Susan Brownell, Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri
In 2008, the Olympic Games will be hosted by the least Westernized nation in the world to yet host them. It will be only the third time the Olympic Summer Games have been held outside the Western hemisphere, and it will be the greatest-ever meeting of East and West in peacetime. Surely this should be a moment to celebrate the interconnected global culture of the 21st century, but there has been a consistently negative reaction in the West centered around criticism of China’s human rights record. When Beijing won the bid and it was shown live on Chinese television, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate. So why aren’t we celebrating in the West? Drawing on the author’s 20 years of practical engagement in Chinese sports and five years of engagement with the International Olympic Committee, this talk discusses the problem of Eurocentrism in global culture and the obstacles to overcoming it. Along the way, it also raises questions about the role of intellectuals in a global culture dominated by capitalism and commercialism.