Back from the Brink: The Global Revival of Manchu Studies: A Memorial Lecture for Professor Emeritus James Bosson

Memorial: Mongolia Initiative | April 26 | 5 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Mark Elliott, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

 Jacob Dalton, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UC Berkeley

 Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative, Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

Manchu studies proudly traces its origins back at least two hundred years, to the founding of the first chair in “Tartar Languages and Literatures” at the Collège de France in 1814. Yet as the 20th century neared its end, the field was moribund: not only was Manjuristics barely hanging on in the US, the great European schools of Manchu studies were also disappearing. Students were few and far between, with barely enough American specialists to mount a conference panel. The field scarcely existed in mainland China, and depended on the work of just a handful of scholars for its survival in Taiwan and Korea; for a time it appeared that Japan was the only place offering any kind of future. But by the time of James Bosson’s final retirement from active teaching in the early 2000s, Manchu studies had stepped back from the brink and was entering a new phase of growth. This lecture outlines the contributions of Berkeley’s eminent Manjurist and Mongolist to the return of a formerly marginal field of scholarship to new international prominence.

With the passing of Professor James Bosson the campus lost an early and important voice in the study of Mongolian, Manchu, and Tibetan language and culture. This memorial lecture in his honor is presented by his former student Mark Elliott, Harvard University.

Mark Elliott is the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Department of History at Harvard University and is a former director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. An authority on post-1600 China and the history of relations across the nomadic frontier, he is known as a pioneer of the “New Qing History,” an approach emphasizing the imprint of Inner Asian traditions upon China’s last imperial state. From 2015 he is Harvard’s Vice Provost for International Affairs.

 ieas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-2809

 Tribute by Orna Tsultemin