Documenting Chinese Western New Yorkers' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of chinese temple.

This project intends to document and display Chinese WNYers' encounters with the Covid-19 pandemic through conducting oral history interviews.

Project description

During the pandemic, the whole Asian American community has confronted a dual threat: the infection of the Covid-19 virus and the infliction of xenophobic assaults. Parallel to the high risk of exposure to the pandemic in American society, they are targeted by the advocates for xenophobia and nativism, who condemned them as scapegoats for transiting the virus from China to the United States. However, the pandemic experiences of the Chinese American community in West New York are still overlooked. This project aims to conduct oral history research in Buffalo and Rochester and collect local Chinese populations' stories and testimonies and exhibit them to the general public.

With the concern about documenting and displaying Chinese Western New Yorkers’ experience with the pandemic and its related xenophobia, this project will consist of the following components. The first one is to conduct oral-history interviews with the Chinese immigrants and residents of different backgrounds and occupations, including college professors, small-business owners, and working-class people. In the preliminary work, our team contacted the local Chinese organizations and found ten Buffalo-based candidates who were willing to contribute their stories to the project. With financial support from the Humanities Centers Initiative Public Humanities Grant, we plan to visit them in their home or workplace and undertake interviews with them. After the interview with Chinese immigrants in Buffalo, we will reach out to the Chinese community in Rochester and take interviews with its members who want to share stories and photos involving their pandemic experiences.

Project outcome

The outcomes of this project will be multiple and multimedia. We plan to organize the display in dual formats, including an onsite exhibition of the Chinese population's particular experience during the epidemic and an online presentation with the same purpose. The onsite show will consist of the following components: a set of posters containing visual and textual materials reflecting the history of Chinese immigrants in Western New York and their recent dilemma during the pandemic, and a round table with the presence of the representatives of the Chinese residents and University at Buffalo’s Chinese students to share their stories during the epidemic.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Semester or Academic year
Start time  Spring 
In-person, remote, or hybrid?  Hybrid
Level of collaboration Small group project (2-3 students)
Benefits Stipend
Who is eligible All undergraduate students 

Project mentor

Shu Wan

PhD candidate


Phone: (313) 383-5795


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Preparation activities

The specific preparation activities for this project will be customized through discussions between you and your project mentor. Please be sure to ask them for the instructions to complete the required preparation activities.