Association for Asian Studies

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is a scholarly, non-political and non-profit professional association open to all persons interested in Asia and the study of Asia. It is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. With approximately 6,000 members worldwide, from all the regions and countries of Asia and across academic disciplines, the AAS is the largest organization focussing on Asian studies.

The Association provides members with an Annual Conference (a large conference of 3,000+ normally based in North America each spring), publications, regional conferences, and other activities. The AAS is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies and participates with its sister societies in a wide range of activities, including joint participation in research and informational exchanges.

Shortly after World War I, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, gave Mortimer Graves a mandate to develop Chinese studies.[1] Kenneth Scott Latourette would recall in 1955 the "people of the United States and those who led them knew little of the peoples and cultures of the Far East" and that was "in spite of political, commercial and cultural commitments in the region and of events which already were hurrying them on into ever more intimate relations."[2] Graves worked with Arthur W. Hummel, Sr. of the Oriental Division of the Library of Congress, the Institute of Pacific Relations, the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the American Oriental Society, as well as with colleges, universities, and museums. [1] Twenty-eight people attended the first meeting of the planning group, which was held at the Harvard Club in New York in 1928, and further meetings were held over the next decade. In 1936, the group began publishing the Far Eastern Bibliography. On 6 June 1941 the Far Eastern Association was formed and issued The Far Eastern Quarterly as its organ, with Cyrus Peake as Managing Editor. [3] The Quarterly survived the war with the financial help that Kenneth W. Colgrove obtained from Northwestern University.[4] [5]

After the war, an organizational meeting of some 200 people was held at Columbia University April 2, 1948, following the annual meeting of the American Oriental Society, to which many of the Far Eastern group belonged. The Constitution of the new group was drafted by Edwin O. Reischauer, Woodbridge Bingham, and Earl H. Pritchard. [6] The first president of the Association was Arthur W. Hummel, Sr. [4]

In 1956, the organization was renamed to the Association for Asian Studies to expand its scope to cover all areas of Asia, including South and Southeast Asia.[7] Attendance grew from 200 for the organizational meeting in 1948 to 605 at the first annual meeting in 1949 and to 2,434 in 1963.[8]

The organization was further restructured in 1970, when four elective area Councils were formed, representative of each of the four areas of Asia: South Asia (SAC), Southeast Asia (SEAC), China and Inner Asia (CIAC) and Northeast Asia (NEAC). The councils were formed so that each area of Asia could have a proportionate voice in the Association and on the Board of Directors. In 1977, a Council of Conferences (COC) was established both to co-ordinate the regional conferences held by the Association and to discover ways to better serve the needs of Asia studies scholars in various parts of the United States. Area library organizations have been formed for South Asia (CONSALD), South East Asia, and East Asia (CEAL).

World War II brought many academics into the government, some in the active military and some in the Office of War Information or the Office of Strategic Services, both of which were intelligence agencies which used academic disciplines and scholarly forms of analysis. When the war was over, political scientists, historians, and social scientists continued to be concerned with contemporary affairs. The Far Eastern Association reflected an Area studies approach, geographically grounded division of labor, rather than by academic discipline, with the association subdivided into East Asian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian Studies. (In the late 20th century, the field of Central and Inner Asia was added.) The Ford Foundation provided money and co-ordination to area studies centers, which, in turn, supported the AAS.[9]

Some members were critical. Bruce Cumings, writing in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, charged that for the AAS to participate in this way of funding scholarship on Asia led to confusing academic research and government intelligence work. He further argued that the areas studies approach in general emphasized contemporary social science theory, not the classic approaches of Oriental studies, which used philology and studied ancient civilizations. Cumings called that an "implicit Faustian bargain."[10]

In the 1960s, some members agitated for the AAS to express opposition to American involvement in Vietnam. AAS President William Theodore de Bary called for the organization to take a position on the war that was "nonpolitical but not unconcerned." The active opposition to the war was left to the much smaller Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars.[11]

Each spring, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) holds a four-day conference devoted to planned programs of scholarly papers, roundtable discussions, workshops, and panel sessions on a wide range of issues in research and teaching, and on Asian affairs in general. The 2013 Conference was held in San Diego; Philadelphia (March 27–30, 2014); Chicago (March 26–29, 2015); Seattle (March 31–April 3, 2016); Toronto (March 16–19, 2017); Washington, D.C (March 22–25, 2018).