Through a series of personal anecdotes and academic research, Mary Fong, a Cal State San Bernardino professor of communication studies, discussed Chinese communication patterns at the university’s Conversations on Diversity series on Jan. 28, presented by the University Diversity Committee.
Fong discussed stories in her 2019 memoir, “Two Heart Nuts to Crack!,” which offers insights into Chinese social interactions, including her early memories of growing up in Los Angeles as a daughter of Chinese American immigrants, with “one foot in American culture and the other foot in Chinese culture.” It is the first memoir of her “A Magnificent Mess!” trilogy.
“Every culture has their own systematic way of communicating – verbal and nonverbal communications that are appropriate and meaningful to the cultural members,” Fong said. “Essentially there is no right or wrong culture, appropriate or inappropriate culture, or a culture that is better or a culture that is less than. As a researcher, I have been disciplined to remain neutral and it is not my place to be critical or to devaluate culture.”
Fong offered many personal examples of her own cultural and intercultural experiences, including one when she gave her mother an affectionate hug for the first time at 29 years old, since Chinese culture, as she described, is “non-touchy.”
“If you want to understand another culture,” she said, “you have to give up your own cultural system and put on the shoes as much as possible of the other cultural members.”
Along with her personal stories, Fong presented some of her research on Chinese cultural and communication patterns.
In addition to studying Chinese communication patterns in cultural and intercultural interactions, Fong’s research interests also include the communication patterns of African Americans and North Americans.
Fong – who teaches intercultural communication, ethnography of communication and spiritual communication – has also co-edited and co-authored the textbook, “Communicating Ethnic and Cultural Identity,” and has been published in a number of journals and other print sources.
She has been recognized for her three research presentations on Top Paper panels in the Language and Social Interaction Division and the Intercultural and International Division at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Western States Communication Association (WSCA) conventions.
Fong is the former chair for the Spiritual Communication Division of NCA and is the former chair of the Asian Pacific American Communication Division (APAC) affiliated with NCA. She has also chaired the APAC Caucus of NCA and is the past president of the Association for Chinese Communication Studies of NCA.
At CSUSB, Fong has served as the ethnic studies coordinator (2003-06) and teaching associate coordinator (2002-07). She has been a recipient of the University Diversity award and the university-wide Outstanding Adviser award.
Fong earned her doctorate from the University of Washington, her master’s from Cal State Long Beach, and her bachelor’s from the University of Southern California.
The CSUSB University Diversity Committee began its Conversations on Diversity series in spring 2005 and strives to bring three renowned speakers to campus on a specific topic of diversity each fall, winter and spring quarter. Topics include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, women’s issues, gender and sexual orientation.
To learn more about the quarterly series, visit the Conversations on Diversity webpage