A Talk with Dr. Hilary Finchum-Sung, the New Executive Director of the Association for Asian Studies

Library Resources | Dr. Hilary Finchum-Sung| April 11, 2019

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Dr. Hilary Finchum-Sung, the incoming Executive Director of The Association for Asian Studies, publisher of Bibliography of Asian Studies, talks to EBSCO.

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is a scholarly, non-political, non-profit professional association open to all persons interested in the study of Asia. We discussed Asian Studies research with Dr. Hilary Finchum-Sung, the AAS’s new executive director.

In its announcement about Dr. Finchum-Sung’s new role, the Association for Asian Studies stated, “As Executive Director, Finchum-Sung plans to build on the Association’s existing work in publications, networking, and outreach. She strongly believes that the AAS of the 21st century represents an international partnership with scholars of and educators about Asia around the world. Her aim is to support the Association’s ability to strengthen networks across regional and national borders, embracing the diverse talents and trajectories that both maintain their relevance and expand their contributions across time and space. An artist at heart, Finchum-Sung also envisions AAS’s scope broadening to incorporate more naturally and fully the fine and performing arts into the intellectual impact of Asian Studies.” (Association for Asian Studies)

The Association’s annual convention concluded in late March, and we asked Dr. Finchum-Sung to talk with us about Asian studies.

Why is the field of Asian studies so relevant today?

Asian studies developed as a field of studies incorporating diverse disciplinary perspectives on Asia. In the 21st century, Asian studies remains essential and, perhaps, even more significant in our world because it serves as a crucial medium for bridging geographic and (often perceived) academic and sociocultural divides. As the world appears to become smaller due to technological innovations, the rapidity at which we experience “clashes” of viewpoints increases in momentum. Asian studies embodies the continual quest for dialogue and finding ways by which we can all benefit from varied perspectives.

In the 21st century, Asian studies remains essential and, perhaps, even more significant in our world because it serves as a crucial medium for bridging geographic and (often perceived) academic and sociocultural divides.

Generally, what are some of the challenges for scholars of Asian studies?

Over the years, I’ve also been able to appreciate the crucial role we play as scholars of Asia. Certainly, the outlook framing research methods and paradigms differ from location to location, but herein lay our strengths: the ability to cross those borders and build those bridges. I believe we should continue to thrive for inclusivity, making this the guiding light in our global academic work. One of the major challenges for scholars is embracing the nuanced layers of experience in our research. It is easy to contrast “East” and “West,” but the challenge lies in rejecting such blanket assumptions and appreciating the diverse voices emerging as we conduct our research. Another, perhaps, lies in academic diversity. Asian studies historically has been a field heavily populated by historians and literature specialists with contributions by scholars in the social sciences, linguistics and economics. The challenge lies in embracing the differences that make Asian studies open to diverse styles of writing and research. In the 21st century, scholars in the arts, digital technologies and many other areas are contributing to Asian studies in unprecedented ways.

Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS) is published by the Association for Asian Studies and available on the EBSCOhost and EBSCO Discovery Service platforms. It is the most comprehensive Western-language bibliographical database for research on East, Southeast and South Asia, covering all subjects with special focus on the humanities and social sciences.

What does a specialized index, like BAS, offer researchers?

Indexes like BAS offer a comprehensive database for scholars in a particular field. In this sense, Bibliography of Asian Studies serves a very important function in the field of Asian studies, providing a centralized location for finding resources important to the many disciplinary approaches inherent to Asian studies. In addition, sources which may be difficult to locate in other databases have been compiled and are included within the BAS database.

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Dr. Hilary Finchum-Sung
Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies

Hilary Finchum-Sung (Ph.D., Indiana University) is a specialist in Korean music theory and performance practice and has been a member of the AAS for almost twenty years. Her academic training is in both ethnomusicology and East Asian Studies. Finchum-Sung has spent the past decade in the Republic of Korea, where she made history as the first and (to date) only non-Korean to have served as a faculty member in a department of Korean Music. She has published in academic journals such as Ethnomusicology, the world of music (new series), Seoul Journal of Korean Studies, and Acta Koreana.

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