Cultural Intersections and the Foreign Other: Chinese Lessons for American Students
The unravelling of our Renaissance-bred belief in a universal human nature has moved the humanities into a world in which people's multiple ways of knowing across cultural boundaries demand our attention. Especially is this study of worldwide cultures important for an American nation still nursing fears about border transgressions, puzzled that others think differently than we about the world, and especially about us. Although surveys tell us that our own students in colleges and universities hunger for better understanding of people who feel foreign to them, they nevertheless do not easily understand the viewpoints of those in other cultures. And although their colleges and universities make gestures toward establishing international programs, most are slow to develop them. Certain inherited cultural traits, I will argue, interfere with our seeming desire to reach out beyond the borders we cherish, leaving us with unrealistic and eventually unsustainable comfort in our own sovereignty. These traits cannot often be touched by cognition alone. But certain cultures we might choose to study can demonstrate a teachable, analogical and expansive kind of knowing. Using material I gleaned from a teaching stint in mainland China, I will bring theory and practice together as I describe the cross-over possibilities that opened afterward for my own students back home.
Keywords: Cultural traits, Analogical thinking, Sovereignty, Mental and geographical borders
Dr. Carolyn Hill
Professor, English, Cultural Studies, Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland