Chinese symposium honors ASU School of International Letters and Cultures' founding director


Robert Joe Cutter founded the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. Photo courtesy ASU

The Sociality and Sociability Across Time, Space and Cultures symposium honoring Arizona State University School of International Letters and Cultures founding director Robert Joe Cutter is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, April 21–22. The event will bring together distinguished scholars at the forefront of their fields from more than ten universities who are leading the field to explore the nuances of Chinese culture, language and early medieval Chinese literature. It includes a reception on Thursday evening, April 20.

Cutter, an Arizona native from Yuma, served as the School of International Letters and Cultures' first director for more than 10 years. Along with his roles as director and professor of Chinese at the Confucius Institute, he is also a faculty member at the Center for Asian Research at ASU and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, both of which are co-sponsors of the event along with the Ohio State University East Asian Studies Center.

Cutter has produced four books, more than thirty chapters and papers, and has spoken at dozens of lectures and addresses, making him a hugely influential scholar in medieval Chinese literature.

Xiaoqiao Ling, associate professor of Chinese at ASU and the symposium's coordinator, said Cutter's scholarship and professional efforts have elevated Chinese cultural studies and greatly impacted language education at ASU.

“As an administrator, Joe Cutter laid out the vision of the School of International Letters and Cultures to provide diverse linguistic and cultural immersion experiences that are crucial in preparing global citizens,” Ling said. “As a Chinese studies expert, Joe Cutter’s research on the court culture and symposium poetry, in particular, has a lasting impact on our understanding of early medieval China, as well as the period’s influence on the Chinese lyrical tradition in general.”

Scholars from around the world will examine topics such as cross-border cultural exchanges, community development and social networking at this conference. By fostering cross-regional and cross-disciplinary discussions on how texts might help to consolidate shared experiences among various social groupings in society, this conference honors Cutter's career.

This celebration of Cutter's work and exploration of historical Chinese culture also addresses current discussions about language and culture that are taking place both locally and internationally.

“Exploring exchanges across national borders will facilitate in-depth cultural understanding and contribute to community building,” Ling said. “Solidarities premised on mutual understanding and respect of diverse cultures will expand the social network in community building, which is a task of prevalent importance in the post-pandemic age. The topic of sociality and sociability across time and cultures in this event will facilitate discussions of cultural contacts, exchanges and negotiations that will put language and culture at the forefront to facilitate both local and global communications.”

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