Koç Unıversıty’s Center For Asıan Studıes (KUASIA)

Asia is home to 60% of the world’s population and has been undergoing profound change and resurgence. Not only does Asia account for 40% of global GDP but also—and more surprisingly to many—of global R&D expenditure. Chinese students alone now account for nearly a third of all foreign students at American universities, mostly in science, technology and business studies. Despite the challenges and risks ahead, many analysts believe that we are on the cusp of the “Asian Century”. Yet, while there is a general appreciation of the importance of Asia, truly informed awareness about the diversity of Asian society, Asian politics, economics, history and culture remains poor, not only among the public at large but also in business and academic circles.

Koç University’s Center for Asian Studies (KUASIA) was established in 2016 under the directorship of Associate Professor Şebnem Köşer Akçapar to provide an open forum for researchers across a wide variety of topics that are pertinent to Asia. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high quality comparative and interdisciplinary academic and policy-relevant research on Asia and to promote academic collaboration on Asia at the national, regional and international levels. The center embraces study of all Asian countries with a special focus on China, India, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Beyond scholarly research, KUASIA intends to act as a two-way ambassadorship, representing Asian countries in Turkey and the Koç University community, and vice versa, thereby increasing interest among students and young scholars.

Şebnem Köşer Akçapar

The importance of Asia around the world has propelled a need for experts on the peoples, issues and dynamics of the Asian continent and there is no doubt that there was a need for such a center to be established in Turkey, just as such centers are proliferating all across Europe and the US. Not only is Turkey directly influenced by the evolution of Asia but we are also conveniently positioned to initiate, facilitate and help develop an intense dialogue between East and West.

One of the primary objectives of KUASIA is the aim of raising the next generation of scholars and experts who can interpret developments, form bridges, recognize and help seize opportunities as well as identify potential challenges or threats. Given the infancy of research and education on Asia in Turkey, KUASIA is determined to fill an important gap.

Set up within Koç University, we have the advantage of being able to draw on all of the university’s research capabilities, resources, its broad international connections, global outlook and multidisciplinary focus. In turn, we want to contribute through our activities and scholarly research to all of these facets and help enhance Koç University’s reputation as a primary research institute.

We will be producing high quality comparative and interdisciplinary academic and policy-relevant research and academic publications that will increase the public’s awareness of pertinent issues and help provide government and business circles with policy-relevant analysis on the region.

KUASIA operates in cooperation with Koç University’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities as well as its College of Administrative Sciences and Economics and we look forward to collaborating with all faculty from Koç University as well as other Asia scholars in Turkey and abroad.

Although our work will be looking at the entire Asian region, we have a special focus on China, India, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. We have so far signed two agreements with Sussex University’s Asia Center and Beijing Foreign Studies University’s School of Asian and African Studies to encourage academic research, cooperation and exchange of students and scholars. By the end of 2017, similar MoUs will be signed with Indian and Singaporean research institutes as well.

We are planning to organize regular public lectures, seminars, conferences, symposia, book talks as well as photo and art exhibition, engaging not only students and faculty at Koç University but also business circles, scholars, bureaucrats, policy makers, and civil society organization.

We kicked-off our event calendar in February 2017 with the Embassy Lectures series, titled “Asian Ambassadors Talk Series”, and our first speaker was Singapore’s Ambassador H.E. Mr. Selverajah, who not only made a fascinating presentation on Singapore’s history but also treated students to Singapore cuisine. The next ambassador we hosted was H.E. Dr. Cho Yun-Soo from South Korea in April. Other ambassadors from Japan, China and India will follow in the fall semester of 2017-18. Furthermore, a joint workshop was organized on April 28, 2017 in collaboration with KUDENFOR, the Koç University Maritime Forum, on the “One Belt One Road” and “Maritime Silk Road” initiatives with the participation of Chinese, Indian, and Turkish experts and scholars.

At the inauguration panel of KUASIA, which is scheduled for May 9, 2017, we will discuss the rise of India and China as well as regional problems, with Dr. Raja C. Mohan, Director of Carnegie India, Dr. Liu Chen, Political Sociologist at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and Mr. Gideon Rachman, former Asia editor of The Economist and current Financial Times editor. The title of the panel is “The Asian Century? Dynamics of Geo-politics, Economy and Power”.

At the Sociology Department, we opened two specific courses on Asia, and there are also plans to offer a Mandarin language course and incentivize Chinese learning by giving a week-long travel prize to the best student. If we are able to increase the number of courses, we would like to work towards creating a Certificate Program on Asia.

We will be organizing a large seminar next term that will address a wide range of issues that are of common concern to Asia and Turkey such as gender and family, international migration and diaspora, media and popular culture, and social change.

Next to our academic activities, we are also working with Koç University’s Office of International Programs to facilitate the exchange of faculty and students to foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange.