China is familiar territory for Augustana professor


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Posted Online: May 13, 2013, 3:20 pm
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Press release submitted by Augustana College


Rock Island, Ill. – Augustana College Professor Marsha Smith will travel to China this summer at the invitation of a Chinese university to collaborate on a manuscript and talk about the integration of Chinese minority groups in the United States.
Dr. Smith is a professor of sociology and anthropology at Augustana College. She also speaks Chinese and has been a frequent visitor to Asia over the years to teach, conduct research and lead students on study abroad experiences.
Dr. Smith will be a guest and visiting scholar at South Central University for Nationalities in Wuhan, China, where she met her colleague, Professor He Hong Yi. They will be working together on a manuscript about the emigration of many Yao people to the U.S. and their assimilation into American culture. The Yao are recognized as one of 56 ethnic nationalities in China. Current plans call for the work to be published both in Chinese and English.
"Although I will be giving a number of presentations while at the university, I am more excited about continuing the research Professor He and I began in 2008," she said.
While her research will help expand the body of knowledge about the Yao people, she said, every trip also helps pave the way for another generation of Augustana students, more than half of whom will study abroad before graduating, whether in Asia or other parts of the world.
"This coming fall, as we did in 2010, we'll be taking students to Lijiang, China, a place where I previously have written about another ethnic nationality, the Naxi," she said. "There is almost nothing more rewarding than helping students understand and appreciate cultures they previously would have never known."
In 2008, Dr. Smith spent some time in California working with Yao immigrants, and researching what is known as a "passport book." In China, she said, most Yao villages have a shaman who maintains this book, which contains village and clan history, as well as a list of their own particular spells and incantations. When shamans migrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s, she said, many of them brought those books and are still using them today. "They came as refugees with little else but this book as their heritage," she said.
However, maintaining these books, which have traditionally been updated, hand copied and passed from one shaman to the next, becomes problematic once they immigrate to a setting like Oakland or Sacramento. "They are finding it very difficult to recruit young shamans to carry on the rites, rituals and functions that were so important to their culture." said Dr. Smith. "So many of their young people no longer speak Yao, and their sense of community and identity is disappearing. There's no guarantee their ceremonies, beliefs, and values will last another generation in the U.S."
For more information, please contact Keri Rursch, director of public relations, at (309) 794-7721 or kerirursch@augustana.edu.


















 



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  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

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1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.






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