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ASU professor named president of American Oriental Society

April 08, 2011

Arizona State University professor and School of International Letters and Cultures Director Robert Joe Cutter acceded to the office of president of the American Oriental Society at its 221st annual meeting in March.

The AOS was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. The encouragement of basic research in the languages and literatures of Asia, broadly defined, are central to its humanistic aims.

"AOS is an intellectual home for a wide variety of scholarly endeavors," Cutter said. "There are specialists in the Ancient Near East, the Islamic Near East, East Asia, Central Asia, and in South Asia."

"The organization's journal, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, is a truly outstanding publication that makes the research of specialists in various disciplines in lesser-known geographical and cultural-linguistic areas available both to their fields and to other interested readers," he added.

Cutter came to ASU in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he had been a professor of Chinese for 22 years. At UW he also served terms as chair of East Asian Languages and Literature and director of the Center for East Asian Studies.

He received his Ph.D. in Asian languages and literatures (Chinese) from the University of Washington in 1983. His research specialization is medieval China, and today he is a leading scholar in premodern Chinese literature and cultural history.

Cutter began his tenure at ASU as the chair of the Department of Languages and Literatures. When the School of International Languages and Cultures, an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was launched in 2008 he became its founding director and has served in that position since.

Cutter became a member of AOS during his graduate school days. Over time he has served the AOS as director-at-large, the East Asia sectional chair, the western branch vice president and president, and most recently as vice president of the national organization.

He joins a very distinguished list of those who have served as AOS president in the past, including Yale University President Theodore Dwight Woolsey, scholar James Hadley, linguist W. D. Whitney, and Johns Hopkins University President Daniel C. Gilman.

Cutter is deeply committed to furthering the study of humanities: "I think that in today's world, when there is so much support for utilitarian research and education, it is crucial to have organizations like AOS that foster knowledge about who we are as humans, that investigate where we have been, and that encourage us to better understand the cultural products of our various human societies."