Oral Histories

Interview of Joseph Allen

Professor Emeritus of Chinese Literature and Cultural Studies and founding chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota.
Chinese Studies Scholars Oral History Project
Chinese Studies
Biographical Note:
Professor Emeritus of Chinese Literature and Cultural Studies and founding chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota.
Chen, Yao
Allen, Joseph
Persons Present:
Allen and Chen.
Place Conducted:
The interview was conducted using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
This interview was conducted by Yao Chen, East Asian studies librarian, University of California, Santa Barbara Library. The interviewer prepared for the interview by reading Joseph R. Allen’s Taipei: City of Displacements and Wu Yuanyuan’s Chinese Studies in the United States of America during the Sino-US Confrontation (1949-1972).
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording as transcribed by a machine transcribing program and audit-edited by the interviewer. The interviewee was given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. The transcript may thus differ slightly from the audio recording because of the changes the interviewee made at the time of their review.
5.5 hrs
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The past sixty years have been an important period in the development of Chinese studies in the U.S and Canada. Those years have seen increased funding from Title VI and other sources, the evolution of new fields and areas of specialization, and the systematization and professionalization of scholarly training. They have also seen momentous changes in China’s status in the world and in the relationship between China and the U.S.—changes that, in turn, have had major consequences for the scope, status, and impact of the field of Chinese studies. Although these have been highly consequential years for Chinese studies, the details of these developments are often preserved only in the participants’ memories, and there has been no systematic effort to record those memories. The Chinese Studies Scholars Oral History Project is a collaboration among Chinese/East Asian studies librarians and scholars in the U.S. and Canada, the UCLA Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library, and the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. Through in-depth, multi-session oral histories, it documents the development of the field of Chinese studies, the academic careers of its prominent practitioners, and the social, political, and economic context of which it was a part.
Childhood in Massachusetts—Influence of parents and grandfather—Monoethnic community—Community racial change—Early interest in arts and humanities—Academic interest and interest in writing emerge in high school—Booklover and public library experience—Starts college at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst in the late 1960s—Two completely different moments of college education—Takes Chinese course for the first time—Meets Yang Mu—First encounter with classical Chinese poetry—Meets Nora Chan—Yang Mu leaves for the University of Washington, Seattle (UW)—Decides to study Chinese at UW—Starts graduate school at UW—Chinese courses at UMass Amherst.
Graduate study at UW—UW’s Chinese studies Ph.D. program in the ‘70s—Department of Asian Languages and Literature—M.A. exam—First time in Taiwan—Befriends Yang Weizhong’s family—Inter-University Program (IUP)—Waisehngren (mainlanders) and benshengren (Taiwanese) in late ‘70s—Teaches language classes at UW—Interaction with Yang Mu—Dissertation—Receives job offer from Washington University in St. Louis (WashU).
Study of traditional and simplified Chinese in ‘60s and ‘70s—Chinese romanization system used in ‘60s and ‘70s—Department faculty and student gender ratios at UW in ‘70s—United Nations withdraws recognition of Taiwan—Library’s role in graduate study—Starts first tenure-track position at WashU—Teaching and research at WashU—Mid-career visiting position at Harvard University—Funding for Chinese studies in the ‘80s—Changes in Chinese studies in the ‘80s and ‘90s—Joint program at WashU—Develops Taiwan class—Research trips in Taiwan—Trips to China— Asia Advisory Council at WashU—Chinese international students in the ‘80s and ‘90s—Robert Hegel— Department faculty and student gender ratios at WashU—Changes in Taiwan from late ‘70s to 2010s—Martial law is lifted—228 incident—Gender movement in Taiwan—Changes in research interest—Taiwan people’s interest in sovereignty—First trip to China.
Interviews at the University of Minnesota (UMN)—Leaves WashU for UMN—Establishes the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures (ALL)—Forms the executive faculty—Mega faculty search—Disagreements about what Chinese studies means—Builds a forward-thinking department—Steps down as the chair—Agrees to serve as chair again—Student body change in 2000s—Leading Korean program led by Hangtae Cho—Cancels the Nankai study abroad program—Chinese language teaching model—Chinese flagship—China Center at UMN—Confucius Institute at UMN—New research and teaching interest—Archival experience with libraries in Taiwan and China.
Nana Hsu’s textbook research project—Research projects after retirement—Changing roles of libraries and librarians in research, teaching, and learning—Tiananmen incident—IUP changes to International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) at National Taiwan University—Nankai study abroad program experience—Changes in Chinese studies—Teaching and researching at private and public universities—Chinese studies in the U.S., Europe, and China—Impact of U.S.-China relations on Chinese studies—Impact of the COVID pandemic on Chinese studies.