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The AFS China-US Project Benefits the Field At Large

Friday, February 13, 2015   (1 Comments)
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Starting in 2007, AFS and the China Folklore Society began sending small delegations to each other’s conferences. The partnership became more formal in 2011, when AFS received funding from the Henry Luce Foundation to support specific project activities. That funding is continuing through 2016.

Thus far, our activities have included:

1. A series of six symposia, three each in China and the US. The first four focused on folklore-and intangible-cultural-heritage work and policy in China and the US, and featured many case study presentations from both countries. The latter two are focusing on China and US ethnographic museum work. The second of these will take place in April 2015.

2. Two years of a small exchange program for younger scholars, concluded in 2013, which sent four US folklorists to China and three Chinese folklorists to the US.

3. Two years of a small exchange program for younger China and US ethnographic museum staff, which will conclude in April 2015.

4. The development of a database of China and US folklore-and-intangible-cultural-heritage dissertations, several other scholarly resources, and the production of a fieldwork school, which will conclude in late 2015.

This project is not about Chinese folklore per se; it is about connecting the fields of folklore studies in China and the US. AFS’s primary focus in these activities has been on engaging our general membership with counterparts in China; for example, of the more than 50 US folklorists who have been involved in our 2011–15 activities, only 5 are China specialists.

The field of folklore studies in China includes an already large and still-growing academic sector that is eager to move beyond the previous generation’s worldview and engage with developments in Western folklore scholarship since the 1970s. It also includes a sector of scholars who are both participating in and critiquing the Chinese government’s very energetic and well-funded campaign to document, preserve, and promote Chinese intangible cultural heritage. Their work is a productive example to US folklorists, who historically have been reluctant to engage in this way. Folklorists in both countries have a great deal to learn from one another.

For more about this project, go to


John Laudun says...
Posted Friday, February 20, 2015
I would like to add that I was one of those non-China specialists who was lucky enough to be asked to participate in one of these forums, and it was an amazing experience. over the course of one week and two talks I got to interact with a wide range of folklorists both from China and Taiwan, all of whom were very welcoming, and very forgiving of my complete lack of Chinese language skills. I would especially like to thank Chao Geijin and An Deming. Professor Chao is director of the Institute of Ethic Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and he arranged the talk I gave on computational approaches to folklore studies. Both he and Professor An were instrumental in getting that talk translated and published in "Folk Culture Forum." None of this would have been possible without the long-term vision of AFS, CFS, and the Luce Foundation.

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