Education About Asia: Online Archives

Of Bound Feet and Stiletto Shoes: Using China in the Introductory Anthropology Classroom

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Despite the increasingly complex and diverse information about mainland China available in the United States, in the US undergraduate college world, China remains largely a Cold War-inflected, imagined other: exotic, distant, fanatic, communist. many of these conceptions of China are reflected in popular media representations familiar in contemporary Western society. From newspaper articles that blissfully proclaim the collapse of communism in favor of capitalist logics of production, to political speeches that pose China as a threat to superpower hegemony; from product advertisements featuring swarming masses of consuming citizens, to feature films that highlight seductive, willowy women in traditional garb, or martial artists flying through verdant landscapes, China comes to occupy a space of wonderment and intrigue combined with a dose of fear and uncertainty. Capitalizing on this space of conflict, I use China in the introductory undergraduate anthropology classroom to address common perceptions of China (and oftentimes Asia in general), by undermining the exoticization of the other through exploring assumptions about human behavior and normative values that are often understood as common sense.1