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China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

Since 2007 the AFS, the China Folklore Society, and folklore studies institutions in both countries have worked cooperatively to build relationships between folklorists and folklore studies institutions in China and the US.

After four years of preliminary meetings and exchanges, in 2011 AFS received a two-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to expand and formalize these relationships through the exchange of best practices and the building of greater mutual understanding. Between 2011 and 2013, with this Luce Foundation funding supplemented by support from the Ford Foundation, the Lingnan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Asian Cultural Council, and the China Ministry of Education, we produced a series of four bilingual conferences (in Guangzhou, Nashville, Wuhan, and Washington, DC) comparing folklore and ICH policy, case studies, field methods, and archiving practices in both countries. We also managed two years of an international exchange program for early-career folklorists from both countries.

Then in 2013 the Luce Foundation awarded AFS a further three-year grant to take up a new phase of this work. Between 2013 and 2016, AFS--again working in partnership with the China Folklore Society and in collaboration with a number of institutions in both countries--managed a program of conferences (in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Guiyang, China) and professional development exchanges to increase mutual understanding between staff at China and US ethnographic museums, and oversaw the development of several new online resources to support, and share information and best practices about, folklore studies scholarship in both countries. 

In 2017-2019, after a planning process supported by the Ford Foundation, and with the support of a third grant from the Luce Foundation, AFS and CFS, with the participation of the Folklore Society of Japan, are producing a series of three annual folklore summer institutes for advanced graduate students and new PhDs from all three countries. The second part of our 2017-2019 work is a further collaboration of our China and US ethnographic museum partners on a series of field research trips investigating textile traditions in southwestern China, and on a set of research and training workshops, including a seventh bilingual conference.

All of these activities have created strong professional networks among Chinese and US folklorists and their home institutions by using the lenses of the field of folklore studies and intangible cultural heritage (ICH) to undertake, compare, and analyze a wide range of best-practice activities in China and the US intended to sustain tradition-based culture through research, documentation, education, presentation, and conservation.

Follow these links to download the bilingual program books from our 2011-2015 China-US folklore and ICH conferences:

Conference 1, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, November 2011

Conference 2, Nashville, Tennessee, April-May 2012

Conference 3, Wuhan, Hubei Province, November 2012

Conference 4, Washington, DC, May 2013

Conference 5, Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 2014

Conference 6, Guiyang, Guizhou Province, April 2015

Summer Folklore Institute, Hailar, Inner Mongolia, July 2017

Conference 7, Beijing, May 2019

For more information on the museum-related activities of the current project, please consult its more detailed project page.

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