Zhiyuan Zhou

Zhiyuan Zhou in front of a book case.

Project title: Social Contact Stories: Appropriations of Ideas, Culture, and Modernity

Project description: How do people from different cultural backgrounds and social structures come to understand each other? How do they emulate, reject, or appropriate others’ ideas? What can social contact stories, ranging from James Cook’s South Pacific expeditions to Zheng He’s voyage to the African coasts, tell us about the dynamics of ideas, culture, and modernity? To investigate these questions, I plan on utilizing a variety of interdisciplinary methods—historical, sociological, and anthropological—to reveal the diversity, significance, and implications of humanity in contact. Possible sources include newspapers, folk story books, advertisements, paintings, and songs.

Most important accomplishment: I befriended myself with College Scholars working on interesting projects—medieval literature, for example. We share thought-provoking articles and research experiences on a weekly basis.

Reflections on the College Scholar Program: The College Scholar Program allows me to explore my interests with only a few requirements. Compared to a regular major, I have a greater intellectual freedom to take courses of many disciplines and across departments, read extracurricular books, and communicate with people working on diverse projects. The program pushes me to compile and organize my daily whims and perceptions, transforming them into intellectually meaningful questions.