Don Clark talks about East Asian studies program

At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30, the 1954 version of “Godzilla” will be playing in Laurie Auditorium.  At 7:30 p.m., Wednesay, Oct. 31, Dr. William Tsutsui, historian of Japanese popular culture and the western world’s expert from Southern Methodist University is giving a lecture on the film.  These two events are a way to bring awareness to the new Japanese initiatives of the East Asian studies program, led by Don Clark, murchison professor of history and co-director of east asian studies.

Q: What is the East Asian studies program?
A: The East Asian studies program is an interdisciplinary program.  Its greatest strength is Chinese language and civilization, which is a major. It has courses in history, religion, political science and art.

Q: Why do they feel they need to “amp” up the Japanese aspect of the program?
A: To broaden our coverage. It’s very strongly Chinese and it needs to cover more countries in East Asia. Countries like Korea and Japan are truly important parts of the region. So, although China is the cultural godmother of this whole region, there are other players in the world economy.  Historically, Japan has a very close relationship with the United States.

Q: Why were “Godzilla” and the speaker the perfect way to do this?
A: We started a course on modern Japan and we thought of ways to make it interesting.  We decided to study various types of disasters and the cultural and historical circumstances in which they appear in Japan.  And, so, at the end of the Second World War, with the American occupation of Japan, “Godzilla” grows out of the huge failure of the Japanese system in the Second World War and the catastrophic consequence of the destruction of Japan.  Bill Tsutsui is a good friend of mine from Southern Methodist University and is an expert on Japanese popular culture, so he’s going to come down here and give a lecture.

Q: What other events does the East Asian studies program plan to do?
A: We are seeking funding to pilot a trip to Japan.  I think it is possible, but we do need to get the funding from outside Trinity.  It’s my dream to have a one-hour course for the spring semester and students can apply to go to Japan over spring break and look around.  Students would be able to write about their experiences and keep journals of the trip.  We are applying to bring in a visiting professor to teach for a year or two on Japanese studies.

Q: How does the East Asian studies program impact learning at Trinity?
A: Around 2000, Trinity decided to begin pushing internationalization: bringing foreign students, foreign advisors, sending more students abroad and broadening the curriculum to give students a more global feel.  So, the East Asian studies program chooses to develop knowledge about an area of the world that we know will be essential to our nation and our lives.