NYU’s “Port Cities” Project Awarded a Second Henry Luce Foundation Grant

Sep 17 2021

The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded NYU a second grant to continue its “Port City Environments in Global Asia” project, an interdisciplinary, collaborative research and education initiative bringing together NYU faculty and students from New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai -- to examine both the internal dynamics and the external connections of the Indian Ocean port cities. The three-year $450,000 grant will be shared equally among the three campuses.

“We are thrilled that a project initiated by faculty in Shanghai to substantiate the vision of NYU's global network has been so solidly validated with a second Luce Foundation award,” said NYU Shanghai Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen, who founded the Global Asia program’s first center in Shanghai.

Launched in 2018 after receiving a first Luce Foundation grant, the Port Cities project has catalyzed collaborations not just across campuses and across the humanities, social sciences, and digital environmental studies. 

NYU Shanghai’s Center for Global Asia (CGA) has held two research workshops on “Indian Ocean Port Cities and Their Hinterlands” with academics from around the world who shared research on trade networks, labor migration, governance structures, gender relations, and commodity circulation. Papers presented at these workshops have been published in the two journals that the Center co-edits: The Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies and Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Asian Interactions. 

With historians, geographers, and anthropologists at the French Institute of Pondicherry, India, CGA is building a digital archive to track the social and environmental transformations along the Coromandel Coast in south India. Faculty and postdoctoral fellows have also launched an interdisciplinary effort to study China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive Chinese-funded, global infrastructure project to support overland routes connecting East Asia and Europe, as well as sea routes that stretch through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.An additional 400,000RMB from NYU Shanghai’s “Boost Fund” will enable CGA to recruit a postdoctoral fellow to work on the BRI project. 

Additionally, a virtual art exhibition entitled “Flowers on One Stalk: China-India Artistic Interactions in the 20th Century” will be launched on CGA’s website in February 2022. 

With the latest round of funding, CGA will continue work on most of these projects while also beginning a new phase of study focused on “Research and Pedagogy to Redesign Asian Studies.” The project’s ultimate goal will be to create a Global Asia curriculum across the three campuses. The grant will help Global Asia programs in three portal campuses expand course offerings. For NYU Shanghai, undergraduate courses on “BRI and Asia” and “Maritime Silk Road” will be introduced to students. With the Henry Luce funds CGA plans to launch a two-week summer school in 2023, focusing on the BRI and Global Asia. Advanced college and MA students will be eligible to apply for 25 spots, 15 of whom will receive accommodation and travel stipends from NYU Shanghai. 

A series of events including workshops, keynote addresses, and a 2023 international conference are also in the making.

“We are grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation and the University leadership at all three campuses for their support for securing this grant,” said Tansen Sen, Director of CGA and Professor of History at NYU Shanghai. 

Established in 1936, the Henry Luce Foundation strives to enhance public discourse through grant-making and leadership programs in the fields including Asia, higher education, and public policy.