Susan D. Blum
A.B., Stanford University, 1980;
M.A., University of Michigan (1986, Far Eastern languages and Literatures: Chinese; and 1988, Anthropology);
Ph.D., ibid., 1994.
Cultural, linguistic, and psychological anthropology; deception and truth; multilingualism; person and self; ethnicity, nationalism and identity; childhood and higher education; morality; wellbeing; justice; sustainability and food; and anthropological theory; China and Asia, the U.S.; cross-cultural comparison
My big question is: What does the world look and feel like to people, and what are the factors that shaped those views? In pursuit of this question I have looked at the assumptions people in a variety of settings—especially China and the United States—make about how the world is and how it should be, and how they evaluate other people’s behavior. In particular I have tried to understand the nature of individual and social identity (Portraits of “Primitives”: Ordering Human Kinds in the Chinese Nation, Rowman & Littlefield), cultural and linguistic diversity, the morality of truth and deception across cultures (Lies that Bind: Chinese Truth, Other Truths, Rowman & Littlefield), the nature of authorship and achievement in higher education (My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture, Cornell University Press), and the meanings of food production and consumption. My recent work (“I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College, Cornell U Press) compares formal education and learning outside schools as they participate in the creation of self, well-being, and meaning.
An active member of the Task Group on Language and Social Justice, I have written about the so-called language gap alleged to account for children in poverty failing to thrive in schools, and on Chinese language and social justice.
In asking these questions I make use of all the possible methods and perspectives that can help illuminate the forces that shape human behavior: biological, political, economic, psychological, aesthetic, historical, literary, religious, social. My own background includes humanistic and social scientific studies, area studies and theoretical inquiry. In my classes and the collection of readings I published (Making Sense of Language: Readings on Culture and Communication, three editions, Oxford University Press) I emphasize the centrality of questions and curiosity. These always drive the human quest to learn.
At Notre Dame, where I have worked since 2000, beyond the Department of Anthropology I am actively involved in the Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Institute for Educational Initiatives.
284 Corbett Family Hall