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March 29, 2010

Professor Joseph Lam's AAS blog


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Joseph S.C. Lam is the director of Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan and professor of musicology, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Like Professor Gallagher, he also agreed to guest blog from the Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting 2010. We thank Professor Lam for his generosity of time and attention.

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Attending the first panel organized by a recently graduated UM student of mine, and realizing how well she presented her paper, I suddenly felt a sense of pride, which triggered many AAS memories. I first attended conference in the late 80s, and thus this meeting in Philly was one of many that I attended. Looking at my student, her panelists and one of the discussants who happened to be students of an elder academic brother, I saw their young faces, followed their creative ideas, and felt their scholarly energies. I wonder if I appeared like that to my mentors who attended my first AAS presentations, sitting in the first rows, and providing me with reassurance. Then I missed my mentors and old friends, some of them had passed away, and some could no longer travel. I left the panel with a heart heavy with thoughts about the passing of time and the changing of scholarly generations; there in those long corridors of scholarly, I was unexpectedly greeted by former colleagues and fellow scholars whom I had never met. It was nice to learn that the colleagues were all doing well, advancing their careers, and enjoying their lives--remodeling of their homes, their kids going to utopian colleges; some even had paired up with new spouses/partners. It was also reassuring to learn that fellow scholars still read my old and new publications, and found my theories and facts useful--I am sure some said nice things just to make me feel good, or to start a stimulating conversation! Then, I asked myself if I had been nice to people too? Did I criticize that and that papers too harshly? I knew I did not mean to be harsh--I am a nice guy. With a few poorly chosen words or turns of phrases, however, my questions hurled at the paper presenters could be construed as "unnecessarily harsh," if not hostile! I could only comfort myself by telling myself that I would be more friendly with the other paper presenters--I had to live with my academic faux pas. With such thoughts, I walked past the crowd and through the hotel lobby to the mundane world that unfolded along the streets outside the hotel. Quite a few time, I wanted to stop so that I could greet this or that friends, and to seize the moment. I refrained myself from doing that. I could not and would not stop the academic world from spinning. I would like to see more young and creative scholars taking center stage. I needed fresh air before I could engage with another academic debate.

Posted by zzhu at March 29, 2010 04:33 PM