Humanities Moments

The Farewell: Teaching and Talking about Ethnocentrism as an Asian-American

Contributed by Binh Tran (26), World History teacher
Dim Sum
The guiding question for my Humanities Moment pertains to the most recent film that I cannot stop talking about with my peers, friends, family and strangers. As a self-described film aficionado, I typically find myself at the movie theater 2-3 times a week. I definitely appreciate the power and effect films can have on our society, ways of thinking, and learning. The film that has struck me the most this year was <em>The Farewell</em> by Lulu Wang. Without spoiling too much of the picture, the film explores various aspects of traditional Chinese culture in regards to food, family, and grief. This exploration is juxtaposed with a first generation Asian-American protagonist, her upbringing, relationship with her extended family, and her identity as a Chinese-American. The reason I found this story so compelling was because of the well balanced discussion of cultural differences between China and America as well as the cultural clash experienced by first generation Asian-Americans, especially when visiting their families' native country. Viewing the film from an educator's standpoint, I was fascinated and impressed, by the honest portrayal of shared grief and its differences between traditional Asian and American families. I couldn't help myself but discuss the film's messages and concepts with other viewers while also making connections to the film and my profession of teaching World History. I questioned to myself how much of my instruction, and curriculum, is taught through a lens of ethnocentrism as well as how I could potentially tackle this issue in my planning. Is it possible to survey various ancient civilizations (or cultures) without having judgment? Or are we cursed to look at history through our own cultural lens?

Title

The Farewell: Teaching and Talking about Ethnocentrism as an Asian-American

Description

The guiding question for my Humanities Moment pertains to the most recent film that I cannot stop talking about with my peers, friends, family and strangers. As a self-described film aficionado, I typically find myself at the movie theater 2-3 times a week. I definitely appreciate the power and effect films can have on our society, ways of thinking, and learning. The film that has struck me the most this year was <em>The Farewell</em> by Lulu Wang. Without spoiling too much of the picture, the film explores various aspects of traditional Chinese culture in regards to food, family, and grief. This exploration is juxtaposed with a first generation Asian-American protagonist, her upbringing, relationship with her extended family, and her identity as a Chinese-American. The reason I found this story so compelling was because of the well balanced discussion of cultural differences between China and America as well as the cultural clash experienced by first generation Asian-Americans, especially when visiting their families' native country. Viewing the film from an educator's standpoint, I was fascinated and impressed, by the honest portrayal of shared grief and its differences between traditional Asian and American families. I couldn't help myself but discuss the film's messages and concepts with other viewers while also making connections to the film and my profession of teaching World History. I questioned to myself how much of my instruction, and curriculum, is taught through a lens of ethnocentrism as well as how I could potentially tackle this issue in my planning. Is it possible to survey various ancient civilizations (or cultures) without having judgment? Or are we cursed to look at history through our own cultural lens?

Source

The source of my Humanities Moment is the recent film The Farewell

Date

Many times throughout this year so far (since mid August)

Contributor

Binh Tran (26), World History teacher

Identifier

the-farewell-teaching-and-talking-about-ethnocentrism

Referrer

Social Studies Department

Location