Seminar Talk & PhD Workshop

Prof Alka Acharya

EVENT 1

Seminar Talk

Talk on ‘Bridging the Domestic and the Global: Deconstructing Xi Jinping's Foreign Policy Perspective in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC’; VENUE: CSC, Ground Floor HSS building, 18th Feb 2019

Seminar Talk on ‘Bridging the Domestic and the Global: Deconstructing Xi Jinping’s Foreign Policy Perspective in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC’ Professor Alka Acharya, Professor of Chinese Studies at the Centre of East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) addressed a group of B. Tech and Masters-degree students along with Research Scholars from the China Studies Centre. The talk detailed the foreign policy perspectives of Xi Jinping in the context of 19th Congress of the CPC. Xi Jingping’s foreign policy initiatives are portrayed as more globally influential compared to his predecessors, and at the same time retaining ‘Chinese characteristics’.

Professor Alka Acharya elaborated on Xi Jingping’s foreign policy perspectives as a turn from Deng’s ‘24-character strategy’, which called for keeping a low profile. She also related Xi Jinping’s policies with Mao’s approach in the way in which development goals are being framed in conformity with China’s society, politics and culture, without adhering to the Western notions of democracy and human rights. Professor Alka Acharya also spoke on the direction in which the current Chinese leadership intends to take the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the aftermath of the 19th Party Congress, with concentration of relatively unlimited power for Xi Jinping. She opined that based on current world politics a bipolar world, as in the case of Post-War period, doesn’t seem to be the order of the day even with the“rise of China”. Instead, the Chinese themselves are more interested in adhering to a multipolar world.

Xi Jinping’s pledge at the 19th Party Congress for a “moderately prosperous society in all respects” was discussed by Prof Acharya to illustrate the prospects for socialist modernization and China’s transformation to a ‘great modern socialist country’. She notes that the XiAdministration has put the country on the path of becoming a hub for innovation in thefuture. According to Prof Acharya, China is disrupting the control and hegemony of conventional mainstream Western-led narratives and discourses, and this is happening in the paradigm of International Relation (IR) theories as well. She emphasized on the need to deconstruct Western-led narratives on worldpolitics and global order.

  • Report compiled by: Ashna Joy, Athira Anand, Ramnath Reghunadhan & Justin Joseph (PhD Research Scholars at HSS, IIT MADRAS)

EVENT 2

PhD Workshop

Workshop on Area Studies Research Methodology 19 February 2019 (for PhD Research Scholars)

Professor Alka Acharya, Professor of Chinese Studies at the Centre of East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) conducted a workshop on ‘Area Studies Research Methodology’ for PhD Research Scholars pursuing China-focussed research at the China Studies Centre of IIT Madras. 

Professor Acharya highlighted that area studies is a wider paradigm that contextualizes post- Westphalia nation states, drawing on political, economic, social, cultural and military aspects of research. Area studies has gained greater prominence within the discipline of International Relations among students as well as government agencies.

Professor Acharya underscored that while pursuing Area studies, a researcher should know the objective of doing research on a particular Area. If a scholar is pursuing China studies (broadly, undertaking research on any topic related to China), he or she should be aware of the significance and relevance of studying China in the contemporary world. Professor Acharya also stressed on how knowledge on China (or any area studies) should also contribute towards making policies which can directly/indirectly support policymakers in promoting the nation’s overall interests. 

The workshop clarified how International Relations as a discipline has been dominated by the US-led western scholarly community in the backdrop of the Cold War, which is mainly attributed to developing area-studies expertise to study Soviet Union. Professor Acharya, spoke about how multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity are transforming the contours of International Relations as a discipline. The study of International Relations theory entailed research in Area Studies through interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, for example: event-driven analysis wherein History is taken as an event and a specific theory in International Relations taken, contextualized and developed into a framework to provide an analysis and reach an inference. But these frameworks and theories developed in the West, were not always capable to effectively analyze issues or even identify viable research gaps in non-Western societies. This issue related to juxta positioning Western narratives and discourses over non-Western societies in turn led to incorrect conclusions and arguments. A major issue in this regard, besides the lack of  understanding of cultural facets of non-Western societies by Western scholars, was the issue of language. An epistemic approach to the language as the repository of knowledge, provided greater understanding of the cultural and civilizational aspects of the native speakers and their history. 

During the initial period, field study and survey were undertaken either by hristian missionaries or colonial administrators. Due to this Area Studies (particularly in the post-War period) entailed thorough documentation, an in-depth study and knowledge which was directly relevant for policy and administration. These remnants still exist in Western-oriented theories, tools, techniques, scholarly and academic studies, which is why there is a need to develop new techniques, tools, methods and disciplinary frameworks, as such. The issue of lack of adequate and appropriate theories to contextualize China Studies is a major drawback among scholars. Often, this has led to blindly labeling Chinese society, for instance, as authoritarian or dictatorial. This mainly arises from problems related to under theorizing, the use of incompatible Western frameworks and lack of understanding of language.

Professor Acharya also elaborated on the tools and methods to be used while undertaking Area Studies research. She underlined the relevance of utilizing theories at the center of doing research on Area Studies i.e. every research project should be based on a clear theoretical framework and methodology to support the topic. Professor Acharya clarified on the differences between Methodology and Methods wherein the former is a larger theoretical framework used to analyze research by using different methods, while methods are the tools used to support the methodology such as Primary, Secondary or tertiary sources. Two critical methods needed for the Area Studies are language competence and field work. With the help of language and understanding the societal environment of particular area, field work is essential to collate data by interviews, or by observation.

There are aspects related to inter-subjectivity i.e. connecting with each other, the researcher and the subject(s) or object of research in order to improving one’s understanding on the research area or topic. A researcher should be aware of the referencing styles, when writing Chinese names as reference, unlike the Western referencing, the surname should be written first. For example, while referencing Mao Zedong, Mao is used for referencing in-text or in bibliography. Also, scholars should undertake extensive literature review, and be able to categorize those into primary, secondary and tertiary sources. This process helps the researcher to identity the methodology to follow, and to understand what work has been already done and it expedites the researcher’s efforts to find relevant research gaps.

  • Report compiled by Ashna Joy, Athira Anand, Ramnath Reghunadhan&Justin Joseph (PhD Research Scholars at HSS, IIT MADRAS)