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Alum Spotlight: Peter Yuheng Deng (HC '23)

April 10, 2024
EALC Alum Spotlight Peter standing next to a painting

Can you tell us about what you studied in the Bi-Co and why you chose it?

At Bi-Co, I pursued a major in EALC, with a minor in Japanese. Initially, I embarked on majors in math and economics, but by my junior year, I discovered that my true academic passion lay in East Asian art history and EALC. Throughout my four years of college, I couldn't shake off the impact of the courses I took on Japanese Buddhism, modern contemporary cinema in China and Japan, and, most significantly, modern contemporary Japanese art. This educational journey ignited my interest in Japanese modern and contemporary art history, which has now become my primary focus of research at the University of Chicago.

How did you get involved in your current field?

As a researcher in East Asian art history and a practicing artist, I've observed a deeply ingrained issue of Eurocentrism within discussions surrounding modern contemporary East Asian art. My aspiration as an art historian is twofold: to draw inspiration for my artistic endeavors and to strive for genuine diversity and equality in the discourse surrounding modern contemporary East Asian art within academia and institutional settings.

During my time at Bi-Co, collaborating on research projects with Professor Shiamin Kwa, Professor Hank Glassman, and Professor Erin Shoneveld on topics such as Japanese esoteric Buddhism, Chinese Republic Era propaganda posters, and Ukiyo-e prints has solidified my decision to pursue further studies in Japanese art history and Chinese art history at the University of Chicago. Additionally, I aspire to obtain a Ph.D. in art history and ultimately become a scholar-artist in the future.

How did your years at Bryn Mawr prepare you for your professional life?

The courses I took with Professor Shiamin Kwa on "The Dream of Red Chamber" and "Films of Wong Kar-wai" at BMC truly ignited my passion for EALC, helping me solidify my decision to continue my research in the field after I graduate. Bi-Co's professors have always provided close support to the students. The ample research opportunities and rigorous courses have prepared me well for research and writing. What matters most are the courses that taught me how to think outside the box by implementing cross-disciplinary thinking in my research topics. The excellent academic training at BiCo has greatly benefited me in the way I approach various issues in my life.

Why did you decide to major in EALC?

I chose to major in EALC because it simply felt right to me.

What advice do you have for current undergraduates?

Whenever you choose a major or direction for your future, don't simply listen to what the world thinks is right. Listen to your heart and ask yourself what is right for you. Don’t pursue things just because you believe they will bring you good money, but rather choose something that you genuinely want to do and enjoy doing. There is never a universally recognized safe path forward. The best way to move forward is to follow your passion and pursue it with determination, knowing that you will never regret giving it your all.

Undergraduate years are a great time to explore yourself and what you want to do. Those answers are different for everyone. Finding your unique answer is what matters the most.