The Saga of Anthropology in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to Mao

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview
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Chapter 12

Sinicizing Chinese
Anthropology

Indigenization

The Chinese are not the only people struggling to make the social sciences their own. This, in fact, represents a general problem in the Third World: how to modernize without merely copying Western (Euro-American) ways. 1 For academics, the question is one of separating the truly universal, or "scientific," aspects of their disciplines from the merely cultural conventions or assumptions embedded in the way the discipline has been practiced at specific times and places. The question raised is a good one: how does one indigenize a discipline?

By one scholar's definition, indigenizing anthropology means that locals conduct the anthropology (Fahim 1984:ix); at the same time he assumes that there is a universal, unitary, and cross-culturally applicable anthropological discipline. This argument emphasizes the commitment of indigenous anthropologists "to advance their discipline in research and service by making it relevant to their own people or society" by guiding anthropology into becoming "a sensitive and compassionate science serving to uplift the human condition everywhere" (Bacdayan 1984:711). This emphasis on anthropology in the Third World serving the needs of social change and development is common to social scientists in both socialist and capitalist nations alike. 2

Other Third World scholars emphasize the native antecedents of anthropology in their own historical traditions. Thus T. N. Madan, the former head of the Indian Social Science Council and a prominent Indian anthropologist, proudly

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