In the 1960s, American scholars and graduate students criticized the close relationship between some Asian Studies programs and United States government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group (MSUG), the Center for Vietnamese Studies at Southern Illinois University, and the East-West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (established in 1961 with funding from the US State Department), are examples of such programs that were scrutinized.
In the current era of university restructuring and budget cuts, more and more tertiary institutions in North America, Europe, and Australia have turned to country-specific sources for funding Asian Studies programs. The Korea Foundation, the Japan Foundation, Taiwan’s Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the PRC’s Confucius Institute network all provide funds for the study of their respective countries. A number of scholars and writers have voiced their concerns about Chinese government funding and its impact on teaching, research, and discusssions about China. Yet there has been little discussion about the potential ramifications on teaching and scholarship when universities accept money from other governments in the region. Should we assume that when the Korean, Japanese, and Taiwan governments provide financial support to universities, these are gifts that transcend the reciprocal demands sketched out by Marcel Mauss in his seminal work, The Gift? There are no pure gifts, as Mauss so eloquently showed: an expectation always accompanies these. In this roundtable a group of scholars and practitioners with a range of experiences in dealing with funding arrangements with East Asian governments will discuss the opportunities, challenges, and potential threats such funding offers.