What are Asian Studies? It is a question which sometimes looms large on the mind of an editor of a European Newsletter about Asian Studies. By and large information from all parts of the world threatens to overwhelm the desks of the editorial office. The bewildering diversity and richness of present-day studies in the field of Asian Studies is undeniably stimulating. The channelling of the information is a challenge which can be met by using of both traditional and modern means of communication. An example of the latter is the opening of our own World Wide Web page which gives information about the IIAS and its activities and of course there is the electronic version of this newsletter, sections of which are updated on a day-to-day basis. Though this electronic information will encourage dialogue it will never entirely replace traditional forms of exchange such as meetings at which one is actually present. In the month of April IIAS representatives paid three visits to engage in such meetings in Pakistan, India and the United States.
Pakistan and India
In Pakistan the IIAS delegation paid visits to universities with Asian Studies departments and area studies centres in the field of Asian Studies. An MoU was concluded with the University Grants Commission of Pakistan which acts as an umbrella organisation for the for research institutes in the field of Asian Studies. The MoU stipulates the exchange of scholars and information. Plans exist to organize a seminar in conjunction with a exhibition in the Leiden Ethnographical Museum in 1997 on the Chandara Culture. With an eye to future cooperation negotiations will be continued for the purpose of founding a Chair of Pakistan Studies to be facilitated by the IIAS.
In India the IIAS delegation paid visits to Delhi and other universities and area studies centres in the field of Asian Studies. An informal agreement was concluded between the ICCR and the IIAS which will serve as a gateway to each others' countries. The ties already existing between the IIAS and Institut Francais de Pondicherry (IFP), which is one of the research institutes of the École Française d'Extrême Orient, were reinforced. The IFP is one of the main laboratories for the internationalization of Asian Research. It is a place where Indian and Western researchers work together on research projects not only in the Humanities and Social Sciences, but also where the Natural Sciences are not forgotten. One example of a project which touches on all three groups of sciences is the Indigenous Technology. This 'European' research institute is completely embedded in Indian society, yet it remains in close contact with other research in the region and in the rest of the world. The IFP could become one of the first truly 'European' research institutes in Asia and serve as an example for the many national European research institutes in Asia.
Turning to Europe, we are now noticing a mounting awareness among European Asianists with different disciplinary and regional backgrounds that reciprocal cooperation is of prime importance. The results of this heightened conciousness are rapidly gathering momentum. The next meeting of the Asia Committee is scheduled for 2 and 3 September and its brochure will be launched during that meeting. The ESF Asia Committee plays an important role in steering this awareness. Apart from the goal of stimulating Asian Studies in general and promoting cooperation among Asianists in particular, the Asia Committee concentrates on three spearheads: the implementation of a fellowship scheme; the organization of seminars; and the building up of the European Database for Asian Studies. Recently governments in several countries have contributed towards the setting up a European fellowship scheme which has reached the implementation phase. The organization of international seminars is the second spearhead of the Asia Committee. So far three seminars have been held and five more are planned in the autumn of this year. Reports of the seminars held will be published in the next newsletter. A third focal point of the Committee is the European Database for Asian Studies, of which the execution has been entrusted to the IIAS.
European Database for Asian Studies [EDAS]
In the last number of the newsletter we included the Preliminary Guide to Asian Studies in Europe. This guide has had a mixed reception. Negative feedback has focused mainly on the incomplete character of the guide. By its very nature a preliminary guide is incomplete and this is precisely what has provoked so much positive feedback in the form of useful tips, addresses, etc. Even more positively the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Research has granted the Asia Committee US $ 20,000 for the EDAS.
On page 8 of the current issue is a questionnaire. Would you please fill it and return it to us if you have not already done so? On the basis of the addresses currently in our file the total number of Asianists which I had previously estimated to be around 12,000 has had to be readjusted. Going by the information at present in our possession we estimate that there are between 6 to 8000 European Asianists both working in Europe and abroad. This estimate, if accurate, would be practically the same as the number of Asianists working in United States which hovers around the 7000. In the first half of 1996 we hope to publish a European directory. The second phase of the Dutch pilot project has been 'completed' with the publication of the IIAS Guide to Asian Studies in the Netherlands '95. It contains 1000 addresses of Dutch Asianists, an index on regional specializations with disciplinary specilisations added to it, institutes, organizations, and newsletters in the field of Asian Studies. The third (perpetual) phase consists of the updating of the database. In the future Asianists will be contacted once a year for an update of their entry. The separate Dutch publication will be merged with its European counterpart next year.
The European Union
The augmentation of activities in the field of Asian Studies on a European level and an increasing visibility of what until recently was a virtually unknown entity for outsiders has certainly contributed to a rethinking of the economic, scientific, and cultural Asia policy of the European Union. The main objective of the new Asia Strategy of the EU formulated in 1994 is to enhance the mutual understanding and commitments between the two regions and to draw the attention of Asian and European decision makers to the importance of these relationships. As part of the Asia strategy the EU is making preparations for the organization of a Cultural Forum on Euro-Aian relationship which will be held in Brussels by the end of 1995 or the beginning of 1996. An temporary staff member of the IIAS has been assigned on behalf of the IIAS to assist the Cultural Working Group of the Asia Directorate in Brussels with the preparations. The purpose of the Cultural Forum is to provide for an opportunity for high-level resource persons to reflects upon diverse topics which can be expected to be succeptible to the interest of Asian and European decision makers such as: the unity and diversity of Asia and the flows of scientific and technological exchange.
At present the degree of organisation of Asian Studies in the USA is still much more developed than in Europe (or Asia for that matter). While we are still struggling to collect basic data on Asian Studies in Europe, for a long time the Association for Asian Studies (founded 1955) has had this pertinent information on its more than 7000 members at its fingertips. The annual meeting of the AAS, 5-9 April took place against the backdrop thousands of blossoming cherry trees (a gift from the Japanese government) in Washington. Previous contacts between the AAS and the IIAS resulted in a visit by an IIAS delegation to this extremely professionally organized meeting which was attended by over 3000 participants from all regional and disciplinary backgrounds. The majority of American Asianists is specialized in the field of East Asian Studies in particular in the Social Sciences. In that respect European and American Asian research complement each other, because Europe tends to focus more heavily on South and Southeast Asia. 500 panels were held in multi-parallel sessions. An experiment with a poster session was successfully introduced as an alternative to the traditional lecture. It was also the opportunity for meetings of regional and disciplinary Asian groups. A jobmarket for Asianists was organized and last but not least there was the Asia market at which more than 100 exhibitors displayed their products in the field of Asian Studies. In general it was a vitalizing and inspiring meeting where there were ample opportunities to discuss new ideas with colleagues and others interested parties. The IIAS also rented a booth where it distributed its newsletters and publications and provided information about the IIAS. It attracted marked attention from our American colleagues. Several editors of publishing houses and editorial policy makers were asked by us to express their views on the development of Asian Studies from the commercial point of view and about the series they are editing. One such an example in the present issue is the article on the successful 'Studies in Imperialism' series of Manchester University Press.
Internationalization of Asian Studies
The meeting also brought us into contact with hundreds of American and Asian colleagues. Little wonder then that a formal meeting between the AAS, the IIAS, and representatives from Asian and Australian institutes focused on the internationalization of Asian Studies at both research and organizational level. At a research level ideas were put forward to launch collaborative research projects which will not be executed by just one research institute, but by a network of research institutes encompassing the globe. Undoubtedly internationalization will be high on the agenda in Asian Studies in the years to come.
Collaboration at an organizational level is gradually building up. This is given concrete expression in MoUs in which the ways and means of cooperation are stipulated. The cooperation between the AAS and the IIAS is a case in point. After the mutual exchange of editors between its newsletters it is the intention to publish a joint World Guide to Institutes in the field of Asian Studies which will be presented during the next annual meeting of the AAS in Hawai'i in 1996. Also on the agenda are the insert of each others' newsletters and a joint regional conference of the AAS and the IIAS will be organized in Europe in 1997. Other avenues will be explored and worked out in an agreement which will be finalized this year.
IIAS: the international facility
Closer to home the official opening of the building from 10 to 12 May, which the IIAS shares with other research groups in the field of Asian Studies, was marked by a symposium 'Asian and African Performing Arts' and the annual IIAS lecture deliverd by Om Prakash entitled: Asia and the Pre-modern World Economy. The Netherlands Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education and Science, A. Nuis, delivered the opening address. In it he waxed positive about the internatio- nal facility of the IIAS. Should extra money be granted to the IIAS for this international facility it would be even better able to act as an international facilitating institute in the field of Asian Studies.
This elevated thought brings me practically back to the day to day reality of office life at IIAS: replying to many messages from colleagues not only in the traditional strongholds of Asian Studies but very specifically to those Asianists trying to come into contact with 'mainstream' Asian Studies in Europe such as Ulo Valk in Estonia, Florentino Rodao in Spain, Irene Moilanen Finland, Afred F. Majewicz in Poland, and Sergei Serebriany in Russia.
Yet we should also ask ourselves what is mainstream? A French colleague has made us painfully aware of the different (national) traditions of Asian research in Europe. His letter will be included in a new section in the next newsletter, 'Letter to the Editor' which will enhance the forum function of this newsletter. It will add welcome fuel to the ongoing dialogue between Asianists in Europe which creates unity in diversity.