from across North Carolina and in the Southeast. TEAC chooses a coordinator each year from one of the three institutions on a rotating basis to organize its annual conference and to manage the affairs of TEAC.

Trans-Asian Media Cultures – Our scope includes both the arts of the moving image and also text-based “screen” media such as blogs, wiki-style sites, cell texting, twitter, etc. We are particularly interested in how these hybrid visual and textual media help create virtual spaces within which individuals may negotiate their relationship with larger communities, with various corporate and political institutions, and with the State itself. These sorts of media cultures may be approached in a variety of different ways. They can be seen as modes of communication, enabling the formation of discursive and transnational discursive communities that cut across the conventional nation-state boundaries. They can also be read immunologically, parsing a wide cross-section of individual communications for evidence of socio-cultural patterns and tendencies that would not otherwise be perceptible. They may be seen as a form of entertainment, though an understanding of this entertainment value requires a careful appreciation of the social normativities that the cultural productions either reaffirm or strategically undermine. They may also be regarded as a form of labor—not only in the sense of the material effort involved in producing these texts, but equally importantly in the sense of how the act of viewing these media is a value-producing activity in its own right (with advertising revenue based on page-views, for instance, becoming one of the dominant economic bases of the Internet as currently configured). In addition, we are also interested in how new digital media are positioned in relation to more “traditional” media, and how they are used both to reaffirm existing cultural legacies (either national or otherwise), while at the same time opening up the possibility of new communities and affiliations. Our group consists of Duke faculty working in fields related to modern Asian cultural studies, and based in AMES, Cultural Anthropology, English, Theatre Studies, Art History, and Literature. Activities include approximately six group meetings during the academic year, which typically center around a discussion of select readings or cultural texts. In some cases, we invite outside scholars and artists to join us in conversation. These meetings are primarily intended for the core faculty members of the group, though as appropriate we also invite other area faculty and graduate students to join us for specific meetings. Contact Carlos Rojas –

Language Pedagogy
– The language pedagogy research program actively promotes interaction and cooperation on research, pedagogic and administrative issues among the East Asian language instructors at Duke and across the Triangle. Contact Hitomi Endo at