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Lecture: The Promises and Perils of Cross Cultural Comparison
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Subject: "And Never the Twain Shall Meet:
The Promises and Perils of Cross-Cultural Comparison"

In getting to know a foreign culture, we are bound to compare it to our own. Some would say, in fact, that the goal of trying to understand another society "on its own terms" as an outsider is an impossible one. But if comparison is essential to cross-cultural understanding, it's also a perilous approach. The history of Westerners' attempts to understand China--and vice versa--offers many examples of the distortions that can be introduced through the very process of comparison. David Porter will give CCC members a lecture and explore how these distortions come about. It will not attempt to correct past errors, but rather ask how it is that the act of comparison can lead us so badly astray.

David Porter is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He is the author of a book and several articles on European understandings of Chinese culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


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