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Any Enlightened Government

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

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

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.

Affiliations: 1: Brandeis University,


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