Marco Polo Centre: Ca' Foscari's research on Asia and the Mediterranean

On November 18, Ca' Foscari inaugurated its new international research centre on the East and the Mediterranean, the 'Marco Polo'/Centre for Global Europe-Asia Connections (MaP), named after the famous Venetian explorer, writer, merchant, ambassador and first western man to describe the traditions and customs of ancient China.

The centre was conceived to promote scientific cooperation at national and international level between Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean, on innovative subject areas, such as new religious identities and global challenges related to migration and climate change.  The structure was created by Department of Asian and Mediterranean African Studies (DSAAM), thanks to funding received for the "Department of Excellence" project.

The MaP will organise conferences, symposia, summer schools and other educational and research activities, through which the DSAAM aims to consolidate further its profile of department of excellence in Asian and North African Studies at national and international level, offering itself as a point of reference for understanding the profound intellectual, economic and socio-cultural transformations underway in Asia and in the Mediterranean, which have an increasing impact on general equilibrium in the age of globalisation.

There will be particular focus on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, “New Silk Road”), which is today among the central themes and issues of analysis and international debate, in the light of the initiatives taken since 2013, and today under strong development, by the Chinese Government.

The programmed educational initiatives include the strengthening of the Master’s degree in Editorial and Sectoral Interpreting and Translation, at the Treviso site, with the installation of new facilities for simultaneous interpreting; the institution of a new Master’s degree course - Language Management to China- with the Department of Management, focused on Italy-China business management relations. A new study course on South East Asia has already been added to the 3-year degree course Languages, Cultures and Societies of Asia and Mediterranean Africa (in particular including Vietnamese and Thai). We have launched 2 scholarships for foreign students who are enrolled in the  2019/20 A.Y. on a Master’s course in the department and 4 PhD scholarships (two more will be added in the 2020/21 A.Y.). We have already launched 5 research grants, for research on issues relating to the MaP objectives.

The MaP operates in cooperation with other departments and research centres at Ca' Foscari and with numerous national and international institutions. Collaborations have been established and are in progress with networks and institutions including, among others, the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS, Leiden, Netherlands), ChinaMed and To-China.

The main tools through which the MaP will achieve its objectives are:

  • New editions of the International Summer Schools, which will focus on historical processes and emerging trends in politics, governance, the economy and the socio-cultural changes between Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean. The first was held in September 2019, within the framework of the collaboration with the East Asia Net: focused on the key theme of the BRI, entitled “Uncovering Pathways of Change Along the Belt and Road”, it had the fundamental aim of providing participants with the theoretical and methodological tools required to better understand the BRI Project. The Summer School was attended by dozens of students and professors from all over the world;
  • Organising Marco Polo Lectures, with the participation of scholars of high academic and international cultural profiles. The first was held in May 2019 by Prof. Jeff Wasserstrom (University of California, Irvine), one of the most authoritative and respected figures not only in the field of studies on contemporary China, but also in terms of Public History through his collaboration with important international newspapers and magazines.
  • Organising annual Marco Polo Colloquia, with the purpose of presenting - through dialogue between scholars and experts from various countries - the most significant central issues in recent years regarding Europe/Asia relations and of the changes underway in Asia and in the Mediterranean. The first is scheduled for February 2020 on the theme “Belt and Road Initiative. Perceptions from Japan, Pakistan and Iran”.
  • Organization of an annual series of joint seminars, workshops and lectures on specific themes, with the collaboration of national and international visiting scholars. In particular, these events include the “China 70-100” Project , which has the purpose of shining a light on the most important aspects of the development of modern identity in China in the light of the anniversaries of the “May Fourth Movement” (1919) and the founding of the People s Republic of China" (1949) and another programmed for the end of November 2019 on “Brussels Looks East. The Caspian Region and and the New EU Strategy Towards Central Asia”.