API New School Shanghai Summer Program: Interview with Lei

We had the chance to interview Lei Ping, Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies at the New School University and Faculty Advisor at India China Institute. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies at New York University. She launched the first field-based New School Summer Study Abroad program in Shanghai in 2013. Students have the opportunity to learn from Lei in the Fashion and Creative Urbanism summer program in Shanghai, China that you can learn more about here:
 https://www.apistudyabroad.com/programs/china/shanghai/fashion-creative-urbanism-summer-program/

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 (API) Your title is Assistant Professor of Chinese at The New School, but your research interests lie in the areas of urbanization, globalization, property rights, pop culture, etc… how have you been able to combine these seemingly diverse topics into your classroom instruction – both in NYC and Shanghai?

(Lei) I was trained as a cultural urbanist in East Asian Studies at NYU. My research interests focus on interdisciplinary topics and areas such as Chinese urbanism and neoliberalism, fashion and capitalism studies, globalization and transnationalism, as well as history and cultural politics of the modern China. All these fields and disciplines are not isolated, rather, integrated and interconnected to one another. The courses that I have taught both at The New School in New York and Shanghai are designed to offer students critical perspectives and empirical experiences while being introduced to China Studies from various directions and backgrounds. Students are highly excited to learn about these key aspects of contemporary Chinese society.

(API) On that note… what prompted you to launch this first TNS study abroad program in Shanghai?

(Lei) The New School Shanghai Summer Program was launched in 2013 for the first time. It was to meet the growing interests in the Chinese language and culture within the New School community.

(API) Tell us what a student can hope to take away from the Shanghai Fashion and Creative Urbanism course? What kind of student is this program ideal for?

(Lei) Those students who are curious about urban history, global cities, and cultural studies and who are interested in learning about Chinese urban experiences will be ideal for the program. The Shanghai Fashion and Creative Urbanism course will offer the following learning objectives to students:

1. Study modern history of fashion in the cosmopolitan global city of Shanghai

2. Discover cinematic and cultural representations of iconic “Shanghai Girl” fashion of the early 20th century

3. Explore cultural and social relations between fashion, class, consumption and creative economy through the lens of China’s rapid urbanization

4. Rethink the impact and challenges of Chinese modernity

5. Develop ethnographic and analytical skills through interviews, surveys, and workshops

(API) Describe the program’s relationship with ECNU (another API partner)…

(Lei) The program established a summer partnership with ECNU in 2013. ECNU provided local faculty and staff, housing and classroom spaces.

(API) How has the program evolved over the past 5 years?

(Lei) The program has been continuously redesigned and re-envisioned to make the students’ learning and living experiences in China more invigorating, challenging and comfortable.

(API) How has the response to the program been from TNS students and community?

(Lei) Students who participated in the summer program in the past years gained tremendous knowledge and experience academically, socially and extracurricularly, and often times described the trip as one of their best opportunities to become a “world citizen” and an “unbiased and understanding young scholar.”

(API) What do you hope students will take away from their experience in this program?

(Lei) As mentioned previously, students will learn about the global city of Shanghai and contemporary Chinese society through its urban culture, history, art, fashion, economy, and politics in the exhilarating 4-week experience in Shanghai – “Paris of the East.”

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