Silk Roads Winston-Salem advances our understanding of global cross-cultural exchange as it relates to the historic Silk Roads through a program of themed events at Wake Forest University. Silk Roads Winston-Salem brings together contributions from across academic disciplines to hold a variety of lectures, panels, workshops, performances, and exhibitions from spring 2017 through spring 2019. These events culminate in an interdisciplinary symposium March 28-30, 2019. In addition to advancing our knowledge of the Silk Roads, the symposium will contribute to the cultural, artistic, and intellectual life of Winston-Salem and the Piedmont community. Wake Forest University will host scholars, artists, writers, and performers from around the world. Most events are open to the public to showcase the cultural legacy of the Silks Roads. In the spirit of the ancient Silk Roads, these opportunities will be made more accessible—more connected—through collaboration with community partners.

Key Themes

Globalization, Exchanges, Acculturation, Hybridity, Syncretism, Transformation, Movement

Events and Programs

• WFU Departmental Events
Silk Roads Winston-Salem works closely with many departments and programs to coordinate, co-sponsor, and promote the wide range of lectures, workshops, and performances held on campus with relevance to the historical Silk Roads and their legacy. In the Spring 2017 term, Silk Roads Winston-Salem facilitated three events, variously co-sponsored by the Departments of East Asian Languages and Cultures, History, and Music, and by the Humanities Institute and the Museum of Anthropology.

• International Scholar Lectures
Each semester beginning in Fall 2017, Silk Road Winston-Salem will invite a prominent international scholar to deliver a public lecture about the history and legacy of the Silk Roads. These scholars will also visit WFU classrooms and be available to meet with faculty in more informal settings. Each semester will highlight a different disciplinary focus—History in Fall 2017, Literature in Spring 2018, Religion in Fall 2018, and Arts & Music in Spring 2019.

• Humanities Institute Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminars
Mirroring the International Scholars Lectures, each semester Silk Roads Winston-Salem will convene a faculty seminar around the themes of History, Literature, Religion, and Arts & Music. These seminars are intended to engage with faculty expertise on campus and encourage collaboration leading up to the symposium in Spring 2019.

• Lifelong Learning Course
In the Fall 2018, the Silk Roads Winston-Salem steering committee will teach a course on the Silk Roads through the Lifelong Learning Program. This course is intended for non-student community members, including WFU graduates and retirees. Each of the six committee members will teach a portion of the class to highlight the diversity of exchanges and transformations along the Silk Roads.

• WFU Exhibits
Exhibiting institutions on the WFU campus are teaming with Silk Roads Winston-Salem to produce exhibits for Spring 2019. The Museum of Anthropology will host an exhibit of historical artifacts from the Silk Roads, including its featured collection of Tang-period Chinese ceramics. The Z. S. R. Library Department of Special Collections & Archives will also create a rare book exhibit featuring a Silk Roads theme.

• Secrest Series Concert
The premier performing arts series on campus is collaborating to bring performers to campus in conjunction with the Silk Roads Winston-Salem symposium in Spring 2019.

• Symposium
A multiple-day, interdisciplinary symposium will be held March 28-30, 2019. Instead of adhering to a geographic or temporal focus, the theme of the symposium emphasizes exchange and transformation along the Silk Roads—moments of acculturation or hybridization that contributed to novel syncretic forms. In addition to leading scholars presenting new research, the symposium will feature student-centered and public outreach events. An educators’ workshop will bring together local teachers and international scholars to create a lasting pedagogical contribution to our community.

About the Silk Roads

Globalization is a driving force in contemporary life, but increasingly scholars see this not as an entirely new phenomenon, but one rooted in the deep history of land and sea trade routes. An exemplar in this field of burgeoning scholarship are the Silk Roads, an ancient network of trade and exchange across Afro-Eurasia that thrived well into the early modern era, when they were integrated into and transformed by new patterns of global interactions that connected the New World and the Old.

Though “Silk” has stuck as its moniker since the 19th century, what became known as the Silk Roads was in reality a sprawling network of trade routes, formal and informal, maritime and terrestrial, that conveyed all manner of goods, peoples, and ideas. The necklace of caravan oases and ocean ports readily adapted to the emerging silk trade across Eurasia, eventually reaching the ports of Africa and the Americas.

This was in a very real sense the phenomenon that we now recognize as globalization. While trade and commerce stand as evident manifestations of this complex system, there was also a diffusion of ideas, a dissemination of music and dance, a dispersion of art and architecture, a transmission of technologies, and an emergence of new foods and drink to name but a few.

Silk Roads Winston-Salem stands to create a lasting contribution to our understanding of nascent globalization and trans-continental exchange. The increasing volume of material and textual information discovered, recovered, and analyzed each year has provided the opportunity to further our understanding of this historical phenomenon. It allows new questions to be asked and long running assumptions to be challenged about the movement of goods, peoples, and ideas from Pre-history to the Early Modern period.