China Beat Archive



Date of this Version


Document Type



November 11, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 11, 2008. Used by permission.


Elizabeth Perry of Harvard University is the outgoing president of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) and the author of many books. She has also edited and co-edited nine books (one with China Beat’s Jeff Wasserstrom) which address issues of workers’ rights, popular protest, revolution, and reform. Last April, she delivered the presidential address at the Annual Meeting of the AAS in Atlanta, Georgia. In this address, which will appear in print in the November issue of theJournal of Asian Studies, she focused on the non-violent worker strike at the Anyuan coal mines in the early 1920s, and called for a more positive re-assessment of China’s twentieth-century revolutions. Nicole Barnes of The China Beatinterviewed Dr. Perry about the content of her address and her current research.

Nicole Barnes: After serving your term as President of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), what direction do you see or would you like to see the Association moving in? What future challenges do you see the AAS having to overcome?

Elizabeth Perry: The AAS is a wonderful organization, the largest area studies association in existence and one that – unlike many scholarly associations these days – is continuing to grow and change. My hope is for still greater internationalization and diversification of the AAS membership. In particular, I would like to see more Asian-based members, younger members, and more members drawn from the social science disciplines and professions. As the terms of “intellectual trade” between America and Asia shift, with more influential scholarship being produced by our colleagues in Asia, it will be increasingly important for the AAS to identify, introduce and incorporate that work into our annual meeting program and our journal. The recent economic growth of China and India has generated considerable public interest in the prospect of an “Asian twenty-first century.” While we can never sacrifice the high academic standards for which our association is known, it is also important for us to find ways to make our knowledge of Asia more publicly accessible.