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The Program in Inter-Cultural Studies in Asia

About Us

The Program in Inter-Cultural Studies in Asia (PICSA), formerly known as the Cross-Cultural Literary Studies in Asia Group, was established in 1996 at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. The academic activities of the program include seminars, workshops and conferences, as well as the publication of conference proceedings and working papers from seminars. In addition, cultural events of relevance to the program's research activities are also organized. Through the program, support for a Visiting Scholar and a Writer-in-Residence is offered annually.

The objective of the Program is to explore the cultures represented by the relevant Centres under the umbrella of the Institute, and to do so both individually and comparatively. The Program thus offers a creative intellectual initiative at our university and seeks to reinforce the cultural component within the Institute's general domain. Drawing upon scholars of Asia as well as graduate students from a multitude of departments at this university, the Program is at once a focal point for co-operative projects and a research pool, encouraging intellectual exchange through many avenues. It provides a particularly useful forum for graduate students.

Working papers of the papers delivered at PICSA events will be available at the office of the director, Dr. Mandakranta Bose.


The 2000-01 season started with a lecture series on Gender and Development. As part of the series, seminars have been given by Irene Tinker (University of California, Berkeley) and Sunera Thobani (Women's Studies, UBC). Leonara Angeles (Ctr for Human Settlements/Women's Studies, UBC) will be giving the final lecture of the series in the first term. An Asian Film festival is being initiated in October and will run through the year. A photo exhibition from the Phillipines and a slide presentation is scheduled for early November. The academic year will conclude with a third conference on the Ramayana as part of an ongoing scholarly project.

In June 2000, a five-day conference on Ramayana was held. Entitled "Mediating Cultures: Foundational Role of the Ramayana in South and Southeast Societies," this conference was made possible by a grant from the Peter Wall Institute and was supported by IAR, CISAR and the office of the Dean of Arts.

PISCA Director Dr. Bose (right) at the June, 2000 Ramayana Conference.

In February 1999, The Program in Inter-Cultural Studies in Asia successfully organized a fundraising event and a conference dealing with the Ramayana. The conference, which was held at the Institute of Asian Research, was jointly sponsored by CISAR and IAR and was entitled "The Ramayana Culture: Text, Performance, Gender and Iconography." The conference led to an accepted application for a major grant from the Peter Wall Foundation, so we can hold a Ramayana workshop in June 2000. Scholars from Oxford, England, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington and UBC participated at the 1999 conference.

The 1999 conference proceedings are expected to be published by early June 2000. PICSA held a previous conference on mother-daughter relations in March 1998, which led to the publication of conference proceedings under the title, "The World My Mother Gave Me."

In addition, PICSA hosted seminars throughout 1999 on a regular basis. Two writer-in-residence positions were offered to Anita Badami and Dr. Kim Sook Kang during 1998 and 1999. Each presented their respective works-in-progress to appreciative audiences. We have offered the position of writer-in-residence for 1999-2000 to Dr. Vidyut Aklujkar, a research associate at the Centre for India and South Asia Research. PICSA launched the 1999-2000 academic year, which began September 14, with a release of Dr. Kang's book on Korean women's writing.

On October 12, Professor Patricia Morley of Carleton University spoke on her recent publication from UBC press on Japanese women's lives. This was sponsored by the Canada Council. On November 18, Ms. Usha Rajagopalan, Andrew Scholar at UBC, read from her short stories. All of PICSA's events are held in the C.K.Choi building.

Writer-in-Residence Program 2001-2002

The Program in Inter-Cultural Studies in Asia at the Institute of Asian Research has established an annual writer-in-residence fellowship to offer partial support to a writer working on a literary work dealing with Asian cultures, on which s/he will be expected to deliver a lecture. An acknowledgement of the Program's support will be expected when the book is published.

Applications and nominations are invited for two such fellowships in the amount of $500.00 for the 2001/2 academic year. The application, addressed to the director of the Program, should include the following:


       (1)  Curriculum vitae
       (2)  Brief description of the book-in-progress
       (3)  Estimate time of completion
       (4)  Letter of reference should be directly sent to the Director

Writers-In-Residence for the 1998-1999 Year were Anita Rau Badami and Dr. Keum-Sook Kang.

The deadline for the application is October 31, 2000.

Looking Back... PICSA 1999-2000

The 1999-2000 academic year saw the publication of the proceedings from the previous season's conference on Ramayana culture under the title, A Varied Optic: Contemporary Studies in the Ramayana. The writer-in-residence program continued with the work of Keum Sook Kang, Anita Badami and Vidyut Aklujkar. A Film festival was organized, providing insight into the work of major Asian cinematographers. In June 2000, a five-day conference on Ramayana was held. Entitled "Mediating Cultures: Foundational Role of the Ramayana in South and Southeast Societies," this conference was made possible by a grant from the Peter Wall Institute and was supported by IAR, CISAR and the office of the Dean of Arts.

Looking Back... PICSA 1998-99

This year marked the transformation of the group into a Program.  The themes of the seminar series was The Culture of Story-telling in Asia in the first term and Readings From Their Writings: Poets and Authors in the second term (January to April).  In the first term, two seminars were held, one by Vidyut Aklujkar, the other by Anita Badami.  A Film Festival was presented in early fall and a February performance of Classical Indian Dance was held in the Music Building at UBC.

In the 1998-99 year the program offered partial support to two visiting scholars, Dr. Keum Souk Kang and renowned Indo-Canadian novelist Anita Rau Badami.  A two-day conference on February 19-20 entitled The Ramayana Culture:  Text, Performance, Gender and Iconography brought together scholars from several disciplines who have made the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana, the focal point of their research in the cultural, religious, social and political life of south and southeast Asia.  As one of the cornerstones of the ethical and political life of India and southeast Asian cultures, The Ramayana has influenced public life both as a verbal and visual text.  The conference examined the textual, performative and iconographical presence of the epic in early and modern times, as well as its impact on the construction and perpetuation of models for women's lives.  The conference was supported by CISAR and IAR.  Papers were presented by, Vidyut Aklujkar (University of British Columbia), Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman (University of California, Berkeley), Alessandra Iyer (University of Oxford, England), Heidi Pauwels (University of Washington, Seattle), Laurie Sears (University of Washington, Seattle).

An exploratory research grant for a week-long workshop was received from the Peter Wall Foundation. A summary of the purpose of the workshop and its projected outcome is as follows: Mediating Cultures:  The Foundational Role of the Ramayana in South and Southeast Asian Societies. Researchers at UBC wish to launch a wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary project aimed at understanding the role of the Ramayana in the social and cultural life of south and southeast Asia from the earliest times to the modern. Given its vast scope, they propose to test its viability by first holding an intensive week-long workshop with front-ranking Ramayana scholars to identify the future project's theoretical underpinnings, the details of its components and process, and the responsibilities of project members. The broad target of the workshop is the persistence and adaptability of the epic.  Not only by its projection of a coherent ethos but by the magnitude of its temporal and territorial presence, the Ramayana has developed into a text of cultural hegemony, affecting a wide array of modes of representation, from academic articles to folk-art, sculpture, music and theatre, and adapting in the industrial age to film, comic books and television.  Its versions across many arts and national domains provide rich material to study cultural transfer, especially where significant departures from the narrative or moral schemes of the central tradition are found, as in women's renderings or in recent dance dramas.

The workshop will attempt to reach a co-ordinated view of the textual, artistic and social modulations of the Ramayana through time and space. The implications of such changes obviously spill well beyond the specifically cultural and artistic domain to that of political ideology and economic manipulation, as evident in encryptions of selected tropes from the epic in mass movements in South Asia. The outcome of the workshop, including its edited proceedings and recommendations, will thus be a guideline for mapping the cultural space of the Ramayana by using the tools of several disciplines, which will enable the core team to progress towards a larger project. The duration of the workshop project is one week; the date set is June 19-24, 2000.

Looking Further Back... PICSA 1996-97

A bi-monthly seminar series was established, which included papers on fiction from India and Japan. The Program also presented films from India and Vietnam as well as a dance recital in a classical Indian style.  The event most widely attended was a conference entitled The World My Mother Gave Me. Focussing on mother-daughter relationships, the conference explored Asian women's perspectives on the world. Participants included faculty and students from UBC and other universities of the Pacific North-West, with one speaker from York University.

The second year of the Program, 1997-98, began with the publication of the proceedings of the 1996 conference, with a generous grant from the Institute of Asian Research.  Regular activities of the Program such as seminars continued to be held.

At the beginning of the 1997-98 session, a welcoming get-together was held in September.  A Korean film: A Petal (the story of a 15 year old girl, a victim of the Korean War) was shown in early fall.  Also in the fall, Arnab Guha, a graduate student of the English Department, read a paper on the encounter between the Indian philosopher Kalidas Nag and the German philosopher Hermann Hesse.

The theme of the winter term was Gender and Performance.  Sharalyn Orbaugh of the Department of Asian Studies gave a seminar on Gender, Performance and the Family Dynamic in Postwar Japanese Fiction.  Julie Nguyen from the Centre for South East Asian Research read a paper on Gender Equity in Vietnamese Arts and its implications in Gender Development.  The Program joined the Centre for India and South Asia Research, and the Departments of Asian Studies and Fine Arts in sponsoring a conference entitled Fluid and Contested: Tradition in South Asia on March 13-14, 1998.

How to Contact Us

Queries regarding the Program in Inter-Cultural Studies in Asia may be directed to Dr. Mandakranta Bose Department of Religious Studies/Director, Centre for South Asia and India Research; Director, Program in Inter-cultural Studies in Asia, Institute of Asian Research, C.K. Choi Building 251-1855 West Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver B.C. V6T 1Z2 mbose@interchange.ubc.ca Canada tel 604-822-6463  fax 604-822-5207.

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