By J. Lee
ST. PAUL (Oct. 30, 2011) — Macalester College hosted the Joint 60th Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs (MCAA) and the 1st Himalayan Studies Conference with the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS). Macalester’s Anthropology Professor Dr. Arjun Guneratne convened the two conferences which fostered international meetings and exchange of academic thoughts and research presented through numerous abstracts and topics by panels of students and professors from institutions of higher education across the United States, Europe and Asia.
The Himalayan Studies focused on the countries of Tibet and Nepal, struggle over resources, geography, cultural and social changes. ANHS President Geoff Childs introduced keynote speaker Oxford Professor David Gellner whose address “Upland Region or a World of Peripheries?” looked at the Himalayan identity and culture.
MCAA President Katherine Bowie introduced keynote speaker Asian Indian Dr. Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan from Yale University who spoke on “Forests and the Environment History of India.”
Abstracts on geography and environmental issues were discussed in terms of mapping, biodiversity, conservation, climate change, and nature conservation.
Religious topics in Asia included Buddhism in China and Japan, women in the Buddhist cultures, Taoism, modern religions, Islam and cross-cultural influences on religion in the Himalayas.
Discussions on arts and culture focused on classical Chinese literature, art, theater, and cinema; and Japanese cinema and literature.
Political abstracts on Asia covered Nepali politics, politics of the Chinese Communist Party, politics in Bhutan, and the power politics between India, China and Japan. Some abstracts covered the wars between Asian countries, use of nuclear power, current tensions between some countries. The history of Asian society included the Chinese Cultural Revolution to modern China; the migration of people in Asia to recent refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.
Presentations on China’s family planning, healthcare and state involvement were compared to Indonesia. A lively discussion of the differences between China which allows abortion to Indonesia which bans abortions included each country’s preferences of gender. China’s use of mid-wives is similar to the United States’ use of nurse practitioners. Only simple childbirths are paid for by the government. The government’s involvement in China’s healthcare is similar to the United States where there’s limited free healthcare for the poor and certain populations, and those with more money contribute to paying for their healthcare. There are also differences in the quality of the healthcare provided to the poor versus those with money. Health insurance was based on a person’s housing and work status.
Historical abstracts included women’s issues and the roles of women in the late Imperial China to the present.