Campus News

UK Launches American Studies Center in Shanghai

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 11, 2011) — The University of Kentucky will have the chance to tell America's story to the world through a newly created educational center in Shanghai. Funded by a $100,000 grant from The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, UK signed an accord this week with Shanghai University to pioneer one of 10 American Studies Centers in China on SU's campus.

"The goal of the center is to promote mutual understanding between Chinese and American people," said Mark Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and primary liaison with Shanghai University. "We will place special focus on the rich, cultural heritage of this region of America as well."

"The American Studies Center will emphasize the diversity of American culture and experience," added Andrew Doolen, UK professor of English, director of American Studies and director of the center. "We'll be sharing stories of national belonging that continue to shape the meaning of the democratic experiment in the United States."

The American Studies Center will generate programming for students and faculty at SU and for the broader Shanghai community, giving an overall picture of the fullness and diversity of American culture and more specifically, Appalachian culture, including the challenges and strengths of negotiating regional differences. 

"Appalachian Kentucky has been deeply engaged with the global economy for centuries, especially with providing resources for industrialization," said Ann Kingsolver, director of the Appalachian Studies Program and director of the Appalachian Center at UK. "In the current moment of globalization, it is vital that we exchange insights and cultural resources across national borders as we plan regionally and globally for the future."

The center will present well-rounded, multi-disciplinary content, including material from the humanities (especially oral history), social sciences (sociology and political science) and arts (music, theater, visual, literary).

Programming will be iterant as well, with the ability to travel throughout Shanghai and to other parts of China.

The UK Asia Center submitted the grant proposal to the Department of State in August, and the yearlong project began in late September. The American Center grant from the US State Department was awarded to the Asia Center in September.

"This grant program presented us with a perfect opportunity to strengthen UK’s collaboration with SU," said Keiko Tanaka, director of the UK Asia Center, professor of sociology and faculty director of UK's Year of China. "Through this American Studies Center, more UK faculty and students will be interested in spending time in Shanghai and learning about China."

This week’s formal establishment of the American Studies Center coincides with the first anniversary of the Confucius Institute at UK. While the Confucius Institute brings Chinese language and culture to Kentucky, the new American Studies Center will bring a rich variety of American culture to Shanghai and China.

The two centers will work together to deepen the engagement of UK faculty and students with China.

"China’s Confucius Institutes, established all over the world, have provided a terrific model for how to bridge cultural gaps and energize students to learn more about their counterparts on the other side of the globe," said Susan Carvalho, UK's associate provost for international programs. "The American Studies Center gives us a chance for reciprocity. Too often, Chinese images of the U.S. – like U.S. images of China – lean towards the homogeneous and stereotypical. Our American Studies Center will emphasize regional and ethnic diversity within the American South, and across the U.S.  I think this will give Chinese participants a glimpse into U.S. cultures they haven’t seen before, as told by Americans in their own individual voices."

In addition to College of Arts & Sciences faculty and the American Studies Program, American Studies Center participants include The College of Fine Arts and the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music; The Appalachian Center; and The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.