“Asian studies is an inherently interdisciplinary field,” says Seth. “Rooted in history, it draws on the questions and methods central to anthropology, politics, economics, literature, and religious studies. It also serves to provide context to case studies in the visual and performing arts. Students in Asian studies learn to braid together strands of knowledge from social scientific theory, close analysis of primary texts, and fieldwork.”
In his introductory classes, Seth often invites students to explore the principles of human geography, considering the ways in which the physical world, the social and political realm, and the field of ideas interact across China, Japan, or Southeast Asia. Intermediate classes usually begin with a problem – nationalism, ethnicity, urbanization, human rights, resource conservation – and analyze its expression through cases drawn from across Asia. At both levels, we seek to grapple with both the profundity of differences across cultures and their interdependence. Seth encourages more advanced students to take advantage of Marlboro’s generous support for overseas study and research. Back at Marlboro, our work focuses on writing as a means to self-expression and discovery.
Seth’s research interests have evolved considerably in his time at Marlboro. Arriving with a focus on Hong Kong’s role in modern Chinese politics, he then pursued questions concerning the relationship between Daoist philosophy and its physical practice. More recently he has been engaged in two projects. The first is a lecture series surveying Southeast Asian history. The second is a study of traditional wooden architecture and joinery techniques in Japan. This work has led him into his own interdisciplinary adventures: teaching courses on Japanese sharpening and joinery techniques, serving as a consultant to the Mt. Fuji School of Fine Woodworking, and to helping to found HatchSpace, a woodworking school, maker space, and gallery in Brattleboro.
“Practice in the classroom: To taiji or not to taiji?” Journal of Daoist Studies 3 (2010).
“Hong Kong’s Dirty Little Secret: Clearing the Walled City of Kowloon,” Journal of Urban History (2000).