PIIRS launches Princeton Exploration Seminars

Carley Stamps ’19 works at Awagami Paper Factory, Yamakawa-cho, in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku Island, Japan.
Photo: Daniel Hayman, Lewis Center for the Arts

Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), in cooperation with the Office of     International Programs (OIP), inaugurated Princeton Exploration Seminars in spring 2018, with “Book and Paper-Making in Japan,” with Daniel Hayman. Hayman, a painter and printmaker, has been a lecturer in the visual arts at Princeton since 2010.

The Exploration Seminars are set to be seven- to nine-day international-travel components of semester-long credit-bearing courses. Travel is central to their pedagogical mission, and excursions take place during fall or spring breaks or, in special circumstances, immediately after the course has closed.

“Book and Paper-Making in Japan” was the University’s pilot Exploration Seminar. The course, co-sponsored by the Lewis Center for the Arts, included visits to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Naoshima and the Shikoku Island paper-making village, Yamakawa. Students participated in two intensive workshops: five days learning Japanese book-arts techniques, such as accordion, stab binding and scrolls, in Tokyo, and five days of paper-making at the Awagami Paper Factory on rural Shikoku Island. Students also visited important art and cultural sites, and were introduced to the context of Japanese contemporary visual culture.

“Studying traditional arts in the country where they originated and continue to be practiced gives our students both the knowledge and the context of that knowledge,” said Hayman of the importance of being in a particular location to learn. “By studying in both urban and rural Japan, the Princeton students’ understanding of traditional Japanese book arts and paper-making is much richer, as each student witnessed a living tradition passed on from master to student for generations in the locale, and with the materials and tools that are as refined as the arts themselves.”

In fall 2018, the program expanded. Max Weiss, associate professor of history and Near Eastern studies, led 12 students to Israel and Palestine as part of his undergraduate course “History of Israel/Palestine.” Students examined the history of modern Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli and Palestinian politics, literature, popular culture, and reconciliation and peacemaking. 

“Physically inhabiting the space goes a long way in driving home [to students] that the historical questions about the origins, evolution and current conditions of the region we ask are both complicated and comprehensible,” said Weiss. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the history of the region is no more and no less teachable than any other historical problem.” – P.M.