March 18, 2017
by David Blumenkrantz, Professor of Journalism
My recent trip to China was made possible in large part by the Faculty Development Grant I received from the CSUN China Institute. I’m very grateful for their support, and also for the continuing collaboration with Wuhan University, which provided me with accommodations and logistical support throughout my trip. As proposed, the first priority of this visit was to move forward with a collaborative research project with Prof. Bo Shan of Wuhan University, on the subject of intercultural communication in the interpretation of significant works of Chinese and Western photojournalism focusing on marginalized communities. Prof. Shan and I had lengthy discussions at the beginning and end of my two-week stay in Wuhan, and we were able to arrive at some very specific objectives for our project. We are now determined to move forward, with a book in mind as the end result—we have given each other a six-month window to produce our first draft analysis of the photographs we have chosen. We are hoping that further collaborations in this area will include seminars and workshop held at both of our respective campuses.
During the stay I was able to conduct further research and wrote a ten-page paper that established the objectives of our project, which I have attached. It includes identifying specific criteria useful in the critical analysis of photographs. At Wuhan University, I gave a series of lectures on the topic of our project, to groups of international students as well as Chinese post-graduate students. These sessions were very productive and the feedback from students was challenging and thought-provoking, helping me to better understand which aspects of the ethics of intercultural communication resonated most effectively with the audience. I was also invited to give a similar lecture at Wuhan South-Central University of Nationalities, before a select group of students and faculty.
Another very interesting and productive part of this trip was a four-day stay in Jingzhou, where I was an invited artist and presenter at a symposium held at Yangtze University titled “Tracing to its source—Phoenix Boat Races and Dragon Boat Culture.” Organized by Prof. Sang Jun, it proved to be a very stimulating and educational experience, with scholars from many fields gathering to discuss not only the folkloric but also the socio-political dimensions of keeping such traditions alive in China today. On June 18th the entire symposium travelled three hours to the village of Binhu, near Hongu City, to witness an actual Phoenix Boat ceremony. It was a great day, filled with music, dancing and the blessings of a very animated Taoist priest. I was able to capture the essence of the event through a series of videos and still photographs. I then constructed a PowerPoint presentation that applied intercultural communication and ethics to the photographic representation of such a traditional ritual ceremony. I subsequently incorporated this into my own presentation at the symposium, as well as to a group of Chinese post-graduate students back at Wuhan later the next week. I am currently writing a synopsis of the Phoenix Boat experience for publication in a book Yangtze University is producing to summarize the symposium.