Center for Asian Studies News
“Painful Remembrance” is the subject of the Winter 2020 issue of Athenaeum Review, with five articles exploring how difficult memories are shaped and passed on through literature, the arts, and public monuments. The special issue is guest-edited by Nils Roemer, interim dean of the School of the Arts and Humanities, director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies.
The capital city of Germany is the subject of Roemer’s article. In “Berlin, Intersecting Traumas,” Roemer shows how the German capital’s urban landscape reveals layer upon layer of the city’s past. Monuments such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe offer testimony to the victims of the Holocaust, while the very “tormented and twisted zig-zag structure” of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum building offers a clue as to the history it exhibits. “It is witnessing,” Roemer writes, “that allows for the representation of past traumas and anguish.”
Through examples from ancient Rome, China, and contemporary America, Dennis M. Kratz explores how myths shape our collective memory of the past in his article, “Mythremembering: Memory and Its Fictions.” According to Kratz, the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, Senior Associate Provost, and Director of the Center for Asian Studies, “The transformation of memories emerges from the creativity of the human mind and our indomitable dissatisfaction with limits.” Mythremembering, he writes, “involves a pattern of departures from accuracy or evidence to enhance the power of a story, usually to the advantage of the person telling the story.”
Combining personal experience with historical analysis, Richard R. Brettell explores the differing responses to two American national tragedies in “A Tale Of Two Memorials: Dallas And New York,” comparing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza in Dallas with the National September 11 Memorial in New York. “In the case of the Kennedy Assassination, there was a greater inclination on the part of the city of Dallas and of the Kennedy family to forget than to be reminded of the location of this event, to take away the inevitable stain on the city’s reputation,” writes Brettell, who is the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Art History, and Founding Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History.
Sarah da Rocha Valente contributes “Exile At Home, or At Home in Exile,” a reflection on belonging, family and history, centered on a visit to her sister’s gravesite in Brazil. Valente, visiting assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses her experience to reflect on the meaning of exile, as expressed in the literature of Victor Hugo, Josef Brodsky, and Mario Benedetti. Remembering her experience across different languages and literatures, Valente writes, “Portuguese provides the perfect possibility of missing the unknown, the yet-to-be, the never been, the gone already. The word saudade is all these things and more.”
The issue also includes “Blinded,” an excerpt from Jane Saginaw’s memoir, Because the World is Round, which chronicles the author’s 1970 trip around the world with her father, brother, and mother who was wheelchair-bound from polio. In the memoir, Saginaw remembers meeting Holocaust survivors in Tel Aviv and Dallas as a young person, and grappling with how to understand their stories. Recalling an encounter with Mr. Hausman, a survivor, neighbor and shopkeeper in Tel Aviv, she writes, “I felt less like a nuisance and more like an intruder now, entering personal territory where I didn’t belong and wasn’t wanted.” Saginaw, now a student in the Ph.D. Program in Humanities, was formerly a trial attorney with Baron and Budd in Dallas, and later a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Athenaeum Review is published twice yearly by the School of Arts and Humanities and the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. Featuring essays, reviews and podcasts by leading scholars in the arts and humanities, the journal is availalable online, as well as in print at local bookstores or through the UT Dallas Marketplace.
The University of Texas at Dallas has established the Center for Asian Studies, which expands its commitment to programs that previously were components of the University’s earlier initiatives, the Confucius Institute and the Asia Center. It will operate in tandem with the University’s Trammell and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art.
This new center, reporting to Provost Inga Musselman, will be led by founding director Dr. Dennis Kratz. Kratz is leaving the position of dean of the School of Arts and Humanities that he has held for 22 years to take up responsibilities as senior associate provost. In his new position, he will join with other UT Dallas leaders in planning and developing support for a proposed new arts and performance complex that will encompass the Crow Museum and a new performance hall, while also directing the new center.
“This new Center for Asian Studies will provide a larger perspective on Asia,” Kratz said. “Our goal is to build a substantial academic institute devoted to the study of Asian culture, economics and history, and the interaction of Asia with America.
“If you study the history of America, you will discover a tendency toward misinformation and misunderstanding about Asia and the nature of Americans of Asian ancestry. It’s vitally important to promote a more realistic, fair and empathetic understanding of this region and of this community.”
Kratz, who holds the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professorship, said he sees the center as a place for research — a hub that will support collaboration among faculty members and students across disciplines, academic fields and interests of all UT Dallas schools.
He said that beyond scholarly research, the center will host lectures, cultural events, concerts, roundtable discussions, seminars and conferences.
Kratz said the center’s expanded programs and its location on the Richardson campus, near several Asian American communities, will enhance cultural fluency and literacy.
“We are making a serious commitment to listening and highlighting the contributions of Asian communities — those near us and those across the globe,” he said. “Every journey begins with the first step, and this will be a long journey toward the goal of international learning and dialogue.”
The creation of the new center comes on the heels of a spectacular gift to UT Dallas from the Trammell and Margaret Crow family. The collection of the Trammell and Margaret Crow Museum of Asian Art was donated to UT Dallas late last year, along with $23 million for a museum on campus.
Amy Lewis Hofland, senior director of the Crow Museum, sees many opportunities for the center and the museum to collaborate on various projects.
“We envision creating innovative programs together that highlight the strengths of the museum, the University and Asian communities,” she said. “I’m excited that celebrating and honoring Asian cultures will become a more visible part of UT Dallas.”
Dr. Charles Ku, former board member of the Crow Museum and former president of the Greater Dallas Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, said Asian communities are excited about the new center.
“Asia is now so important, in regards to trade, population and technology. We need to understand, to learn from and to communicate with Asia,” he said. “A great university is not complete without a center for Asian studies.”