Bridging Asia and Latin America

By Thornber, Karen | ReVista (Cambridge), Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Bridging Asia and Latin America


Thornber, Karen, ReVista (Cambridge)


ACADEMICS, JOURNALISTS AND POPULAR authors are writing more and more in recent years on the interconnections between Asia and Latin America. Asia specialists, Latin America specialists and an impressively increasing number of individuals who have expertise in both regions are focusing on varied types of interconnections: diplomacy, military engagement, and security; trade, investment, and other economic networks; environmental degradation and social conflict; knowledge transfer, cultural interactions and transculturations. They are also exploring the many facets of the migrations and diasporas that have led to today's longstanding populations of Asians of Latin American descent and Latin Americans of Asian descent, as well as to today's steady movement of peoples between the two regions, despite their great geographic distance.

For scholars of Asia, the growing attention to Asia-Latin America interconnections reinforces the importance of thinking not only across borders within Asia (the primary mission of Harvard's Asia Center, which I direct) but also about Asia in transnational and transregional global perspective. The Asia Center has already done important work in this area. Most notably, in 2015, it partnered with the Center for African Studies, as well as the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, to create the Harvard Africa and China Program. Colleagues organized an inaugural workshop on Africa-China interconnections, held at Harvard in September 2015 and featuring panels on Business and Economics, Law and Politics, Global Medicine and Public Health, and Population and Migration. The workshop closed with a screening of China Remix. This award-winning film on African immigrants living in Guangzhou, China, and its focus on three African hip-hop artists striving to forge careers in their new home, humanized many of the complex dynamics between Asia and other regions discussed earlier in the day. It also provided context for other immigrant communities in China, including those from Latin America.

We reconfigured the Harvard Africa and China Program as the Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative in the spring of 2016, recognizing that African communities have been interacting with their counterparts from across Asia for millennia, with China becoming a major presence on the African continent only relatively recently. Joining the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Fairbank Center, and East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School in this venture were the Korea Institute, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, and Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. In November 2017, at the Harvard Center Shanghai, the Center for African Studies, with the support of Harvard's ten Asia-related centers/programs, spearheaded a two-day conference on Africa and Asia: "AfricaAsia Connections: Bridging Past, Present, and Future. …

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