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September 10, 2021

Here, thanks to your contributions and Nikki’s behind-the-scenes technical wizardry, we have the inaugural edition of the ALC departmental newsletter. I appreciate the opportunity it affords to celebrate the members of our community and their inspiring work.

Erin Brightwell


TOBIRA 1: Beginning Japanese, a new Japanese textbook written by some of the UM Japanese faculty members, was published in July 2021. The slogan for this beginning Japanese textbook for a new generation is: “Rediscover yourself through Japanese language learning. Connect with the world.” Congratulations to all of the faculty members involved in this publication!

PhD Candidate Randeep Hothi shares news of several upcoming events. He will be presenting a paper, “The Techno-poetics of Event Formation and Repetition at Sikh Television Stations,” in a session titled “Poetics Reconsidered: Poetry, Tradition, and Metradition” for the American Anthropological Association’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore. He will also be presenting a paper, “Transporting Sikhism - Truck Drivers and Devotion across American Roadways,” in the Co-Sponsored Session: Sikh Studies Unit and Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Unit at the American Academic of Religion’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Lastly, Randeep will be conducting an interview with Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University Elizabeth Povinelli for “Communication, Media and Performance,” hosted by at Indiana University. Kudos to Randeep for maintaining such an active scholarly profile, particularly during these tough times.

Kunisuke “Kuni” Hirano successfully defended his dissertation over the summer and is now lecturing at Musashi University and Chūō University (both in Tokyo). Congratulations and we wish him success on this next stage of his career!

Christi Merrill (PI), Syed Ali, Pinderjeet Gill, Faijul Hoque, Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, and Vidya Mohan have been awarded a two-year New Initiatives/New Instruction (NINI) Grant for their project “Decolonizing the Curriculum in South Asian Languages and Cultures Courses.” The project aims to develop and pilot multilingual, collaborative projects in and across South Asian languages and cultures courses. The members will retool digital applications for engaging with South Asian materials in UM collections based on course needs, with a focus on works written in non-roman writing systems. This draws on and contributes to ongoing efforts to make sites of translation and other multilingual exchange accessible in Michigan and the broader Midwest. It also follows a demand from students at both the undergraduate and graduate level to offer nuanced perspectives on the complex and oftentimes contentious subjects taught here such as ethnic violence, caste conflict, or gendered discrimination. Congratulations on securing support for this exciting intervention!
Yamato Kitahashi joined the Japanese Language Program this fall. Yamato is originally from Osaka, Japan and earned a B.A. in English Culture at University of the Ryukyus and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics at Texas Tech University. Prior to coming to Michigan, he worked at TTU for a year as a Japanese instructor. In his free time, he enjoys working out and growing plants. He writes that he is very excited to work with all of the great professors here at Umich; and we are very excited to have him!
Ungsan Kim is a familiar face to many of us but began his new position remotely: after completing his two-year LSA Collegiate Fellowship, he joined the ALC faculty in fall 2020 as Assistant Professor of Asian Cinema. In this academic year, he will teach courses on Korean cinema, Asian horror cinema, and contemporary Korean directors. We’re glad to have Ungsan officially on board as full-time faculty!
Sangseraima Ujeed joined the department last year after spending “a very strange summer” in Santa Barbara for the remainder of the ACLS postdoctoral fellowship she was on. She was born in Hohhot (the blue camp) in Inner Mongolia and moved to Cambridge, UK with her family in 1999. She completed an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and then spent her time as a graduate student at the University of Oxford before moving across the pond with her cat Houdini. Sangseraima works on Buddhism across the Himalayas and Inner Asia during the 16th-18th centuries and also teaches courses on Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhism in Mongolia. In her spare time, when her head is not buried in some old text, you might find the enthusiastic forager in her nosing around the many woods in and around Ann Arbor. We’re pleased that she and Houdini have landed safely here after their travels!
Lang Chen has been a research fellow at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and will be teaching her first course for the ALC this fall. Before joining the University of Michigan, she was an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She received her PhD in Religious Studies at Yale University and worked as a postdoctoral fellow for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. She is working on her book project on Tiantai Buddhism in late imperial China. The course she will be teaching is called “Can Buddhism Bring You Happiness,” which is built upon her expertise in Buddhism and her previous studies on the intellectual history of “happiness” in China. She hopes the course will help the students (and herself) live happily and think critically at the same time. We are delighted to have her in our ranks!
Elif Yıldırım is a member of our incoming PhD cohort. She is from Turkey and Cyprus. Elif completed her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology, specializing in the region of China, at Boston University (2017) and her master’s degree in China Studies (Philosophy and Religion) at Peking University (2020). Her current research interest is the interpretation of early Chinese philosophical texts. She has been awarded an LRCCS doctoral fellowship at University of Michigan. Congratulations and welcome!
The first departmental colloquium will be held remotely 3:00-4:00 PM on September 24 and will feature Miranda Brown discussing her pre-circulated paper “Of Bean Curd and Bird’s Nest: Distinction and Political Virtue in the Seventeenth Century.” Be on the lookout for a Zoom invitation.
The Society of Asian Studies Students (SASS) is an organization that aims to engage students who are interested in Asian cultures and languages. In past years, we have organized programs such as Media Chinese Language Table, Korean Language Table, Alumni Networking sessions and so forth. Every semester, we collaborate with an Asian studies center on campus to organize a book club with that area’s literature. We are an open and safe community for any student who wants to meet more like-minded people passionate about Asian cultures. If you are also interested in learning about campus resources for study abroad, language learning, or mental health, please feel free to reach out! You can find us on our Instagram page, sign up for our mailing list here, or email us at
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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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