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

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

The Return of Foreign
Anthropologies?

The Third Plenum of the Eleventh Party Congress, held in December 1978, marks the break with the era of the Gang of Four and the start of the halting emancipation of the social sciences. After a twenty-year chill, the academic atmosphere turned warmer in the late 1970s as economic and political pressures moved China along new paths. For the anthropological sciences, rebirth and revitalization would lead scholars to ponder once again the old questions of models, referents, and indigenization. Having gone through eras of first Western, then Soviet, and finally Maoist models of their disciplines, how would the new reform context shape their fields?

The guidelines for the era of reform were to be "the Four Cardinal Principles" of upholding the socialist road, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the Communist Party, and the preeminence of Marxism-Leninism /Mao Zedong Thought. This had not changed from all previous post-Liberation eras. The Party was proceeding cautiously in its liberalization efforts, as reflected in its slogan for the times: "Guan Er Bu Si; Huo Er Bu Luan" ("Controlled But Not Dead; Lively But Not Wild"). The trend toward greater freedom in expression and research, however, quickly gathered strength in the early 1980s, so by 1983 Tang Tsou could write, "The social standing of all specialists in China in all fields is now higher than at any time since 1949, and their impact on policies is also much greater" (Tang 1983:63).

Hu Qiaomu, the head of the Party's Propaganda Department, had been appointed to lead the new CASS in 1979, and by February 1980 he had become a

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