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Release: Immediate

Foreign scholars arrive at UI to study U.S. culture

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Five foreign scholars are arriving at the University of Iowa this weekend to begin a unique, three-month residency program designed to promote scholarship about the United States in other countries.

Made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the "International Forum for U.S. Studies" is a three-year program being administered by the UI Center for International and Comparative Studies. The UI was one of only six universities nationwide to receive this type of humanities grant from the Foundation.

Each spring from now until the spring of 1999, the Forum is hosting five distinguished foreign scholars to participate as Forum fellows, so that they may pursue research at the UI on American issues and culture. The first round of fellows are Karuna Dharmadasa of Sri Lanka, Sylvia Hilton of Spain, Yu Jianhua of China, Hazel Rowley of Australia and Moshe Shokeid of Israel.

"Up until now, scholarship about the U.S. has primarily been a U.S. export," said Virginia Dominguez, CICS director and co-director of the Forum. "We want to reverse the flow of knowledge. We have much to gain from outside perspectives. This project takes talk of cultural diversity, a new world order and multiculturalism one step further. We're promoting culturally and nationally diverse research and writing on the United States."

The fellows will have access to the UI Libraries, the Center for Advanced Studies and other campus resources, and will meet twice a month with UI faculty to discuss mutual research interests. In addition, they will participate in a series of public forums on selected topics, and each will give a public lecture. Four of the five scholars will stay on to teach at the UI this summer.

In 1999, all 15 participants will return to campus for a wrap-up conference with the Forum's International Advisory Board. The Board members, who also participate in selecting the fellows, represent eight universities, four nations and a cross-section of disciplines, including American studies, history, English literature, anthropology and cultural studies.

Forum fellow Dharmadasa is Cadre Chair Professor of Sinhalese at the University of Peradeniya and editor-in-chief of the Sinhala Encyclopedia. Long involved with debates concerning the establishment of a national language in his country, he will study the current U.S. controversy over making English the national language while at the UI.

Hilton is professor of history at Complutense University in Madrid and has published extensively on Spanish-American history. She also has been heavily involved in promoting American studies in Spain and Europe. During the Forum, she will continue her work on a book, "American Perceptions of the Hispanic World, 1895 - 1902."

Yu is professor of English at Shanghai International Studies University and dean of the School of International Commercial Law. He has published many books and articles on American, New Zealand and Chinese literature. As a Forum participant at the UI, he will continue work on a chapter for an upcoming book on American literature in the 1920s and '30s.

Rowley is a senior lecturer in literary studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests focus on biography and autobiography studies, women's writings and literary theory. While at the UI, she will continue work on a biography of Richard Wright, an African-American novelist and essayist who moved to France, where he wrote and lived during the mid-20th century.

Skokeid is professor of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University. He has studied immigration and ethnicity, particularly within Israel. As a Forum fellow, he will continue research on the development and evolution of the Lesbian and Gay Community Service Center in Greenwich Village.

For further information on the International Forum for U.S. Studies, contact CICS at (319)335-0368.


(EDITORS NOTE: Announcements regarding public lectures by the Forum fellows are forthcoming. If you would like to do an in-depth interview with one or more of the fellows, call CICS at (319)335-0368.)