ICAS 4, Shanghai
20–24 August 2005
At the end of the opening ceremony in Singapore, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) presented Shanghai as the venue for ICAS 4. This video presentation started a tradition, which goes on till the present day. The fact that Shanghai would be the next venue should be seen within the wider context of new developments in China at that time. The People’s Congress had decided that more should be invested in the humanities and social sciences, which had hitherto been dealt a step-motherly treatment.
ICAS is the largest gathering of scholars in the humanities and social sciences not only in China but also in Asia – Wang Ronghua, President of SASS
ICAS 4 took place in the headquarters of the Communist Party in Shanghai, in a building that resembled an enormous cake, which had been a present from Stalin to the people of Shanghai (when I revisited the city in 2013 tall skyscrapers completely dwarfed the building). We used an annex with marble floors, with more than enough rooms to accommodate 250 panels. Wang Ronghua, the President of SASS, stressed the close cooperation with the municipality of Shanghai, which translated itself in a state of the art dinner and a magnificent trip along the Huangpu river, passing the neon-lit Bund. For the first time the convention was given a general theme. SASS fittingly chose ‘The Future of Asia’. Since it was a closed meeting, ‘sensitive’ topics such as ‘AIDS without Boundaries’ and ‘Bad Girl Writing’ could also be freely discussed.
During the opening ceremony the winners of the first ICAS Book Prize (IBP) were announced. This new initiative by the ICAS Secretariat was taken to create by way of a global competition both an international focus for publications on Asia (academic English-language books on Asia in the humanities and social sciences) while at the same time increasing their visibility worldwide. In contrast to other prizes in the field of Asian studies the IBP is both trans-regional and trans-disciplinary with an international reading committee. The first edition of the IBP saw 40 submissions; its eighth edition in 2019 has just witnessed more than 400!
During ICAS 4 we also published the first ICAS supplement to the IIAS Newsletter (now The Newsletter), entitled ‘Publishing in Asian Studies’. In it, publishers, editors and writers reflected on how to increase the visibility of Asian studies by developing a wide range of activities.