ICAS 11: Embracing Leiden
15-19 JUly 2019
“How the weather will be, nobody knows!” is how I ended my article ‘ICAS at 21 – ICAS 11, Leiden’ in the previous edition of The Newsletter. Now we do know! The sun started to shine the very moment the ICAS 11 parade was set in motion, and it stayed with us for the duration of the convention. The parade led the 2300 ICAS participants to the Hooglandse Kerk where they were welcomed by the sounds of the 17th century church organ, culminating in Beethoven’s Alle Menschen werden Brűder (Ode to Joy). In the church’s luminous atmosphere the opening ceremony played out, in which welcome words and the ICAS Book Prize (IBP) ceremony were interchanged by the musical composition Wind Flow between Asia and Europe in which musician and singer Enkhjargal Dandarvaanchig carried us to the steppes of Mongolia on the waves of his unbelievable tonal register.
This special composition by Henri Tournier was one of the contributions of our co-organiser GIS Asie, the French Academic Network for Asian Studies, but certainly not the only one, because for the first time more than two hundred academics from the Francophone world participated at ICAS. We were also happy to welcome a fairly big delegation of Asia scholars from the Russian Federation. Likewise the presence of many colleagues from Africa and Latin America was new. This was partly a result of ICAS’s involvement in the organisation of conferences in those continents, with the University of Ghana, the University of Dar es Salaam and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, during the past four years. This cooperation also resulted in the foundation of the Africa-Asia Book Prize and the addition of the Spanish/Portuguese edition of the IBP, which had a flying start with no less than 66 submissions.
Embedded in a wide variety of cultural events the 550 sessions of ICAS 11 went smoothly, bringing together academics and professionals from 75 countries against the background of Leiden city, which, with the cooperation of the Mayor’s office, was turned into one great big conference space (ICAS 11 programme book). Steffen Rimner, president of the IIAS Alumni Association and co-organiser of the ICAS 11 Academic Freedom Space, wrote: “I have talked with numerous colleagues all of whom told me just how impressed they were with the conviviality and the unique community brought together throughout the conference”. The conviviality was certainly enhanced by the 120 student volunteers who wisely spent part of their holiday assisting us in creating such a youthful and enthusiastic atmosphere.
When contemplating ICAS 11, I am reminded of Paul Gaugin’s D'où venons-nous / Que sommes-nous / Où allons-nous (1897), which shows the embrace of the Pacific culture and people, not as the other but as the human. That’s the direction in which we are moving, no matter where we come from. Join us and find out what and who we are at the next edition of the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Kyoto in 2021.
Paul van der Velde, ICAS Secretary
Article The Newsletter 84, IIAS (available as of mid October)
ICAS 11 has been organized by the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University, and GIS Asie (French Academic Network on Asian Studies). Nearly 2500 Asia specialists and representatives of civil society attended ICAS 11.