Vilnius University Hosted the First Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies Conference

Press release
9 April 2014

On 3–4 April 2014 the first conference of the Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies (BAAS) was held at the Centre of Oriental Studies, Vilnius University. Scholars from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Unites States, gathered under 10 panels, presented 50 papers including two keynote addresses by the former Rector of Tallinn University professor Rein Raud representing the University of Helsinki, and professor Viktoria Lysenko from the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The themes of the panels subsumed a wide range of Asian research conducted at the universities in three Baltic countries. Presentations focused on the poetry and painting under Tang and Song, interpretations and re-interpretations of the Buddhist texts, linguistic traditions and other traditional systems of knoweldge in Asia, identity in arts and visual cultures of Asia, images, perceptions and representations of Asian countries in Europe, contemporary philosophical issues from East Asian perspective, translations and responses of Asian literary texts in the Baltic countries, religious diversity of Turkic speaking peoples in Eastern Europe, Islamic political discourse in Greater Central Asia, anthropological field research from Asia.

Vilnius conference was the closing event of chairmanship of the Alliance by the Centre of Oriental Studies at Vilnius University held since 2013 when the idea of the Alliance was generated. At the meeting of the BAAS Board following the conference, the representatives of five founding institutions signed the Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies Charter and appointed the Centre for Oriental Studies at the Univerity of Tartu the chairing of the Alliance for the next biannual period. At the meeting the future agenda of the Alliance was discussed. There was a mutual agreement that one of the most important aims of the Alliance is to build up a regional competitive research infrastructure in Asian studies in the Baltics. Achievement of this aim obviously requires enhacement of closer cooperation between its stakeholders, including the Universities, policy makers and professional community. The Board also agreed upon having student research section as a part of the Alliance conferences in future.

The Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies is a co-operative framework of institutions (academic institutes, departments, and programmes) in the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) specializing in Asian studies. The founding institutions of the Alliance are the Departments or Centres of Asian Studies at Tallinn University, University of Latvia, University of Tartu, Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University. The Alliance implies the establishment of a coordinated framework for joint planning and for pooling resources in conducting various joint projects. Its purposes comprise fostering interaction between scholars and students active in Asian studies in the Baltic countries; enhancement of high-quality co-operative research; building up a regional competitive research infrastructure in Asian studies; and stimulating international visibility of Asian studies in the Baltic countries. The activities of the Alliance comprise support for research, networks and education; provision of expert information, resources and services; scientific publishing; acquisition of research funding; dissemination of research; academic exchange and networks.

The second Baltic Alliance for Asian Studies conference will be hosted by Tartu University in 2016.