L.H.M. Ling, Associate Professor in the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy held a course, "An Evening on the Silk Road," evoking the Silk Road Spirit. It recognized that the Road was not just a strip of geography, a venue for commerce, barter and trade from long ago, far away; it was also a way of living in the present with a world richly populated by multiplicity and complexity, exchanges and flows, languages/religions/goods, despite conflicts and contestations. The Road connected merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, and nomads -- not to mention princesses, nuns, shamans, scribes, and settlers -- from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea through Arabia, Somalia to China through India and Persia, and Venice to Java through India and China. The long, arduous, scenic, adventurous, death-stricken, awe-inspiring routes mandated interdependence, and perhaps reverence for wisdom and insight, learning from the signs and the esoteric, and a basic degree of humility and adaptability that offers a non-individualistic, non-predatory approach to life. Difference along the Silk Road, in other words, did not mean exile or alienation but a source of learning, adaptation, and circulation.
In this sense, the Silk Road remains key for us today. It serves as a metaphor for dealings between Self and Other without resort to the usual power plays that lead to annihilation or conversion. Even more so, the Silk Road offers practical guidelines on how to manage contending approaches to politics, economics, society, religion, and aesthetics, among others. From the Silk Road, we can understand our globalized world(s) anew. Globalization becomes not just a juggernaut of Western technology, media, and finance restructuring the rest of the world, but also as a process of negotiation, reformulation, emergence, and possibly transcendence. "An Evening on the Silk Road" aims to pass on this spirit to a new generation of fellow travelers at The New School.
For more information on "An Evening on the Silk Road," visit http://www.newschoolsilkroad.wordpress.com