Under the title ‘Leiden Asia Year’, Leiden University, home to IIAS, is dedicating 2017 to Asia. Throughout 2017, the university will be organising symposia, conferences, lectures and exhibitions, all on the theme of Asia, in close collaboration with the municipality of Leiden, its museums and other Leiden-based organisations. The Leiden Asia Year was announced by Rector Magnificus Professor Carel Stolker, on 5 September 2016, on the occasion of the Opening of the new Academic Year.
The Leiden Asia Year is prompted by the opening, in 2017, of ‘The Asian Libray’. As announced in an earlier issue of The Newsletter, this new facility is currently being built on the top of the main building of the Leiden University Libraries and will bring together under one roof some of the foremost collections from Asia in the world. The Asian Library is one of IIAS’s most valued partners in Leiden, among others, by sponsoring the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) Book Prize.
The website www.leidenasiayear.nl is the platform where all the Asia related activities of the university in 2017 are brought together. Additions will be made to the programme over the coming months.
Contributing to the Leiden Asia Year, IIAS will be organising and participating in a number of activities taking place in Leiden. The first that has already been scheduled is the symposium Collecting Asia on 17 March 2017. This symposium aims to describe the history of Asian-Leiden connections and to showcase the written (digitised) sources and the wealth of material culture present at Leiden University. More than that, it will also look at current heritage practices taking place on the Asian continent. Another event in Leiden for which a date has been set is an afternoon introduction to ICAS, the biennial International Convention of Asia Scholars, on 12 October. The actual (10th) ICAS convention, organised by IIAS and Chiang Mai University in Thailand, will take place in Chiang Mai from 20-23 July 2017. Scheduled in between, in April 2017, is the seminar “Reflections on India and China”, to be convened by IIAS visiting professor Pralay Kanungo, who currently holds the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chair for the Study of Contemporary India at IIAS/LIAS (Leiden University Institute for Area Studies). Plans for other activities are still being developed, possibly including a Winter School for PhD students in Leiden in 2017 about food and food waste in Asia, to be organised together with Leiden University.
The full-day Grand Opening of the Asian Library is scheduled for 14 September 2017. Different events are being organised in the week of 11 to 17 September 2017. These include a ‘Mapping Asia’ exhibition, an international symposium on the history of cartography featuring old Asian maps, a symposium and exhibition on Asian cuisine and culinary activities, a smaller pop-up exhibitions and a range of lectures. The film hall of The Asian Library will be used for showing short films of the CinemAsia Film Festival.
The opening of The Asian Library, of course, does not signify the start of Asian Studies in Leiden; au contraire, the considerable effort involved in its construction show that a focus on Asia, going back to almost the beginnings of the University in 1575, is as alive today, or even more so, as is was then. Dutch trading endeavours in the East from the beginning of the 17th century fortunately went hand in hand with scientific explorations of Asia’s rich biodiversity, pressed by the Leiden Hortus botanicus, and later with the systematical study of Asian cultures and societies. Today, this is reflected by the many collections in Leiden from Asia, including unique manuscripts, rare printed books, letters and other archival materials, as well as by a strong focus on Asia in research and education not only in the humanities with its renowned Asian language and cultures programmes, but also in such areas as Law, the Social Sciences and the Sciences. In addition, Leiden is home to a number of other institutes focusing on Asia, including the KITLV, the National museum of Ethnology, the Siebold Japan Museum, and, of course, IIAS.