EACP - East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity, Historical Consciousness, Modernity

Department of Languages and Cultures
Other institution(s) 
Académie du Midi (http://www.academiedumidi.com/)
European Association for Chinese Philosophy (https://ea-cp.eu/)
European Association for Chinese Studies (http://chinesestudies.eu/)
European Institute for Asian Studies (https://www.eias.org/)
Fudan University (https://www.fudan.edu.cn/)
In Flanders Fields Museum (http://www.inflandersfields.be/en)
Liaoning University (http://enweb.lnu.edu.cn/)
Nanjing University (https://www.nju.edu.cn/en/main.psp)
National Chengchi University (https://www.nccu.edu.tw)
National Taiwan University (https://www.ntu.edu.tw/english/)
Renmin University of China (https://www.ruc.edu.cn/en)
Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences (http://www.kaowarsom.be/en)
School voor Comparatieve Filosofie Antwerpen (https://comparatievefilosofie.be)
Shanghai University (http://en.shu.edu.cn/)
Sichuan University (http://en.scu.edu.cn/)
Zhejiang University (https://www.zju.edu.cn/english/)
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 



- Conference: " Involvement of the Christian missions in the exchange of knowledge with Asia"

Organized jointly by the Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences (ARSOM, Belgium) and the Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer (ASOM, France)

For more information and registration: https://www.kaowarsom.be/ARSOM_ASOM2021


- Exhibition: "Souvenirs de Chine: the story of a Belgian engineer and doctors in China, 1898-1908

Curated by VANDENHOVE and designed by Kris Coremans, this exhibition is based on the research of dr. Johan Mattelaer and Dr Mathieu Torck (UGent), published in A Belgian Passage to China (1870-1930) (Sterck & de Vreese, 2020).



- International Workshop "The Other in Chinese History and Thought: Terrritory, Race, Culture, Philosophy, Religion" (organizers: Prof. Bart Dessein, Prof. Leigh K. Jenco, Julia C. Schneider, and Ady Van den Stock): November 15-16, 2021

conference website: https://www.theotherinchina.ugent.be/

When we think of the “Other” of China, a long and diverse list such as the following could come to mind: “barbarian”, Xiongnu, Khitan, Jurchen, Mongol, Manchu, Christian, Westerner, Japanese, Taiwanese, Tibetan, Uyghur, non-Han, Muslim, migrant worker, Hong Kongese…Distinguishing between what and who qualifies as Chinese and non-Chinese involved and still involves very real and tangible practices of distinction, exclusion, and othering and thus continues to be closely related to complex questions of territorial, racial, religious, cultural, political, and religious identity in present-day China. If we follow the famous historian Ge Zhaoguang 葛兆光 in posing the question “What is China?”, it is obvious that if we always have to ask, as Ge himself does, “What isn’t China/Chinese?” at the same time.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together scholars working in the field of (intellectual) history, philosophy and religion to reflect on the topic of otherness in Chinese history and thought from within their own area of expertise. The convenors welcome contributions with an empirical focus as well as more conceptually oriented discussions related to the theme of the workshop. Possible topics for discussion include, but are not limited to, the following: how did the Chinese empire/state conceive of and deal with specific groups of “non-Chinese” others during certain periods in history? Was otherness conceived of primarily in spatial, temporal, civilizational, or other terms? How were representations of otherness discursively legitimized and actualized in practices of categorization and governance? What sort of relations can we discern between religious, ethnic, and cultural identity in the Chinese context? Do terms and concepts such as “empire”, “racism”, “colonialism”, or even “culture” and “alterity”, help us gain a better understanding of specific instances of otherness in Chinese (intellectual) history, or are they complicit in perpetuating a Eurocentric understanding of the non-West? And last but not least, all of the above questions always require us to consider who the “we” is that is asking them.



- 3rd Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Philosophy (EACP): "Paradigms of Change and Changing Paradigms in Chinese Philosophy" (chief oganizers: Prof. Bart Dessein and Ady Van den Stock, sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders): September 5-7, 2019

conference website: https://www.eacp2019.ugent.be/

Throughout the long history of Chinese philosophy, the topic of change has been a recurrent and, in a sense, constant theme. Chinese conceptualizations of change extend from the classical Yijing 易經 to the processual outlook on reality, human existence, and socio-historical development articulated by many modern Chinese thinkers. This rich and varied historical trajectory has endowed the encounter between Chinese and Western thought in contemporary comparative philosophy with the potential to usher in philosophical paradigm changes outside of the field of Sinology.  The variety of contributions to this conference approach the topics of “change” and “paradigms” from a broad perspective, addressing methodological questions,  the relations between different traditions, textual continuities and ruptures, cultural and historical comparisons, the individual and social dimensions of human existence, as well as bodily and spiritual practices of self-cultivation and transformation.



- "Paradigms of Change in Modernising Asia and America" (chief organizer: Francesco Campangnola, co-organized with KU Leuven, sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and the Fullbright Program): October 13-14, 2017

conference website:  https://www.paradigms.ugent.be/

The terminology of change belonging to the European intellectual tradition—composed of terms that constitute milestones in the historiographical account of societal, historical and political development such as modernity, revolution, renaissance, enlightenment, progress, evolution, etc.—has been substantially reinterpreted and re-signified outside of Europe around the turn of the century. Our hypothesis is that, in the extra-European environment, the originally eighteenth and nineteenth century terminology could find new meanings because of the loosening of the reference to the specific facts and the environmental conditions in which it had been generated. Asian and American scholars, applied terms such as renaissance or enlightenment to their historical predicament and, in doing so, they appropriated them. In that very moment, those terms started to exceed their primary historical referent. They belonged no more to Europe alone and became across-the-board metaphors, universals and tropoi which gave meaning to their experience of change. This interpretative work around terms indicating historical change went together with a fundamental and radical reconsideration of modernity and its prerequisites (i.e.: of modernisation).

Moreover, different extra-European national and religious cultures interacted in creative ways in the re-definition of that intellectual panorama of modernity. Migration and emerging globalisation produced new global discourses and reconfigured cross-national and transnational ideals such as revolution, emancipation and progress. Within these new frameworks, a set of notions grounded in the European historical experience were planted in new geographical and cultural areas and assumed characteristics belonging to the new humus.

Speaking of a Chinese Renaissance or Revolution, or of an American Modernism, or of a stage of Japan in social evolution opened new ways of understanding dominant notions which deserve today a thorough investigation.

The conference aims to redefine the fundamental process of change and modernisation taking place outside of Europe between the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. We are interested, in particular, in re-considering the terminology and narrative that intellectual and political actors from North America and Asian countries used in their effort to define the path of development taken by their nations and communities during a time of rapid change. The prime objective of the conference is to elaborate alternatives to the classic historiographic model of the history of reception from the centre to the periphery. This is not to be intended as the effacing of the European origin of the global narrative on modernity. We are rather interested in highlighting the complex web of relationships that linked other cultural and national areas, among themselves, in the expanding discourse on modernity.


The last decades of global experience have witnessed the domination of two apparently contradictory tendencies: on the one hand, a process of globalization and concentration of capital on a new, very abstract level far beyond immediate experience; on the other, the decentralization of production and politics accompanied by the emergence of a great number of new social formations, movements, parties and sub-cultures, aiming at rescuing human agency in the name of historical contingency. The uncertainty concerning the nature of modern life and society, engendered by this development, has arguably manifested itself most prominently in the postmodern and postcolonial critique of “grand narratives” and “Eurocentric” or “hegemonic” standpoints and conceptions of historical change, the emphasis on national identity, on cultural diversity, and so on.

The late-Qing statesman and reformer Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 (1837-1909) on board the Beijing-Hankou railway (image: Wikimedia Commons)

These developments are reflected also in paradigmatic shifts of the scholarly discourse about Asia, and they have changed especially the terrain of Asian studies to a degree that can impossibly be neglected or ignored. The research group, ‘East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity – Historical Consciousness – Modernity’, has been established in order to cope with these above developments and to create a space where it is possible to engage with them in a profound and scholarly fashion. This includes the investigation of the cultural and historical roots of modern East Asian societies as well as the historical consciousness of modern societies. The research group also lays particular emphasis on the history of interaction and exchange within the Asian world.

The great Japanese Sinologist , essayist, and translator Takeuchi Yoshimi 竹内好 (1910-1977) at work in his study (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

In the context of our department, with its long-standing tradition of philology-based cultural and religious studies, the research group 'East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity – Historical Consciousness – Modernity’ aims at theoritically enganging with established notions such as "history", "culture", "philosophy", "religion", "tradition", as well as the very conceptual divide between "tradition" and "modernity" by putting these notions into a historically determinate perspective. This exercise in reconceptualization is intended to overcome the specific conceptual shortcomings and empirical blind spots that have resulted from the abovementioned paradigmatic shifts in intellectual as well as broader social debates in and about the East-Asian world.

The research group 'East Asian Culture in Perspective: Identity - Historical Consciousness - Modernity' is part of the Department Languages and Cultures at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.






Agnieszka Rostalska

Former Members

Selected publications. For a complete list of publications, please refer to the profile pages of individual members.