African-American Studies in China

Central China Normal University, China, Ethnic Literature ConferenceI WAS SHOCKED as I sat among a room of Chinese students intently reading, listening, and discussing lectures on African-American studies. I was given the outstanding opportunity to attend the 2nd International Symposium on Ethnic Literature hosted at Central China Normal University of Wuhan. In just two days, my ideas on how the Chinese perceived African-Americans was dramatically reconstructed.

I MUST ADMIT MY GUILT. There were countless times where my attention drifted away from the lecture at hand and onto the room full of students vigorously taking notes during Boston University professorĀ Gene Jarrett’s compelling discussion challenging listeners to reconsider the definition of African-American literature. Two hours into the conference threw a wrench into what I thought I knew about Chinese perceptions of African-Americans. My four months of living in China has been colored by having waitresses carefully inspect my hair while I’m eating dinner. I felt as if I had been transported to another world where scholars and students excitedly shared their research on Ethnic literature. Scholars presented over 137 papers with topics ranging from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah to Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls. Students tripped over themselves to ask my opinions on their research or to ask about my views on Malcolm X.Central China University, African-American Studies, China, Ethnic Literature

I HAD ONE QUESTION, WHY DID THEY CARE? I was raised in the American educational system where “Great American” and British Classics are revered. I was ashamed when I admitted that I had read some of the works they discussed fairly recently as a part of my own quest for knowledge. I had never even heard of many of the texts they had researched.

WHY DID THEY CARE? Professor Wang Yukuo of Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications answered, “We understand what it means to be oppressed.” He continued, “Some Chinese study other foreign works. However, most Chinese Ethnic Literary scholars gravitate to the African-American experience. We can connect with the history that is woven into many African-American texts.”

THE CONFERENCE WAS NOTHING LESS THAN A SUCCESS. Conference organizer Dr. Luo Lianggong shared plans that the annual conference will continue to expand going forward. I sincerely hope that it does.

Wuhan, Central China Normal University, African-American Studies

6 thoughts on “African-American Studies in China

  1. Once again another well written piece, however let me add that only those that are fortunate enough to make it to the universities are the ones that get to experience this other side of African American culture. Those that don’t go to school are plaqued with the myths and the unawareness of the elders before them who didn’t know better. I’m glad you are enjoying your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true! I can not forget that at all, but it was refreshing to see a community that honor African-American culture in a way I have never seen before. Now I want to know more about African-American studies around the world!


  2. you know how good reading this made me feel. I’m so glad you’re having a good time and even happier that your using this experience to educate others, not only in your teaching position over there but through your blog entries that other ppl like me read. This entry alone is opening my perspective on how the Chinese view black ppl. Continue to enjoy yourself and educate others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s