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ALC End of the Year Newsletter
December 10, 2021


Ruby MacDougall shares the good news that her article “Harnessing Vitality in Kunming: The Intellectual Lineage and Artistic Development of the Yi Compatriots Music and Dance Performance of 1946” has been published in the latest issue of Asian Theatre Journal, Fall 2021 Volume 38, Number 2. 

Yanshuo Zhang’s article “Shen Congwen’s Idealized Ethnic: Borderland, Ethnicity, and the Spiritual Enchantments of a Modern Master” has been published in Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (Duke University Press; This is a special issue on “Chinese Literature across the Borderlands.” The articles echoes Yanshuo’s course in ALC in Fall 2021 (ASIAN 361/585/CCS 580), “Imagining China from the Borders: The Literary, Artistic, and Ethnic/Racial Borderlines of ‘China.’”

Miranda Brown has published a popular magazine article, “The Hidden, Magnificent History of Chop Suey,” which appeared in Atlas Obscura. It explores the gourmet origins of a dish often derided by American foodies as an American invention (“The greatest hoax one culture has perpetuated against another”). The article comes out of her efforts to reconstruct a Qing Dynasty imperial banquet with Dan Greenberg (University of Minnesota) and celebrity chef Lucas Sim (Junzi, New York). She hopes this article will demonstrate how invaluable mastery of an Asian language is, even to those engaging with an American archive.

Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on the following achievements:

Kuni Hirano sends in the excellent news that he will be a Project Lecturer (tokunin koshi, similar to Visiting Assistant Professor) at Tokyo Keizai University from April 2022. 

The 11th Perspectives on Contemporary Korea Conference, “Reclaiming the City,” took place on November 12–13. This event was co-organized by Se-Mi Oh and Francisco Sanin (Syracuse University) and was hosted by the Nam Center for Korean Studies and co-sponsored by the Taubman School of Architecture. The conference asked fundamental questions about the right to the city, which was heightened during the pandemic, and explored various modes of practices with the focus on social and spatial justice. It provided a space for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogue by bringing together artists, curators, architects, activists, collectives, and communities as well as multi-generations of scholars in disciplines and fields such as anthropology, architectural history, architecture, art, art history, film, gender studies, geography, history, literature, sociology, theater and performance studies, and urban planning. It highlighted how creative and critical endeavors merge to make a new political and conceptual space, also interconnected with the visual, the imaginary, and the digital.

The first first hybrid conference hosted by the Nam Center, “Reclaiming the City” utilized different formats of presentation both online and offline, including a mini-podcast series, film screening, panel discussion, roundtable, artist talk, and performative gathering. On the webinar, 237 individuals registered for the conference, with participants joining from 16 different countries including: US, Korea, Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and Vietnam. For more information, check out the following link:

Ruby MacDougall has received a fully supported internship for the winter semester at ITHAKA S+R, a nonprofit educational research and consulting organization, through the Rackham Doctoral Internship Program. Ruby says she sees the internship as an opportunity to expand her skill set and broaden her career horizons. (For information on the internship program, visit

Bairam Khan (pictured here) presented a co-authored paper entitled “Faunal Proverbs in Hindi-Urdu: A Socio-Semiotic Study (co-authored with Premlata Vaishnava) at the International conference on Hindi Grammar and Lexicon, which took place at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO) in Paris, France on Nov. 3–4.

Joseph Villarama virtually presented a research paper titled “Second Language Learners on the Lens of Utilizing E-Learning Facilities” at the 19th AsiaTEFL International Conference on December 3–5, held in New Dehli, India. Anchored on the theme “Empowering through the English Language: The Dynamics of Teaching and Learning of English in Asia,” his paper focused on the extent to which technology aided the betterment of language, organizational, collaboration, and problem-solving skills of more than 170 second language learners in the Philippines. The study determined participants’ acuity vis-à-vis the utilization of e-learning facilities and identified their common inclinations in terms of facilities and factors that inhibited the use of these technologies in learning a language.
Joseph also reports that his paper “Filipino Language Kickoff: From the Rice Bowl to the Tree Town” has been selected for presentation during the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Mid-Year Conference on January 26–30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Read on to learn about special events in ALC classes.

South Korean Directors Kang Sang-woo and Shin Dong-il Virtually Visit ASIAN 458 Film Culture in Korea

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, KANG Sang-woo, the director of “Kim-Gun” (2018), virtually visited Ungsan Kim’s “Film Culture in Korea” course. His film was discussed under the week’s theme of “Democratization and Korean Cinema.” Kang emerged as one of the most promising young directors in South Korea when his film “Kim-Gun” won the grand prize at the Seoul Independent Film Festival in 2018. The film interrogates South Korean right-wingers’ attempt to deny and revise the Gwangju Democratic Movement by tracing the identity of a mysterious man called Kim-Gun. “Kim-Gun” was previously screened at Michigan Theater as a part of 2020 Korean Cinema NOW, an annual film series organized by the Nam Center for Korean Studies.

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, SHIN Dong-il, the director of “Bandhobi” (2009), also virtually visited the course. This session was arranged to help students understand the week’s theme of “Racism and Korean Cinema” better. As a graduate of the acclaimed Korean Film Academy, Shin has committed himself to making films on social and cultural minorities. A film about love and companionship between an undocumented migrant worker from Bangladesh and a rebellious South Korean teenage girl, “Bandhobi” is one of the very few South Korean feature films where a non-Northeast Asian, non-White actor plays a leading role. Students asked various questions, including about migrant workers as film characters, controversies around the film, independent filmmaking practices, portrayals of Muslims in South Korean cinema, and many others. The session was the final of the 4 Q&A sessions with directors in this course.
Kim Larrow's Departure

In 2014, after the merge of the staff functions of ALC and MES, we had a new position to fill; Administrative Assistant. I wasn’t entirely sure what the position should be. I just knew that Patrice and I would need help as we navigated these uncharted waters. I felt an immediate connection with Kim Larrow moments into her first interview and she was always my top pick for the position. After knowing Kim for seven years, I understand that the connection that I felt was part of the Kim magic. Among the staff we have a joke that if Kim touches your arm, looks you in the eyes, and asks for “a favor,” you can’t say no. We accept it as part of the spell that she casts on folks.

Kidding aside, we know that Kim’s magic isn’t supernatural at all. It is grounded in her deep and abiding love for people and her determination to leave everything around her better than she found it. Kim’s role has evolved over the years. While her job duties have changed a bit, her need to nurture everyone around her has not. In fact, I think a perfect title for Kim would be CCO, Chief Caring Officer. If you have reached a career milestone, celebrated a birthday, suffered a death in your family, or any number of life events, there is a good chance that you received a card from Kim. If that card was signed by the entire staff, you should know that Kim bought the card, distributed it for signing, and passed it on to the recipient. For seven years she has been the coordinator of both department-wide and staff events. While we worked remotely, Kim planned game breaks and other staff events to ensure that the staff were interacting outside our Zoom meetings. She kept our team strong when it could have so easily fallen apart.

I am heartbroken that Kim is leaving. I will miss her smile, her positivity, and the sheer joy of working with someone I genuinely like and respect. The other piece of my sadness stems from knowing that Kim is taking the heart of the department with her. In the past seven years, she has injected a little bit of sparkle into everything that she touched. We will find someone to take Kim’s position but we will never, ever find someone who can replace Kim.

I hope that you will join us on Friday, December 17 in 6111 for an Open House in Kim’s honor. You can drop by anytime between 2:00 and 3:50 to wish Kim well as she embarks on the next chapter of her life. Refreshments will be served.

Kim's last day of work will be January 3, 2022.
Our next departmental colloquium speakers will be Bairam Khan and Premlata Vaishnava (pictured below). Please join us February 11 (time TBD) for a presentation on “Kitchenary Metaphors in Hindi-Urdu: A Cognitive Analysis.” A Zoom invitation will follow in the new year.

In other 2022 previews, on February 18, Christi Merrill will be leading the seminar “Building Translation Networks in the Midwest with HathiTrust.” Check out this link for more information on this event and the 2021-2022 Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Sites of Translation in the Multilingual Midwest.

The Japan Society has asked us to help publicize their “Flash Forward” 20-film series, which runs December 3–23. While the in-person screenings are in NYC, we can all enjoy half a dozen films in the series and an expert panel online for free. The series will bring new and notable Japanese films, breakout films (streaming for free across the U.S. and Canada) and 4K restorations of two rare Sadao Yamanaka's films, “Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo” and “Priest of Darkness” making their respective North American and international premieres. A full program (including conversations with the filmmakers and a panel discussion) and new series trailer can be found here:

I suspect many of us have just been trying to make it through 2021. Offering a lighter moment, the Japanese Language Program has submitted a reflection on a bright spot for both teachers and students from this past year. Thank you to them for finding something to celebrate and congratulations to faculty and students alike on these achievements!
The JLP’s Highlight of 2021

The 27th Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest was held online by the Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit on Saturday, February 20, 2021. Three students from the University of Michigan participated in the contest. Sungmin Cho won the Consul General's Award for his essay “Fred Korematsu's Dream,” Dalton Brown won the Gold Award for his essay “Chasing Success,” and Elizabeth Marshall won the Silver Award for her essay “What Does it Mean to ‘Speak Fluently’?” For the first time, our students dominated the winner and the runner-up positions.

Sungmin, a political science major, talked about Fred Korematsu, who was arrested and tried for opposing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He stated that he respects Korematsu because he never gave up and fought for justice no matter how lonely he was and Korematsu fought not only for himself but also for other Japanese Americans. Sungmin also said that the very reason he studies many languages and cultures is to understand a diverse society. He concluded that he wanted to help others who are not directly related to him, just as Korematsu did.

Dalton, an LSA student, talked about his experience of discovering the sport of parkour when he was struggling with his own personal growth, and how it helped him find the answer to the question: “What is the essence of freedom?” Through parkour and his encounters with people in Tokyo, he found the answer that true success is not something you can see, but a sense of freedom you feel. His delivery of his speech was very calm and convincing.

Based on her own experience of learning Japanese and teaching English to non-native speakers, Elizabeth, who majors in International Relations, explained what it means to be fluent in a language. She talked about her realization that foreign language speakers are not always fluent. Speaking fluently does not mean being able to speak smoothly and effortlessly all the time. Rather, you have moments of fluency, where you are able to convey precisely what you want to say.

Based on her own experience of learning Japanese and teaching English to non-native speakers, Elizabeth, who majors in International Relations, explained what it means to be fluent in a language. She talked about her realization that foreign language speakers are not always fluent. Speaking fluently does not mean being able to speak smoothly and effortlessly all the time. Rather, you have moments of fluency, where you are able to convey precisely what you want to say.

Hiroshima, 2014

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University of Michigan Department of Asian Languages and Cultures · 202 S Thayer St Ste 6111 · Ann Arbor, MI 48104-5413 · USA

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