Anthropology in China: Defining the Discipline

Anthropology in China: Defining the Discipline

Anthropology in China: Defining the Discipline

Anthropology in China: Defining the Discipline

Excerpt

Chinese today do not agree on the fundamental parameters of the field of anthropology in the People's Republic of China. For this reason, I refer to "Chinese anthropologies" or the "anthropological sciences in China" so as not to anticipate the Chinese answer to this question. In the background piece, "Chinese Anthropologies," the history of the introduction of anthropology to China is traced to provide a context for the contemporary discussion over the nature of the anthropological sciences in China today and their contribution to the country's development. Underlying much of the discussion by Chinese contributors is the question of the sinification of the disciplines and its relation to the importation of foreign models of anthropology.

The first two Chinese selections focus on the argument for the establishment in China of a four-fields anthropology, the original inspiration for which clearly derived from the United States. The essays by the founders of China's first anthropology departments, Liang Zhaotao and Chen Guoqiang, seek to convince social scientific colleagues of the validity of a science banned from the PRC for over thirty years. The repeated reference in these and other essays to the opinions and experience of foreigners is quite striking, considering the near total absence of such Western referents in the pre-1979 period.

By contrast, the essays by archaologists, paleoanthropologists, ethnologists, and linguists all are based on very different assumptions of the independence and institutional distinctiveness of each of the anthropological sciences. Following the Soviet model's separation (or elimination) of their approaches, these disciplines define their intellectual niche in the academic world in quite different terms from that of the four-fields approach. The archaeologists, for example, present an academic world view that stresses the independent nature of the field of archaeology. XiaNai . . .

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