Review: Proposal Workshop 2024

The DFG Research Training Group “East Asian Futures: Visions and Realisations on National, Transregional and Global Scales” hosted the Proposal Workshop of its first cohort from June 13–15, 2024 at Gerhard-Mercator-Haus in Duisburg. In the weeks leading up to this event, the doctoral researchers vigorously prepared their proposals, incorporating feedback they received from their supervisors and in consultation with the Mercator fellows. For most of them, the Proposal Workshop constituted the first opportunity to present their initial research consisting of research topic, research question and methodological approach to a wider audience. Nearly 50 people attended the workshop and gained insight into what the doctoral researchers and postdocs of the research training group (RTG) have established so far.


The event commenced on Thursday morning, June 13, 2024 with an opening address by Prof. Hannes MOSLER, director of IN-EAST, who greeted all participating members of the Research Training Group and external guests.

The Speaker of the RTG, Prof. MOLL-MURATA, introduced the programme, outlining its four thematic fields: Language, Religion and Ideology, Self and Society, Science and Technology, Sovereignty and Governance, as well as the four types of approaches to the future: future of expectation, future of planning, future of risk, and future of preservation.

The presentations of the doctoral researchers started with Buyun GONG (Scientific Management in Republican China: How the Future is Made Plannable) and Pao-wen HUANG (Accounting and Future Anticipation: Customs Policies and Practices in Taiwan, 1850–1990), both of whom received direct feedback by Mercator fellow Prof. Lin-Chun WU from National Taiwan Normal University. The following presentations by Eetu LAUSTELA (North Korean Depictions of the Future in Text Publications of the Kim Jong-un Era) and Minkyun PARK (Ontological Insecurity in South Korea and its Relations to Japan) received respective comments by Mercator fellow Prof. Hyung-Gu LYNN from the University of British Columbia. Thereafter, Mingfeng WU presented his research (Engaging the Secular in a Shared Future: The Confucian-Buddhist Debate and Modern Chinese Buddhist Thought) with feedback by Prof. WU.

The afternoon continued with a presentation by Kohei MATSUURA of his research on “The Future of Cultural Policy in East Asia – the Discourse on Classical Music from a Postcolonial Perspective” and comments by Prof. LYNN. The last presenting doctoral researcher of the day was Igor SEVENARD, whose research on “The Genesis of a Global ‘Community of Common Destiny’ – A Conceptualization of Chinese Worldmaking” received the feedback of Prof. em. Brantly WOMACK from the University of Virginia. Thereafter, a concluding discussion of the first day began and led into the doctoral researchers, who had presented on this day, introducing the audience to their research posters, which they created in cooperation with Harald KRÄHE, IN-EAST Consultant for Design & Print. The researchers and guests then moved on to Webster Brauhaus for further discussions and networking while enjoying traditional German cuisine.

On Friday morning, June 14, 2024 the Proposal Workshop continued with the presentations of the three affiliated doctoral researchers of the RTG, starting off with a presentation by Youlim KIM, whose research on “Transformation and Construction of Social Discourse on Unmarried Mothers in South Korea” received feedback from Mercator fellow Prof. Kaori HAYASHI from the University of Tokyo, who joined the workshop via video call. The next presentation was held by Anna-Maria RAU (Modern Chinese Music and the Nation) followed by newly affiliated Nora WÖLFING (Visions of Futurity in Contemporary Art from the Sinophone Region). Comments for both Ms. RAU and Ms. WÖLFING were provided by Prof. WOMACK.

Next, the presentations of the postdoctoral researchers began with Dr. Aya HINO presenting her research on “An Imagined Future, Disappearing Futures: ‘Nihon-gaku’ and Colonial, Internal, and Imperial Differences within the Japanese Nation-Empire” followed by comments by Prof. Jan SCHMIDT from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The final presentations were held by Dr. Martin GEHLMANN (A Confucian Future for the Country East of the Sea), Dr. Monika ARNOŠTOVÁ (Current State and Future Projections of the Work Environment for Young Professionals in Urban Areas of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan) and Dr. Qinqin PENG (The Concept of ‘Change’ in Chinese Buddhism and Its Modern Transformation).

A show of the posters of the presentations of the second day concluded the afternoon session. During the poster shows on both days, the doctoral researchers gave brief synopses of their subjects and indicated how their own research relates to their colleagues’ topics and to the overarching programme. Their deliberations and interaction with the audience showed that apart from the four thematical fields and the typology of approaches to the future, the following links and interconnections emanated: Art [Wölfing, Matsuura, Rau] / Economy [Gong, Huang] / Philosophy [Peng, Wu, Gehlmann, Hino] / Politics [Sevenard, Laustela] / Society [Kim, Park, Arnoštová], while two large chronological settings of approaches to future in the past [Gong, Huang, Wu, Peng, Hino, Rau, Gehlmann, Kim] correspond to those of the present, as the future yet to come [Park, Sevenard, Arnoštová, Wölfing, Matsuura, Laustela].

Following concluding remarks, Prof. Jan SCHMIDT, Prof. Rüdiger BREUER and Prof. Christina LECHTERMANN together with the Mercator fellows Prof. LYNN and Prof. WOMACK provided strategic advice and discussed the recent research trends and developments in a meeting of the advisory board chaired by Prof. MOLL-MURATA.

The entire event at the Duisburg Mercator-Haus was ably organized by the RTG administrative coordinator, Nora BRASSE, and the academic coordinator, Simone KORTUNG, with the assistance of the AREA Ruhr Managing Director Gwendolin Kleine Stegemann, the student assistants Alina Schrauf and Lea Neuhaus and supported by the IN-EAST Managing Director Dr. Nicolas Schillinger. The RTG IT administrator Jan Wiemann provided the photographs for the event.

On Saturday, June 15, 2024 Prof. MOLL-MURATA was joined by RTG researchers and the Mercator fellows for the final event of the week, a private guided tour of the Museum DKM in Duisburg, where the group saw art from East and South East Asia. The objects in the collection “Lines of Quiet Beauty” span the millennia, ranking from Amlash and Gandhara art, Buddhist sculpture, Chinese and Japanese painting and calligraphy through the contemporary period with Korean artist Chun Kyungwoo’s photographical portraits of extremely long exposure times and Ai Weiwei’s installations and coloured Shang vases. The visit came to a close with the doctoral researchers leaving a fleeting mark behind in the museum, as they ceremoniously wrote the word “weilai” (future) with water on stone in the room designed by the Chinese artist Song Dong. While the words vanished quickly, the memories and insights provided by the first proposal workshop and visit of the Mercator fellows remain. Equally, the future will remain in the centre of this research training group’s attention.