Monday, 7 January 2013

'The "Asian" Problem'


Dr Hongwei Bao participated in the ‘Quo Vadis Cultural Studies?’ Research Symposium and Public Roundtable organised by the University of Potsdam and Humboldt University in Berlin on November 2. He gave a talk titled ‘The “Asian Problem”: on the Radicalisation of Cultural Studies’. 

In the talk, he addressed the widely-observed phenomenon in UK universities that, with the neoliberalisation of higher education and the institutionalisation of Media and Cultural Studies, many Asian students have entered UK universities to study higher degrees in Media and Cultural Studies. This has provided an excellent opportunity to experiment on the internationalisation, or rather, the ‘translation’ of Cultural Studies in the transnational and cross-cultural context. However, teachers and administrators in British Media and Cultural Studies have not yet fully understood the educational and cultural backgrounds of these Asian students. Nor has it fully met the Asian students’ demands, needs and difficulties. This has led to increasing misunderstandings on the part of both teachers and students, and, furthermore, a heightened pessimism about the future of internationalising Media and Cultural Studies. In this process, the ‘Asian student’ has been constructed as a ‘problem’ for Media and Cultural Studies; it is seen as a subject that is deficient in linguistic and intercultural communication competence and incapable of critical thinking, thus unfit for pursuing the commonly-conceived linguistically-challenging and theoretically-sophisticated subject of Media and Cultural Studies. Furthermore, the discourse of ‘Asian pragmatism’ also circulates widely based on the observation of many Asian students take more career-oriented and practical-skill-intensive Creative Industry and Media Practice subjects. As Media and Cultural Studies celebrate its anti-hegemonic and egalitarian ideals, it has also created biases, hierarchies and epistemic violence itself when encountered with the racialised and cultural Other. Thus teaching Cultural Studies to an international audience with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds can be seen as a de-colonising and anti-hegemonic political project: it is to critically reflect on the privilege and the Anglocentrism of the British Media and Cultural Studies on the one hand, and to open up the horizons and parameters of Media and Cultural Studies so as to better address issues and problems in the transnational and crosscultural context, on the Other.

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