As someone from comparative literature with former background in Portuguese and Spanish studies, I am first and foremost impressed by the multiculturality, multidisciplinarity and the scope of scholarships in the panels and the cultural events in this conference. It in an excellent opportunity for me to get to know what some Asian scholars in other fields are studying, and what some of their concerns are.
Since my goal in the studies I am doing is to come up with a paradigm for comparative studies in literature and culture between China and some underprivileged countries and regions in Latin America, Africa and the Iberian peninsula, without reducing the cultural merits of each region I study to social problems and political debates, it is encouraging for me to see that many historians, political scientists and social scientists, in the panels I attended, voiced deep concerns for issues on language, literatures, and cultures from both within and outside the geographical confinements of Asia.
One panel of particular interest to me is “Chinese Public Diplomacy in Africa: Theories and Cases”, with presentation and discussions of a study on the transmission of China’s cultural image on Internet, radio and television in Africa. Instead of focusing merely on social issues or leading towards a hasty moral judgment, many questions raised in this panel called for a critical re-evaluation of some cultural productions in contemporary China through comparison with similar issues in Latin America and in South Asia, as well as with studies on China’s image in those areas.
With a broadened horizon that comes from my experience in the panels, I started to understand better the merits of some transcontinental comparative studies done in South Asian countries - India in particular - which is reflected in the book exhibit of new publications from several different publishers.
One surprise for me is the lack of panels dedicated to studies of more popular cultural productions in China and in many other parts of Asia, such as TV series and popular music, in contrast to what is normal in a conference in fields like Latin America Studies. This is one of the questions that I will try to explore and understand in the future.