Dorothy Borg Research Program

The Dorothy Borg Research Program of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute prepares scholars for the challenge of studying transnational issues involving the United States and East Asia and allows them to explore new conceptual strategies and themes for understanding the study of US-East Asia. The Program is named in honor of Dorothy Borg (1902–1993), a historian of US-East Asia relations whose influence on political scientists like Gerald L. Curtis, Andrew Nathan, Robert Jervis, as well as historians like Carol Gluck and many others helped to bridge the fields of history and contemporary analysis.

The Program encourages and supports scholars whose work focuses primarily on either the United States or East Asia to broaden their scope to include transnational and global perspectives. The Program comprises research projects, postdoctoral training opportunities, graduate fellowships, and collaborative grants to support inquiry that crosses geographic, temporal, and disciplinary boundaries.

Research Projects

The Dorothy Borg Research Project on “America and East Asia: Past and Present” supports teaching, research, and public outreach on transregional issues using source material in English and Asian languages. The goal is to relate past experience to present issues in the areas of US-East Asia relations, to draw comparisons, and to explore transnational commonalities and conflicts. The project connects history and social science either by historical inquiry that bears on contemporary issues or by social scientific analysis that builds on a historical foundation. 

The Dorothy Borg Research Project on “The Making of the Modern Pacific World” explores the idea and reality of a Pacific community, past and present, in terms of intellectual and cultural exchange, immigration, environment, economic integration, business networks, war and militarism, and diplomacy. The project brings together resources from various disciplinary departments, schools, and institutes across the Columbia community and engages with academic institutions in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Australia and the Pacific.

The Dorothy Borg Research Project on “Global Circuits” studies transnational issues involving the United States and East Asia. Scholars develop the skills to use archives in both the US and East Asia, employ the tools of digital humanities, as well as explore new conceptual strategies and themes for understanding the study of the United States and East Asia. A central goal is to encourage and support those whose work is primarily focused on either East Asia or the United States to broaden their scope to explore transnational and global linkages, as well as to facilitate areas of convergence that can be drawn between the fields of East Asia and the study of the United States.

The Dorothy Borg Research Project on “The United States and Southeast Asia: Past Legacies, Present Issues and Future Prospects” supports teaching, research, and public outreach on issues relating to the United States and Southeast Asia. This project contributes to the understanding of current issues and challenges in the US-Southeast Asian relationship by applying an interdisciplinary approach in the areas of curriculum development; generating new knowledge and research through collaboration across Columbia and with other universities; and high-profile public events.

One component of the project, “Tradition, Identity, and Contemporary Southeast Asian Political Economies,” includes a summer training workshop, Weaving Knowledge, that examines how Southeast Asian nations look to local traditional crafts as a central part of regional and even national identities. Specifically, it explores how these traditional crafts have increasingly been integrated into economic planning, both for job creation and tourism, and the role of crafts in political representation in Southeast Asia. The Weaving Knowledge workshop was held in 2017 and 2019, with the next iteration planned in 2021.

Collaborative Grants

Collaborative grants are available to WEAI members to support conferences, workshops, and collaborative research. Projects should (1) include the use of archives in both the US and East Asia; (2) promote inquiry that enhances the understanding of US-East Asia relationships; (3) cross geographic, temporal, or disciplinary boundaries; (4) create new opportunities for dialogue with the region; and (5) explore new teaching and research strategies. 

About Dorothy Borg

Dorothy Borg (1902–1993) was a distinguished scholar and historian specializing in US-East Asian relations. A prominent researcher in her field, she mentored, lectured, and directed programs and conferences that furthered the development of East Asian studies. Born in 1902 in Elberon, New Jersey, she graduated from Wellesley College in 1923 and went on to receive her master’s degree in 1931 and doctoral degree in 1946 at Columbia University.

She was a research associate at the Institute of Pacific Relations from 1938 to 1959, including three years in Beijing and Shanghai. At Peking National University, she was a member of the political science department and taught a course in international relations from 1947 to 1948. At Harvard University, she was a research associate at the East Asian Research Center from 1959 to 1961. Finally, at Columbia University, she received a presidential appointment in 1962 as a Senior Research Associate at the East Asian Institute (renamed the Weatherhead East Asian Institute in 2003) where she worked until her retirement.

Her writings include American Policy and the Chinese Revolution, 1925 – 1928 (New York: American Institute of Pacific Relations; Macmillan, 1947). She also co-authored with Shumpei Okamoto, Pearl Harbor as History: Japanese-American Relations, 1931 – 1941 (Columbia University Press, 1973). Another co-authored work is Uncertain Years: Chinese American Relations, 1947 – 1950 (Columbia University Press, 1980) with Waldo H. Heinrichs. One of her most notable works is The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933 – 1938 (Harvard University Press, 1964), for which she received the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American History in 1965.