Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Harlan Chambers, Asian Cultures & Languages graduate student, wins the "Best Paper" at Rice University's Transnational Asia graduate student conference

Mon, March 17, 2014
Harlan Chambers, Asian Cultures & Languages graduate student, wins the
Harlan pictured with Steven Lewis, Interim Director of the Chao Center for Asian Studies, and Haejin Elizabeth Koh, Associate Director of the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University.

The fourth annual Transnational Asia Graduate Student (TAGS) Conference was held at Rice University on February 21-22. Asian Cultures & Languages Master's student, Harlan Chambers, was selected by discussants as one of three winners of the Best Paper prize. Harlan's paper was titled "Killing me (not so) softly: Spectral sound in Shimizu Takashi's Ju-on: The Grudge". Harlan provided us with this abstract for his paper:

While the Japanese horror genre is no stranger to tales of vengeance, Shimizu Takashi's 2002 Ju-on has a distinctive quality: Ju-on’s specters pursue and kill their victims through sound. These sounds are not merely frightening effects, they are spectral interventions that unhinge the order of things. They wreak ontological havoc: warping time, bending space, and breaking apart the boundaries of subjectivity. While the film features a wide variety of spectral sounds, they all share a common narrative origin, emerging from a shared traumatic experience. These sounds may thus be understood as an aural transposition on of the traumatic "wound;" it is sound that repeats and propagates the violence of trauma by cutting short human lives and disrupting systems of meaning. Ultimately, this paper aims to lay the groundwork for a broader study of deadly sound in Japanese cultural production, a phenomenon that extends far beyond scope of this single film.

Jennifer Tipton, graduate coordinator, caught up with Harlan after the conference.  

Jennifer: Tell us a little about your background. Where did you receive your Bachelors degree and what was your major?

Harlan: In 2007, I got a dual degree (a BFA in theatre performance and a BA in history) from the University of Minnesota Honors College. I also have a diploma in Chinese Language and Civilization from INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales) in Paris.

Jennifer: What are your research interests?

Harlan: I’m interested in cultural production from China and Taiwan since the 1980’s (I’m also developing a serious interest in Japanese literature and cinema from the same period, as the was this topic of my paper!).

Jennifer: How long have you been studying Chinese? 

Harlan: Four years.

Jennifer: What advice do you have for native English speakers who want to learn an Asian language?

Harlan: Keep going. 

Jennifer: You've studied abroad in both Taiwan and France. How long where you in each place? What did you find most rewarding about each program?

Harlan: As an independent student in France, I was completely integrated into the French academia for three years. This system is profoundly different from anything we have in America; in order to adjust and survive, I had to critically reevaluate certain preconceptions of what education “should be.” Experiences of this nature are always valuable if unpleasant (fortunately, France has an abundant supply of wine). 

With regards to Taiwan, I was lucky to attend the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) in Taipei. Simply put, this institution provided me with the richest, most rigorous language training experience of my life.

Jennifer: What's your favorite place in Austin? Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Harlan: My favorite place in Austin is my bed. I probably should get out more. Although I don’t have a favorite restaurant, there is no place I would rather be on Sunday morning than the Omelettry, eating gingerbread pancakes.

Jennifer: You've been told you look like Harry Potter. Are you a Harry Potter fan? If so, which house would you like to be in?

Harlan: I never finished reading the Harry Potter books -- so there goes my claim to fandom! If I could be in a house, it would be Slytherin. I’d take the goth-esque Slytherin students any day over the goody two-shoes at Gryffindor. Nothing is more boring than consistently good behavior. I would become a Syltherinite and make it my mission to corrupt the entire house of Hufflepuff.

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