CHEW Oxford

CHEW Oxford (China’s Health, Environment and Welfare) is a graduate interest and research group dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of health, environmental and welfare issues arising from China’s massive economic and social change over recent decades. Founded in late 2013, CHEW Oxford aims to promote interdisciplinary dialogue and encourage collaboration between participants. CHEW was established in 2013 at Green Templeton College, Oxford.

With an organising committee of doctoral and masters students from fields such as geography, anthropology and political science, CHEW Oxford has considerable reach across the University of Oxford and has quickly developed into an important hub for idea generation and knowledge exchange, including around practical areas related to the study of contemporary China such as fieldwork methodologies. CHEW Oxford’s activities include biweekly meetings and reading groups, talks by academics and practitioners, promoting networking between participants, and circulating relevant news and links through our online platforms.

This academic year, we sought funding through the DTC primarily to convene CHEW Conference 2015, which was intended to bring leading academics studying issues relevant to CHEW in contact with the Oxford graduate student body, and to provide a platform for graduate students to share their ongoing research.

CHEW Oxford has continued to mature as an organisation this academic year. We ran a series of eight student discussion groups and expert seminars in Michaelmas 2014 and Hilary 2015, including presentations by Prof Stuart Basten from Oxford’s Dept of Social Policy and Intervention, Fergus Green from LSE, and Dr Jenny Chan from Oxford’s China Centre. We also hosted an Oxford premiere of the documentary What’s for Dinner?, on the subject of China’s food systems, featuring renowned journalist Isabel Hilton OBE and documentary producer Mia MacDonald. These events were well attended by students from a large number of Oxford departments. One aspect that we would like to improve on is the involvement of students in these seminars.

This year, we had four DPhil students present their research and/or report back on fieldwork experiences, but we would like to enlarge this aspect of CHEW’s program in years to come. In general, CHEW’s efforts, and participating members, tend to be predominantly focused on the major CHEW Conference, and we feel it is time to consider whether CHEW should continue to focus on small regular events through Michaelmas and Hilary or put more emphasis on a few large events, such as our very successful film screening, across the course of the year.

Once again, CHEW Conference dominated CHEW’s annual schedule of events, and was a resounding success, with an audience of 60 for the full-day conference, and nine senior speakers and six young researchers presenting their work, joining us from Oxford, London, Nottingham, Venice, Berlin, Hong Kong and Beijing. Given funding constraints, and the time limitations of a one-day conference, we were very happy with the breadth of experience and disciplinary backgrounds represented amongst our speakers. In particular, we feel the inclusion of parallel young researcher sessions worked very well, and we would like to replicate this again in future conferences.

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