About Us

Purpose:

Why a website on contemporary American culture and society? There are many reasons, and I would like to boil them down to two.

Since the early 1990s, one of the most influential areas of academic attention, worldwide, has been Cultural Studies. Although firmly rooted in literary studies, this independent movement analyzes the different aspects of human self-expression, including the visual arts, film, TV, commercials, fashions of a cultural whole. Such a comprehensive perspective dates back to 1958, when the pioneer theorist Raymond Williams in Culture and Society argued in favor of a cultural understanding which takes into consideration the whole of cultural production rather than isolated details. To understand America’s age-old ambition to colonize the world, culturally at this moment, we must delve deeper into American culture and society than merely taking the surface value of wide-ranging U.S. products, such as those of Microsoft, McDonald’s, and Hollywood. All the above served as macro motivations for the creation of this website.

The other, still more immediate, purpose is to develop in students cross-cultural communicative competence. During the past 20 years or so, the notion of communicative competence has increasingly commanded the attention of English language teachers in China. There is wide acknowledgement that language and culture are dimensions of eath other, interrelated and inseparable. Thus the study of language cannot be divorced from the study of culture, and vice versa. Such agreement among teachers and scholars helps to reduce the number of “fluent fools” (Milton Bennett, The Language Teacher, 1993). A fluent fool is someone who speaks a foreign language well but does not understand the social or philosophical content of that language. Such people are likely to encounter all sorts of trouble because both they themselves and others overestimate their ability. Eventually, fluent fools may develop negative opinions of the native speakers whose language they understand but whose basic beliefs and values they continue to find slippery. This website will, hopefully, assist such an effort.

 

Level:

High intermediate to advanced students or other readers whose English is above band 4 in English proficiency tests in China.

 

Content:

The website is divided into eighteen chapters: an introduction, the constitution and the government, the amendments, education, immigration and ethnicity, family and personal relationships, domestic economy, social welfare, political parties and interest groups, justice and the law, the print media, the electronic media, leisure and recreation, tourism and holidays, crime and the police, work, America and the world, and religion. The focus is on contemporary aspects.