Faculty & Staff

Wei Cheng dr. Cheng, Wei Cheng

Wei Cheng
Assistant Professor, Choral Studies Coordinator
Choral Studies
Faculty  |  Music, East Asian Studies
Burton Hall
B.M., Central Conservatory of Music, Bejing; M.M., D.M.A., College-Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati

Dr. Wei Cheng is the Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Denison University. She was born in Beijing, China where she studied conducting at the Central Conservatory of Music. She earned both her masters and doctoral degrees in choral conducting at the College Conservatory of Music-University of Cincinnati. She is an active clinician and guest conductor in Ohio, Indiana, and in Beijing, China.

Dr. Cheng has served as music director of the University of Cincinnati Women's Chorus, directed Earlham College choirs, interned at the Chicago Symphony Chorus, was a Conducting Fellow in the Chorus America Conducting Workshops; conducted the Oregon Bach Festival and National Conductor’s Symposium with Vancouver Chamber Choir (Canada).

Her recent engagements include guest conducting with the Young People’s Chorus at National Center of Performing Arts, Beijing China; China’s national opera company (Central Opera); and Beijing International Children’s Chorus.

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John E. Cort dr. Cort, John Edward E. Cort

John E. Cort
Professor of Asian and Comparative Religions & Chair (Religion)
Faculty  |  Religion, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, International Studies
Blair Knapp Hall
B.A., M.A., University of Wisconsin; M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University

John E. Cort has degrees in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin (B.A., 1974; M.A., 1982), and in the Study of Religion from Harvard University (A.M., 1984; Ph.D., 1989). He teaches our courses on religions of Asia, as well as comparative courses on issues such as environmentalism, art, human rights and nonviolence. He is also on the East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies and International Studies program committees, and regularly teaches courses that cross-list in these programs.

John is a scholar of India, where he has lived for seven years over the past four decades. Before entering graduate school, he worked as a community organizer on issues of disarmament and social justice in Washington, D.C. He also enjoys translating poetry from several Indian languages into American English.

Research Details: 

John’s research focuses on the Jain traditions of South Asia, and religion, society, culture and history more broadly in western India, in particular Gujarat and Rajasthan. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in India. He is currently working on two book on Jain devotional texts and practices, with working titles of Naked Devotion and Devotion to the Dispassionate Lord. His research has been supported by grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the American Philosophical Society, the Asian Cultural Council, Denison University, the Freeman Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, the Getty Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He is very active in service to the profession. He is an elected member of the American Society for the Study of Religion. He has served as the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Indian Studies since 1998, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Council on Southern Asian Art twice, in 2000 to 2003, and 2010 to 2014. He served as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Religion in South Asia Section of the American Academy of Religion in 2008-11, and has served as co-chair of the Jain Studies Group of AAR since 2011.


He has written, edited and translated the following books and special journal issues:

  • (Co-editor, with Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg and Leslie C. Orr), Cooperation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution: The Jaina Community, British Expansion and Scholarship during the 19th and Early 20th Century. Berlin: EB-Verlag, forthcoming.
  • Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • (With Lawrence A. Babb and Michael W. Meister), Desert Temples: Sacred Centers of Rajasthan in Historical, Art-Historical and Social Contexts. Jaipur: Rawat, 2008.
  • (Translator), Jagannātha Panditaraja, The Saving Waves of the Milk-White Ganga. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 2007.
  • (Guest Editor), American Studies of the Jains. Jinamañjari 34:2 (October 2006).
  • Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India. New York and Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001. Paperback edition 2011.
  • (Editor) Open Boundaries: Jain Communities and Cultures in Indian History. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. Reprint Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1999.
  • (Editor) Kendall W. Folkert. Scripture and Community: Collected Essays on the Jains. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993.
  • (Translator) Bhartrhari, An Old Tree Living by the River. Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1983.

Recent and forthcoming articles include the following:

  • Defending Jainism against Christianity and Colonialism: Jains and Presbyterian Missionaries in Colonial Gujarat.” Cooperation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution.
  • God's Eyes: The Manufacture, Installation and Experience of External Eyes on Jain Icons.” Corinne Dempsey and Tracy Pintchman (eds.), Sacred Matters: Material Religion in South Asian Traditions. Albany: SUNY Press, forthcoming.
  • In Search of 'Hindu Fiction': The First 'American School' of Jain Studies.” Cooperation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution.
  • Jain Identity and the Public Sphere in Nineteenth-Century India.” Vasudha Dalmia and Martin Fuchs (eds.), Multiplicity and Monoliths: Religious Interactions in India, 18th-20th Centuries. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • Making it Vernacular in Agra: The Practice of Translation by Seventeenth-century Digambar Jains.” Francesca Orsini (ed.), Tellings Not Texts: Singing, Story-telling and Performance in North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • ’This is How We Play Holi’: Allegory in North Indian Digambar Jain Holī Songs.” John Stratton Hawley, Anshu Malhotra and Tyler Williams (eds.), Texts and Traditions in Early Modern North India: Selected Essays from the Eleventh International Conference on Early Modern Literatures in North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • When Will I Meet Such a Guru? Images of the Yogi in Digambar Hymns.” Christopher Key Chapple and Olle Qvarnstöm (eds.), Jaina Yoga. London: Routledge, forthcoming.
  • Daulatram Plays Holi: Digambar Bhakti Songs of Springtime.” Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies 8 (2013), 33-35.
  • A Digambar Icon of the Goddess Jvalamalini.” Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies 8 (2013), 42-43.
  • “God Outside and God Inside: North Indian Digambar Jain Performance of Bhakti.” Imre Bangha (ed.), Bhakti Beyond the Forest: Current Research on Early Modern Literatures in North India, 2003-2009, 255-86. New Delhi: Manohar, 2013.
  • ’Today I Play Holi in My City’: Digambar Jain Holi Songs from Jaipur.” International Journal of Jaina Studies (online), 9:7 (2013), 1-50.
  • “Situating Darsan: Seeing the Digambar Jina Icon in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century North India.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 16 (2012), 1-56.
  • A Digambar Icon of Twenty-Four Jinas in the Ackland Museum, University of North Carolina.” Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies 7 (2012), 30-33.
  • Four Japanese Derivations: Haibun.” Abraxas 48 (2012), 82-88.
  • History and Indology as Authoritative Knowledge: Debates about Jain Icons in Colonial India.” Brian Hatcher and Michael Dodson (eds.), Trans-Colonial Modernities in South Asia, 137-61. London: Routledge, 2012.
  • “The Goddesses of Sravana Belgola.” Nalini Balbir (ed.), Svasti: Essays in Honour of Prof. Hampa Nagarajaiah for his 75th Birthday, 346-53. Krishnapuradoddi: K. S. Muddappa Smaraka Trust, 2010.
  • “In Defense of Icons in Three Languages: The Iconophilic Writings of Yasovijaya.” International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online) 6:2 (2010), 1-45.
  • (With Lawrence A. Babb and Michael W. Meister), “Desert Temples: Archaeology in Present Time.” Pierfrancesco Callieri and Luca Colliva (eds.), South Asian Archaeology 2007: Proceedings of the 19th Meeting of the European Association of South Asian Archaeology in Ravenna, July 2007. Volume II: Historic Periods, 19-26. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010.
  • “World Renouncing Monks and World Celebrating Temples and Icons: The Ritual Culture of Temples and Icons in Jainism.” Himanshu Prabha Ray (ed.), Archaeology and Text: The Temple in South Asia, 268-95. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • “Budhjan's Petition: Digambar Bhakti in Nineteenth-Century Jaipur.” Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies 4 (2009), 39-42.
  • “Jains and Jainism in Patan.” Manibhai K. Prajapati (ed.), The Glorious History and Culture of Anhilwad Patan (Gujarat) (Prof. Mukundbhai P. Brahmakshatriya Felicitation Volume), 540-88. Patan: Prof. Mukundbhai P. Brahmakshatriya Sanman Samiti, 2009.
  • “Contemporary Jain Mandala Rituals.” Phyllis Granoff (ed.), Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection, 140-57. New York: Rubin Museum of Art; and Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2009.
  • “The Cosmic Man and the Human Condition.” Phyllis Granoff (ed.), Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection, 34-47. New York: Rubin Museum of Art; and Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing, 2009.
  • “An Epitome of Medieval Svetambara Jain Literary Culture: A Review and Study of Jinaratnasuri's Lilavatisara.” International Journal of Jaina Studies (online) 5 (2009), 1-33.
  • “Green Pratikraman: A Friendly Proposal for Global Jains.” Ecology—the Jain Way (15th Biennial JAINA Convention 2009 Souvenir), 122-23.
  • “Helen M. Johnson: The First American Woman Scholar of Sanskrit.” Journal of the Johnson Library and Museum 3 (2009), 31-47.
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John Davis Davis, John H. Davis

Assistant Professor
Faculty  |  Black Studies, East Asian Studies, International Studies, Sociology / Anthropology
Blair Knapp Hall
B.A., Cornell University; M.A., Ph.D., Stanford University

Assistant Professor John Davis joined the faculty at Denison in the fall of 2011. Prof. Davis is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose work explores the "social life" of rights by critically analyzing the processes by which transnational discourses and practices of human rights intersect with specific national and cultural contexts to shape everyday life. Prof. Davis's dissertation used ethnographic modes of inquiry to illuminate the cultural politics of human rights in Japan through an exploration of how the burakumin minority operationalized the idea of human rights within their movement for social change.

Prof. Davis is currently completing a book manuscript titled "Animating Rights in Japan: The Politics of Buraku Liberation". Prof. Davis has two new research projects underway. The first utilizes the case of burakumin as an opportunity to reconsider theories of race and minority subjectivity. It is at once an attempt to account for the wide-ranging and often conflicting narratives he encountered in Japan about what it meant to be "burakumin" and how his own positionality as an African American in Japan shaped his perspective on the topic. More often than not Prof. Davis became part of the focus of conversations with people as they invoked his status as a kokujin ("Black person") to illustrate points of difference or similarity "the nature of the comparison varied with the speaker" between racial minorities and burakumin. Prof. Davis's second line of research compares how concepts of race and ethnicity factor into genetics research in Japan and the United States respectively.

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Tod Frolking dr. Frolking, Tod A. Frolking

Tod Frolking
Faculty  |  Geosciences, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies
F.W. Olin Science Hall
B.A., University of New Hampshire; M.S., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

As the sole geographer at Denison, I teach several introductory and regional geography courses designed to spark student interest and broaden understanding of the diversity of environments and human/environment interactions around the world. These courses help to foster geographic (and environmental) literacy which I see as absolutely critical to our future. As human impacts on the planet continue to increase, we must have a citizenry that is knowledgeable and can make sound decisions about land and resource use. I also teach three intermediate to advanced courses concentrating on different groups of earth surface processes - Weather and Climate, Geomorphology, and Hydrogeology. We spend considerable time outside observing and measuring atmospheric, hydrologic and pedologic phenomena as well as computer times using spread sheets and gathering data from the web. All of my classes have a significant environmental focus and most are linked with Denison's Environmental Studies curriculum.

I have led some student trips to Cuba. We have studied both natural history and environmental issues in and around Havana and in the provinces of Pinar del Rio (west), Matanzas (central), and Santiago de Cuba (east). More information about the May Term 2000 trip can be obtained through the Cuba link. 

Research Details: 

In broad terms, my research focuses on the complex interactions among landforms, soils and climate. I study the dynamic environments along the margins of the former great Laurentide ice sheets, with particular emphasis on glacial deposits and the genesis of soils and paleosols. Lately much of my attention has been on the timing of drainage reversals associated with the advance of ice sheets into the Appalachian Plateau in East Central Ohio. In addition, I have conducted collaborative archaeological research at several sites in central Ohio and have worked on the biogeochemical modeling of soil nitrogen. Our discovery of gut contents (with living intestinal bacteria) with the recovery of the Burning Tree Mastodon has added important information about the late glacial environment and megafauna diets. Much of my research has involved students, both as field assistants and in independent senior projects that contribute to my research program. Other student research projects I have advised cover a wide range of topics. Examples of recent student research projects include a presettlement map of Licking County vegetation, the origin and mineralogy of beach sands on Kelley's Island, coastal zone management in southern Sri Lanka, an analysis of lacustrine sediments of Glacial Lake Licking, and an assessment of soil nutrient loading at the Buckeye Egg Farm.

  • Frolking, T.A.. Holocene Hydrology, Soil Development and Landscape Evolution of the Bikeri Vésztö-Mágor Area in the Körös Basin of Eastern Hungary. Submitted for publication in monograph on the Körös Regional Archaeological Project in the Monumental Archaeologica Series, Costen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.
  • Gyucha, A., Duffy, P.R. and Frolking T.A. . The Körös Basin from the Neolithic to the Habsburgs: Linking settlement distributions with pre-regulation hydrology through multiple dataset overlay. In review. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal.
  • Yerkes, R., Sarris, A., Frolking, T., Parkinson, W., Gyucha, A., Hardy, M. and Catanoso, L.. 2007. Geophysical and Geochemical Investigations at Two Early Copper Age Settlements in the Körös River Valley, Southeastern Hungary . Geoarchaeology: An International Journal. v. 22 no. 8 p. 845-871 View [pdf]
  • Frolking, T.A. and M.A. Pachell*. 2006. Glacial Lake Licking: Late-Glacial Drainage Diversions and the Formation of Black Hand Gorge, Licking County, Ohio. Ohio Journal of Science. v. 106 no. 3 p. 103-111 View [pdf]
  • Frolking, S., Frolking, T., Xiao, X., Boles, S. and Milliman, T. . 2005. A generalized methodology for mapping agricultural land use and management at sub-national scales, including a case study of combining census data and remote sensing data to map cropping intensity in Vietnam. Report prepared for Land and Water Division, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations 75 p..
  • Lepper, B.T. and Frolking, T.A.. 2003. Alligator Mound: Geoarchaeological and Iconographical Interpretations of a Late Prehistoric Effigy Mound in Central Ohio. Cambridge Archaological Journal. v. 13 no. 2 p. 147-167 View [pdf]
  • Stam, A. and Frolking, T.A.. 2003. Environmental Status of Cuba: The Cuban View. A course book for Environmental issues of Cuba (Denison May Term) based largely on interviews with Cuban experts (1999-2001), being modified and added to on a continuous basis.
  • Lepper, B.T., and Frolking, T.A.. 2003. Alligator Mound: Geoarchaeological and Iconographical Interpretations of a Late Prehistoric Effigy Mound in Central Ohio. Cambridge Archaelogical Journal. v. 13 no. 2 p. 147-167
  • Frolking, T.A. and Lepper, B.T.. 2001. Geomorphic and pedogenic evidence for bioturbation of artifacts at a multi-component site in Licking County, Ohio, USA. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal. v. 16 no. 3 p. 243-262
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Ching-chu Hu dr. Hu, Ching-chu Hu

Ching-chu Hu
Richard Lucier Endowed Professor, Professor of Music
Composition & Music Theory
Faculty  |  Music, East Asian Studies, Queer Studies
Burton Hall
B.A., Yale University; M.A., M.F.A., University of Iowa; D.M.A., University of Michigan

Ching-chu Hu’s music has been performed in the United States, England, Germany, Russia, Austria, China, Taiwan, and Australia, and reviews have described his music as “incredible” and “deeply moving.” Recent honors have included composer-in-residence at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, and guest composer at the American Music Week Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. Hu has been a composition fellow at the Aspen and Bowdoin Music Festivals, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Banff Centre for the Arts. He has received performances in various national and international festivals and concerts, including the Alternativa Festival (Center “DOM”) in Moscow.

Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Ching-chu Hu studied at Yale University, Freiburg Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany, The University of Iowa, and the University of Michigan, where he earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition. His composition teachers included William Bolcom, William Albright, Michael Daugherty, Leslie Bassett, Bright Sheng, Evan Chambers, and David Gompper. His conducting teachers included Alastair Neale, David Stern, and James Dixon. He also studied piano with Donald Currier, Stéphane Lemelin, and Logan Skelton and bass with Diana Gannett and Eldon Oberecht. He is active as a pianist and conductor, and wrote the scores for several short award-winning films. Recent commissions include works for the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, the Granville (Ohio) Bicentennial Committee, the University of Iowa School of Music’s Centennial celebration, the Greater Columbus Community Orchestra, the Newark Granville Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Children’s Choir and the Chamber Music Connection, string duo Low and Lower, Western Springs Suzuki Talent Education Program’s 30th Anniversary Concert in Chicago Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall as well as Newark Granville Youth Symphony’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts performance. Upcoming premieres include commissioned work by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, West Texas A&M orchestra, marimbist Mayumi Hama and pianist Minju Choi.

Conductor Donald Portnoy and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra performed In Frozen Distance and violinist Wolfgang David premiered Passions at Wigmore Hall in London, England. Other notable performers include flutist Betty Bang Mather, bassists Robert Black and Anthony Stoops, violinists Scott Conklin and Gabe Bolkosky, Moscow Conservatory’s Studio New Music Ensemble, Brave New Works New Music Ensemble, Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, the National Dance and Opera Orchestra of China, and the Kiev Philharmonic. His music can be heard on the ERM Media’s “Masterworks of the New Era” CD series (vol. 4), Albany Records CD “Finnegan’s Wake” (Troy 680), “Star of the County Down” (Troy 937), “Spirals: American Music in Moscow” (Troy 1095), “Vive Concertante” (Troy 1110-11), “Violinguistics” (Troy 1138) “Insights: New Music for Double Bass” (Troy 1457) and Capstone Records’ “Journeys” (CPS-8809), with an upcoming CD release from Scott Conklin.

He was the first recipient of the Bayley-Bowen Fellowship, Denison University’s first endowed fellowship for a junior faculty member and it is a three-year fellowship for 2004-07. Ching-chu Hu is Associate Professor of Composition and Theory and is the Richard Luicer Distinguished Professor. More information can be found at: www.chingchuhu.com

Research Details: 

My goal as a composer is to create music that is lyrical and driven by narrative. My music tends to be tonal centric, yet filtered through a contemporary lens. I write both instrumental and vocal music in many different genres for solo, chamber, and large ensembles. Currently, most of my work tends to be commissioned for specific performers or ensembles. I write for young musicians and professional artists for a variety of occasions, including solo recitals, centennial/bicentennial celebrations, festivals, and international tours. Each composition clearly expresses my “voice,” reveals my “fingerprint.” Being raised in an artistic Chinese family in the middle of the United States has influenced my music, just as my formal training has refined my compositional skills.

  • Insights (contrabass and piano) and Beyond (contrabass) on Albany Records Insights: New American Music for Double Bass, recorded by bassist Anthony Stoops (Albany Records Troy 1457)
  • In Frozen Distance (orchestra) on Journeys, Capstone’s Society of Composers, Inc. CD Series, recorded by the National Chinese Dance and Opera Orchestra (Volume 23)
  • The Swash of Water and Red (string) on Albany Records Spirals: American Music in Moscow, recorded by Moscow Conservatory Studio of New Music (Albany Records Troy 1095)
  • Snow Ash (violin and piano) on Albany Records Violinguistics, recorded by Scott Conklin and Alan Huckleberry (Albany Records Troy 1138)
  • A Tempered Wish (violin and chamber orchestra) on Albany Records Viva Concertante, recorded The University of Iowa Center for New Music (Troy 1110-11)
  • Glaciers Red: Vistas Veiled (violin and piano) on Albany Records Star of the County Down, recorded by Wolfgang David and David Gompper (Albany Records Troy 937)
  • In Frozen Distance (orchestra) on ERM Media’s Masterworks of the New Era CD Series, vol. 4, recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic
  • Passions (violin and piano) on Albany Records Finnegan’s Wak,e recorded by Wolfgang David and David Gompper (Albany Records Troy 680)
  • Performed on accompanying CD for Proof Through the Night: Music and the Great War, by Glenn Watkins (UC Berkeley Press). Ravel, “Frontispice” (Gompper, Lecuona, Hu)
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Xinda Lian Lian, Xinda Lian

Lian, Xinda Lian
Professor & Chair (Modern Languages)
Faculty  |  Chinese, Modern Languages, East Asian Studies
Fellows Hall
M.A., Fujian Teachers University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan
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Taku Suzuki dr. Suzuki, Taku Suzuki

Taku Suzuki
Associate Professor
Faculty  |  East Asian Studies, International Studies
Fellows Hall
B.A., Meiji Gakuin University; M.A., University of Minnesota; Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Professor Suzuki is an Assistant Professor in International Studies. He earned a B.A. in International Stuides from Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan, and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Minnesota. He has conducted field research in the Okinawan immigrant communities in eastern Bolivia and Okinawan-Bolivian immigrant communities in eastern Japan, and is currently interested in a transnational Okinawan peace and environmental activism. He teaches courses in introductory International Studies, globalization and diversification of Japanese society, trans-Pacific Asian communities and identities, race and class formations in a global perspective, and comparative Asian immigrant experiences in the Americas.

Research Overview: 
Tourism and political activism, creation of history and memory, race and ethnicity, transnational migrations and globalization, Okinawa and Japan, the Mariana Islands, Asian America/Asian Diaspora in the Americas, Bolivia.
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Michael S. Tangeman ’91 dr. Tangeman, Michael Stone S. Tangeman ’91

Michael S. Tangeman '91
Associate Professor & Chair (East Asian Studies)
Faculty  |  Japanese, Modern Languages, East Asian Studies
Fellows Hall
B.A., Denison University; M.A., Ph.D., Ohio State University
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