What are we teaching our students to be?

Ways of Thinking and Practising
in Chinese and Japanese Studies
Daniel R Hammond
Chris Perkins
Who are we?
• Daniel Hammond
– Lecturer in Chinese Politics and Society
• Chris Perkins
– Lecturer in Japanese Studies
Moving Between Disciplines
Teaching Practice
The Mountain Gate
What are we turning our students
Teaching outside an established
Research Design
• 1. Conducted a literature review
• 2. Interviewed members of staff in the
department of Asian Studies
• 3. Conducted student focus groups
Literature Review
• Not much reflection on teaching practice
• Debates on the colonial legacy of area studies
• Discussions of ‘new Chinese studies’ and
developments in theory… in Australia.
Initial Findings 1
• For me, it’s quite strange here because if we
study or live in Japan, you wouldn’t think
about Japanese studies as a discipline. You’re
a mathematician, you’re a scientist, you’re a
historian. Even in Japanese history, your first
identity is a historian, not a Japanologist. But
here…in fact, I don’t feel such a trend is very
strong but I hear some people say, talk about
Japanese studies. I think it’s a bit strange, you
know, talking about Japan as if it can…Japan
can stand on its own as a…sort of unifying
topic. So, for me, it’s a bit strange.
• Well, that is the old perennial question
because we all have different trainings and
come from a different background but all have
studied Japanese language anyway. So, it
doesn’t have a…it is not a disciplining that it
does not have yet a coherent methodology. It
is a discipline in that it, of course, relies very
much on knowledge of linguistic knowledge.
Everybody has to speak Japanese.
• No, it’s not a discipline. It’s an approach, it’s
an area of study but I wouldn’t say it’s a
discipline. I would say anthropology is a
discipline, sociology, literary criticism is a
discipline but not Chinese studies. You’re just
doing it, the geographic or a culture of the
area and then you will use a discipline to study
some aspect of the culture or this
geographical area, I would say.
• Well, it’s a regional discipline… I think Chinese
studies does probably tend to borrow a lot
from elsewhere in terms of theory and
methodology and approach and that it
borrows these sort of from other fields,
sociology and so on. But use these on
something that is delimited so yes, there’s a
lot of cross over but it’s also, it’s something.
Initial Findings 2
• Of course, nobody who does not speak the
language is being taken seriously in the same
way as nobody who has study-…done a certain
methodology in another discipline is taken
seriously. So that would be the first
prerequisite with what…which defines a
• when the degree programme was quite new
and one of the main motivations was not
really so much Japanese language as
contemporary culture…we had quite a few
students who perhaps should have been doing
economics or should have been doing
computer science or something like that. So
they thought it’s good to know about Japan
and to do that, you learn the language, they
knew that. But they found it a grind to do as
much as you have to do to acquire Japanese
which, of course, people who are curious
about language do as well….
• Edinburgh is moving beyond merely the
acquisition of language skills to look at other
area’s and it’s my view that students who are
studying Chinese are only going to attain a
useful level of knowledge if they learn beyond
merely finding their way to the train station or
how to order a meal, that they have to have
an understanding of the culture…
• To understand something in Chinese studies, I
think language is a big part.
• Undergraduate study is really broad. It’s the
language again which is sort of the major
component of it. And then, I guess, just the
general understanding of Chinese history and
culture… Learning Chinese is hard. It takes a
lot of time. Does it take away from the time
that could be studying Chinese, the history
and culture? Yes, of course. But I don’t know. I
guess it’s finding a balance there and learning
Chinese is a necessary learning outcome and
it’s needed for the 4th years when we get them
in our courses that the can read Chinese and
deal with Chinese text.
Initial Finding 3
• So, there is a linguistic ability…then there is….
An especially refined sensibility for
• The Japanese studies is a part of humanities,
isn’t it? So for me, very traditional…I think, to
help them to become really independent
thinkers. A person able to communicate with
others, think independently but also able to
have a sympathy with other people, other
• So it’s partly about teaching them knowledge,
teaching them the basic language skills and
teaching them about the history and the
culture. But I would hope that it would be
preparing them as full rounded individuals
who can then go on and find employment and
make their way in the world.
• Be critical and to.. I think, to go beyond the
surface on what China means. We teach them
to dig into China in general, and to break
stereotypes and that, I think, that’s probably
the most important thing. That we teach them
to break stereotypes that are still prevalent in
today’s society. Things have changed
tremendously but there are still a lot of
stereotypes about what China is and what
Chinese people are or should be.
What Next?
• Complete analysis
• Present and publish findings
– JEAS 2013
– To colleagues
• Broaden study
– More institutions, practitioners
– Other traditions and developments

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