We are pleased to announce that John Phan, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, has, along with collaborator Erica Brindley of Penn State University, received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to hold the international conference “Contact Zones and Colonialism in China’s South.” The conference will be part of the ACLS’s program on Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society.
The “Contact Zones and Colonialism in China’s South” conference will encourage interdisciplinary discussions from the fields of history, linguistics, and archaeology concerning this region. It will focus discussion around questions of colonialism in early South China and mainland Southeast Asia: to what extent were cross-cultural and cross-ethnic contacts characterized by colonial types of power relations? To what extent was migration into the region a form of settler colonialism? And was there nonetheless a colonial dynamic among disparate peoples and in local communities of the South when cross-cultural interactions were commercial or agricultural, and not directly supported by an imperial government?
Professor Phan, who joined Columbia in the fall of 2017, is currently completing his first book focusing on the history of Sino-Vietic linguistic contact, and is concurrently working on the emergence of vernacular literary practice in medieval Vietnam. In addition to the nature of linguistic contact and broad issues in linguistic change and historical phonology, he is keenly interested in the cultural and intellectual ramifications of multiple languages coexisting in single East Asian societies, of linguistic pluralism in general, and of the transformation of oral languages into written literary mediums in historically diglossic cultures of East and Southeast Asia. His current work focuses largely on the rise of the vernacular Vietnamese script known as Chữ Nôm, and its development alongside a sustained and flourishing tradition of Literary Chinese composition.