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A live discussion sponsored by the Carolina Asia Center and the UNC Department of History.
Michelle King, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Dept. of History
Wendy Jia-Chen Fu, Assistant Professor, Emory University, Dept. of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures
Miranda Brown, Professor, University of Michigan, Dept. of Asian Languages and Cultures
Donald Santacaterina, doctoral candidate, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Dept. of History
The current pandemic has brought fresh attention—much of it based on negative stereotypes—to Chinese cultures of food and hygiene. Ranging from debunked rumors of “bat soup” in Wuhan to the eschewing of Asian food in the US early in the pandemic, the diet of an imagined “Chinese people” writ large has become a source of fascination, revulsion, and moral discussion. Alongside a very real concern that bats, pangolins, or another animal may have been the initial reservoir for the deadly COVID-19 virus, a rolling ball of moral concern has “spilled over” to other Chinese eating habits completely unrelated to the Coronavirus outbreak. Questions of hygiene and food culture have a long and storied history in China-global relations, ranging from the hygienic practices of colonial powers in Chinese treaty ports to the xenophobic behavior of California residents who labeled Chinese immigrants as “rat-eaters.” In this panel, three experts on Chinese food history and history of medicine will discuss how and why real public health concerns over sanitary conditions in Chinese wet markets, loosely related health concerns over the consumption of wild animals worldwide, and completely unrelated aspects of the Chinese diet have been bundled into one, dangerously racialized moral discourse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel will also provide insight on how the reappearance of such a narrative may affect the future of global relations with China.
Sponsored by: Carolina Asia Center & Department of History