Any Enlightened Government

Mortimer Graves’ Plan for a National Center for Far Eastern Studies, 1935–1946

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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Mortimer Graves, as the executive secretary of the American Council of Learned Societies, championed a National Center for Far Eastern Studies in the mid-1930s to address the shortfall of American East Asia experts. Graves reached for a national solution because of a progressive worldview that valued centralization and looked to European institutions as models. A National Center would incorporate Far Eastern Studies into the New Deal state and provide a u.s. response to French, German, and English orientalism centers. World War ii changed Graves’ view, however. Valued as u.s. national security assets, Asia specialists found employment in the upper echelons of military and civilian intelligence agencies as educators and analysts. No longer an insecure field, Graves saw the value in institutional diversity, becoming a champion of a university-based model of Far Eastern area studies after 1943. Centralization and respect for government lay dormant within the field, blooming atavistically as East Asia specialists became crucial knowledge producers for the u.s. government during the Cold War.

Any Enlightened Government

Mortimer Graves’ Plan for a National Center for Far Eastern Studies, 1935–1946

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations



Henry Luce“The American Century,” Life Magazine (February 14 1941): 61–65. There is a wide-ranging literature discussing Henry Luce’s concept of the American Century and its impact on American foreign relations after World War ii. Particularly insightful sources include Alan Brinkley The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century (New York City: A. A. Knopf 2010); Robert E. Herzstein Henry Luce Time and the American Crusade in Asia (Cambridge uk: Cambridge University Press 2005); Michael H. Hunt “East Asia in Henry Luce’s ‘American Century’” Diplomatic History 23 no. 2 (Spring 1999): 321–53; James D. Startt book review of “Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who Created the American Century” American Historical Review 100 no. 5 (December 1995): 1713–14.


RossThe Origins of American Social Science p. 397. See also John Dewey Lectures in China 1919–1920 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press 1973); Jessica Ching-Sze Wang John Dewey in China: To Teach and to Learn (Albany: State University of New York Press 2007).


Mortimer Graves“The Need and Plans for Chinese Studies in the United States,” Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science 152 (November 1930): 370–77.


Richard Jean SoTranspacific Community: America China and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network (New York: Columbia University Press2016) xxii–xxvii.


RogersAtlantic Crossings pp. 410–11. Warren I. Cohen and Richard So clearly present how at that time a similar transpacific progressive community existed. Warren I. Cohen The Chinese Connection: Roger S. Greene Thomas W. Lamont George E. Sokolsky and American-­East Asian Relations (New York: Columbia University Press 1978); So Transpacific Community.


Mortimer Graves“The American School of Indic and Iranian Studies,” The American Scholar 5 no. 2 (Spring 1936): 244–50.


Ibid. p. 250.


Edwin G. Beal and Janet F. Beal“Obituary: Arthur W. Hummel,” Journal of Asian Studies 35 no. 2 (February 1976): 265–76.


Bodde to Stevens 14 August 1940ibid.


Graves“Preliminary Proposals for a National School of Modern Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Washington” p. 2.


Mortimer Graves“Intensive Language Study,” Far Eastern Survey 12 no. 6 (22 March 1943): 22–23.


Graves and Cowan“Report of the First Year’s Operation of the Intensive Language ­Program of the American Council of Learned Societies 1941–1942” pp. 17–18.


Ibid. p. 32.


Mortimer Graves“A Memorandum on Regional Studies: Practical Ways of Meeting the Emergency,” Journal of Higher Education 14 no. 8 (November 1943): 431–34.


Ibid. p. 431.


Mortimer Graves“Where Do the Humanities Go From Here?,” South Atlantic Bulletin 14 no. 1 (May 1948): 6.


Mortimer Graves“Knowledge of Asia,” The Washington Post20 December 1951 p. 14. Graves had been interested in the Middle East since the 1930s but political developments in East Asia sidelined this focus of attention. To situate Graves in the history of American scholarship on the Middle East see Lockman Field Notes 72–92; Osamah Faisal Khalil “At the Crossroads of Empire: The United States the Middle East and the Politics of Knowledge 1902–2002” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation University of California at Berkeley 2011 pp. 127–30.


Graves“Where Do the Humanities Go From Here?” p. 5.


Ibid. p. 6.


Rebecca S. LowenCreating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford (Berkeley: University of California Press1997). Numerous scholars have written on the relationship between university area studies programs and the national security state during the Cold War though none have focused on Far Eastern studies specifically. See Bruce Cumings “Boundary Displacement: The State the Foundations and Area Studies during and after the Cold War” in Learning Places: The Afterlives of Area Studies Masao Miyoshi and H. D. Harootunian eds. (Durham nc: Duke University Press 2002): 261–302; David C. Engerman Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts (New York: Oxford University Press 2009); Immanuel Wallerstein “The Unintended Consequences of Cold War Area Studies” in The Cold War and the University: Toward and Intellectual History of the Postwar Years Noam Chomsky et al. (New York City: The New Press 1997).


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