Javier Cha

I am a Korean-born Canadian medievalist and digital historian based in Seoul. My first name is a tribute to my childhood in Buenos Aires, of which I have many fond memories. Prior to my move to South Korea in 2017, I lived in Vancouver, Boston, Hong Kong, and the Hague.

I currently work as an assistant professor of East Asian Studies in the College of Liberal Studies at Seoul National University. During my 2020-21 sabbatical year, I am briefly back in Hong Kong as Digital Historian-in-Residence in the department of History at Lingnan University.

I received my academic training at the BA and MA levels in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia and PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. My PhD dissertation¬†explored the social, philosophical, and geopolitical factors that contributed to Korea’s adoption and localization of the Confucian tradition.

At the moment, I am writing two monographs based on the PhD research. The first one argues for the medieval origins of a Korean collective identity and the role that post-Tang Confucianism played in that process. Some early thoughts on this topic is articulated in my guest editor’s introduction to the June 2019 issue of Seoul Journal of Korean Studies.

The second book is a longitudinal study of the various figures and clans involved in Korea’s medieval identity formation and Confucian transformation. To facilitate this research, I am building a Neo4j graph database that interlinks hundreds of thousands of records drawn from South Korea’s impressive collection of digitized historical databases.

biographical data of Korean historical figures in Neo4j

On the contemporary side, I am the principal investigator of the SNU Big Data Studies Lab with $600,000 USD of seed funding committed to it for nine years (2019-2028). Our lab aims to fundamentally rethink the humanities in the Zettabyte era, from material bibliography to data analytics and cultural studies. What do we do when our sources consist of millions of servers at data centers, rather than documents? How do we handle cultural artifacts that increasingly jettison text in favor of video content, 3d point clouds, and holograms? What is real-time and has our sense of digital time changed once again with the advent of big data? Questions of this nature are at the core of our search for the new normal in the humanities.

SNU Big Data Studies Lab under COVID-19 social distancing

Before COVID-19, I used to travel a lot. Few things in life I find more delightful than encountering new cultures and, especially, trying new types of cuisine. I am a frequent flyer of Asiana Airlines with Diamond Plus status, and, in 2017, I was selected as one of 21 Star Alliance Mileage  Millionaire Competition winners.

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medieval city of Rhodes

I actively post on Instagram (@javiercha), which mostly features photos of food, travel, my wife, and our miniature pinscher, Bailey.

Bailey Koon-Cha

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