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Women in Asia: In Books and Films: Asian Studies Faculty


Noriko Horiguchi,
Chair, Asian Studies Program, Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature

Dr. Horiguchi is the author of Women Adrift: The Literature of Japan's Imperial Body (University of Minnesota Press 2011), which analyzes how women figured in the expansion of the national body of the empire. She has taught Modern Japanese Literature: From Meiji to WWII, Contemporary Japanese Literature: From WWII to the Present, Contemporary Japanese Fiction and Film, Introduction to Japanese Civilization: From Prehistory to the Present, and Japanese language at all levels. 

Megan Bryson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Megan Bryson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. Her research focuses primarily on intersections of religion, gender, and ethnicity in Southwest China. Dr. Bryson has recently published an article in the journal Asian Ethnology, and she is currently revising her book manuscript, titled The Boundaries of Chinese Religion: Ethnicity and Gender in the Cult of Baijie Shengfei.

Scott Frey, Professor of Sociology

Scott Frey is currently Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice. He has taught previously at George Washington University, Kansas State University, and the University of North Florida, and he has held chair and head positions at the University of North Florida and the University of Tennessee. He has also held appointments at Argonne National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation.

Paul Gellert, Associate Professor of Sociology

Dr. Gellert's current research focuses on the political economy of natural resources and development in Indonesia and in the US. Working within a broad world-systems perspective and conducting comparative-historical research, he is interested in the role of natural resources in the development trajectories of extractive regions and peripheral zones of the world-economy.

 Robert Goodding, Lecturer of Religious Studies​

Yen-Chen Hao, Assistant Professor of Chinese

Dr. Hao received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from Indiana University, concentrating on areas such as phonetics, second language acquisition, and phonology. She is interested in second language learners of Mandarin Chinese as well as English, examining the relationship between speech perception and production, influence of first language background and second language experience on sound learning, and the relative difficulty in acquiring consonants, vowels, and lexical tones. Some of her work has been published in the Journal of Phonetics and Current Issues in Chinese Linguistics.

Wonjae Hwang

Before joining the department, Dr. Hwang was a post-doctoral fellow at Rice University (2004-2005) and at the Center for International Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis (2005-2006). Dr. Hwang's research interests are international relations, methodology, international economics, and comparative politics.

William Jennings, Senior Lecturer in Political Science

Will's research interests include numerous presentations and papers at the American Political Science Association and the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, as well as presentations at the International Studies Association-South meeting, and African Studies Association meetings.  He has frequently reviewed books for The African Book Publishing Record, and he recently wrote a chapter on South Africa for The African Search for Stable Forms of Statehood: Essays in Political Criticism.

Ronald Kalafsky, Associate Head of the Department of Geography

Ron Kalafsky’s research interests comprise of two, interconnected elements: economic geography and geography education.He is particularly interested in the location-based factors that hinder small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from accessing global markets, and in turn, the strategies (e.g. trade fairs, onsite visits, business networks) that successful firms use to overcome such obstacles.

Rebecca Klenk, Lecturer of Anthropolgy

Dr. Klenk is a lecturer in Interdisciplinary Programs in Women's Studies, Global Studies & Asian Studies and affiliated Faculty in Department of Anthropology  & Disasters, Displacement & Human Rights Program. She also is a fellow in Center for the Study of Social Justice.

Jon LaCure, Associate Professor of Japanese

Among Jon LaCure's many research interests are the thirty-one syllable Japanese verse form known as the waka, the seventeen syllable haiku, haiku translated into English, and English haiku. Quoting from comments on his research that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor: "Professor LaCure's computer overturned conventional wisdom."

Catherine Luther, Professor and Director of Journalism & Electronic Media

Before returning to the academic world for her Ph.D., Dr. Luther worked both in the United States and in Japan as a producer of television news. She is now a professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and teaches in the areas of international journalism, media and diversity, communication and information science theories, and research methods.

Laura Nenzi, Professor of History

Dr. Nenzi is a social historian of early modern Japan interested in gender, space, memory, and identity. In her first book, Excursions in Identity (2008) she examined the manifold ways in which early modern wayfarers across the social spectrum engaged with the spaces of travel, using the open road and the blank pages of their diaries to redraw, temporarily, their social coordinates. While travelers of both sexes partook in this exercise, women were especially keen on reimagining their identities while on the road.

Drew Paul, Assistant Professor of Arabic

Drew Paul received his BA from Emory University, and his MA and Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. At Tennessee, he teaches all levels of Arabic language as well as courses on Middle Eastern literature, film, and culture. He is currently completing work on a book manuscript entitled  Deceptive Walls: Fracturing Borders in Palestine and Israel, which examines the depiction of checkpoints, walls, and other border spaces in the region.

Charles Sanft, Associate Professor of History

Charles Sanft’s research focuses on the political thought and practice of early imperial China, from around the late third century BCE into the first century CE. He has published articles on legal history, ritual, and translations and studies of paleographic materials from the time in journals including Early ChinaEnvironmental HistoryAsia MajorFrontiers of History in China, and others. 

Rachelle Scott, Associate Professor and Associate Head of Religious Studies

Rachelle Scott studies the history of Theravada Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on contemporary Buddhism in Thailand.  Her first book, Nirvana for Sale?: Buddhism, Wealth, and the Dhammakāya Temple,  examined contemporary debates over monastic and lay wealth in Thailand. Her current research focuses on stories of powerful female ascetics and spirits, the impact of new media on religious authority and community, and the role of the Buddhist sangha in global Buddhism.

Madhuri Sharma, Assistant Professor of Geography

Dr. Sharma's broad research interests include understanding patterns and processes of racial/ethnic residential intermixing, poverty, inequality and economic opportunities within the urban context of USA and India. 

Shih-Lung Shaw, Professor of Geography and Director, Confucius Institute

Shih-Lung Shaw’s research interests cover transportation geography, geographic information science (GIScience) and spatio-temporal  analysis, especially with topics related to transportation planning and modeling, air transportation, time geography, effects of information and communications technologies (ICT) on human activity and travel patterns, spatiotemporal analysis of human dynamics, space-time GIS, and GIS for transportation (GIS-T).

Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Presently working on a book based on his dissertation research, Swamy investigates the impact of the 2004 Tsunami on economic development priorities in India’s Tamil Nadu state. Exploring the contradictory outcomes of humanitarian agendas subordinated to the demands of a World Bank-financed and state-led reconstruction project, this work attempts to bridge the gap between political ecology and disaster studies by drawing upon rich ethnographic studies of displaced and resistant artisanal fisher communities thriving on the margins of India’s globalizing economy.

Alison Vacca, Assistant Professor of History

Alison Vacca joined the History department in 2014. She works with Arabic and Armenian sources about the caliphal North in the eighth and ninth centuries. Her book, Non-Muslim Provinces under Early Islam: Islamic Rule and Iranian Legitimacy in Armenia and Caucasian Albania, forthcoming in 2017, examines the use of pre-Islamic Iranian expressions of power and the memory of Sasanian rule in tenth-century descriptions of Islamic rule in Armenia and Caucasian Albania.

Suzanne Wright, Associate Professor of Art

Suzanne Wright received her M. A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Prior to pursuing the doctorate, she was Assistant Curator of Far Eastern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Dr. Wright’s area of specialization is the visual culture of late imperial China, particularly painting and prints.

Shellen Wu, Associate Professor of History

Dr. Wu is particularly interested in imperialism, the global ascendance of science, and how changes in the uses and exploitation of natural resources affected the modern Chinese state and society. Her first book, Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, narrates the history about how Chinese views of natural resource management underwent a major change as a result of the late Qing engagement with imperialism and science.

Yan Yang, Visiting Scholar of Art History

Yang completed her Ph.D. study in East Asian Art History at Heidelberg University in 2012. Her research concerns modern Chinese art, transcultural and  inter-media  studies, political art and architecture, and relationships between visual arts and diverse historical issues. Currently  she is revising her book manuscript on the representation of Mao Zedong and socialist art in the early People's Republic of China, and developing a new project, which examines architecture, liminal space, and politics in modern China.

Yang Zhong, Professor of Political Science

Professor Zhong's main research interests include Chinese local government and politics, mass political culture in China, Sino-U.S. relations and relations between China and Taiwan. He has published two scholarly books and edited several others. He has also published over three dozen journal articles and book chapters. Some of his works have appeared in top political science journals such as The Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly and Comparative Political Studies.