(P018)

East Asian anthropology/anthropologies (EAAA panel)

Location Convention Hall A
Date and Start Time 17 May, 2014 at 13:30

Convenor

Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) email
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Short Abstract

Can there be a common East Asian anthropology? Or are the different societies in East Asia — China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong — destined to continually remain apart in their anthropological concerns and approaches? Can an East Asian anthropology ever transcend East Asian politics?

Long Abstract

Different societies in East Asia have vastly different recent historical

trajectories, against a backdrop of cultural similarity, and very different political, social and economic outlooks. How does this similarity/difference play out within contemporary anthropologies? What are the different anthropological currents apparent within Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong today? Will these different currents ever come together to form a common "East Asian Anthropology," an anthropology that can counter dominant Anglo-American anthropology, as the world's center of economic gravity is shifting from America to East Asia? Or is this impossible, given national and anthropological differences that appear irreconcilable? In this panel, different paper presenters based in five East Asian societies present a portrait of the main contemporary currents of anthropology within their home societies, and offer informed speculation as to whether a unified "East Asian Anthropology" might ever become a reality, or rather will always remain a chimera. Paper presenters and discussants include Liu Shao-hua (Taiwan), Naran Bilik (China),

Yi Jeongduk (Korea), Gergely Mohacsi (Japan), Fan Ke (China), Chen Ju-chen (Taiwan), Zhou Lei (China), Gordon Mathews (Hong Kong), and Yamashita Shinji (Japan). This is a panel representing the East Asian Anthropological Association.

Chair: Gordon Mathews
Discussant: Shinji Yamashita

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

National and regional anthropologies: a sociology of knowledge

Author: Eyal Ben-Ari (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)  email

Short Abstract

This conceptual paper charts out the sociology of anthropological knowledge in order to understand the limits and potentials of an East Asian anthropology. Key words: global linguistic academic communities, academic modes of production.

Long Abstract

Take employment notices, academic publications or syllabi for introductory courses on what are called "area" or "regional" studies such as Latin American, South Asian or Pacific Studies. Published around the world, such texts regularly appear in our scholarly worlds and express the wider social and institutional conditions within which anthropological knowledge about purportedly discrete regions is created and recreated. What kind of institutional arrangements and practices are entailed by texts focused on specific areas? What ideals of disciplinary and professional conduct and career moves in anthropology do such files and advertisements represent? In what ways do Middle East or African Studies differ from Japanese Studies or Chinese Studies? Does anthropology differ in its use of knowledge produced in area studies from political science or sociology? My paper attempts to answer such questions in an exploratory and purposely provocative manner through. I use the case of Japanese Studies and anthropology within the English-using world to explore wider issues that have to do with our academic institutions and paths of careering.

In this conceptual paper I chart out the outlines of a sociology of anthropological knowledge, that is an analysis of the kinds of social processes, structures and practices through which our disciplinary knowledge is created. I do so through positing a global differentiation between academic linguistic communities, centers and peripheries, unique modes of academic production in each community and the broad historical topographies of their changes.

Chinese anthropology or anthropologies in China?

Author: Naran Bilik (Fudan University)  email

Short Abstract

There are three different types of anthropology that exist in China due to three different kinds of languages used by anthropologists. An overlapping consuses can be reached through semiotic negotiation.

Long Abstract

There are three different types of anthropology that exist in China, resulted from the three different kinds of languages employed in anthropological research and publication. The first type is the anthropology in English, the second in Chinese, the third in minority languages. The cultural assimilationist discourse in the circle of nationalistic intellectuals fuels such incongruity. I'll argue that despite particularities between the kinds of anthropologies due to confrontational linguistic ideologies and ethnic-national discourse, they can be semiotically negotiated and reconciled in a Peircean spirit. Anthropologists in Chna can reach an overlapping consensus, at least academically, beyond the dualism of particularities and universalities. I call it an opening process of negotiating consensus.

Reconsidering the positioning of a "Taiwanese" anthropologist of China

Author: Ju-chen Chen (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

This paper starts from comparing the currents of anthropology in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong and how they have been shaped by Euro-American and other anthropological traditions. The aim is to explore the possibility to study cultures from perspectives beyond the dominant Euro-American anthropology.

Long Abstract

Will an anthropological study reach different conclusion if the researcher consciously chooses a different set of theoretical orientation or reposition herself in different cultural milieu? While studying cultures, anthropologists must be influenced by both traditions of their anthropological training and cultures of the societies they are from. As a Taiwanese anthropologist trained only in the US, conducting research in China, and teaching in Hong Kong, my research subjects, theoretical orientations, and analytical lens greatly follow American anthropology; yet, when conducting fieldwork, I examine my Chinese informants' cultures from a Taiwanese outsider's perspective. However, the critical cultural nuances this Taiwanese perspective could offer are usually omitted in the interpretation and presentation of my research results with an inclination to comply with Western anthropological traditions. Discouragingly, I am also estranged from Taiwanese anthropological currents that have been shaped by the Japanese colonial past and Taiwan's geopolitical position between the Mainland China and Austronesia. Therefore, the intellectual exchange between other Taiwanese anthropologists and me seems also lack a shared Taiwanese standpoint. This paper is an attempt to recover that lost Taiwanese perspective with the long-term goal to study (Chinese and East Asian) cultures outside the dominant Euro-American anthropology. This paper will first compare the currents of anthropology in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong and how they have been shaped by Euro-American and other anthropological traditions. By making explicit the histories and theoretical orientations of anthropology in these places, I assume that there will then be possibility to reposition an anthropologist and her study.

The development of Taiwan anthropology: an ethical perspective

Author: Shao-hua Liu (Academia Sinica)  email

Short Abstract

This paper reviews the development and formation of anthropological ethics against general social change and further explains the particularities of Taiwan anthropology in various times.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the multiple origins of anthropology in Taiwan and its current development through the lens of its ethical concerns. Taiwan has been relatively muted in its disciplinary debates over ethical issues, in contrast with the intermittent and occasionally heated discussions on ethics in American and British anthropologies. However, a new trend in globalizing local studies at the turn of the century has also prompted Taiwan anthropology to not only adopt Western-derived theories but also meet international standards of addressing professional ethics. Such new concerns have not only placed anthropological ethics on the time table of institutionalization, they also call for new attentions to research on social issues. This paper reviews the development and formation of anthropological ethics against general social change and further explains the particularities of Taiwan anthropology in various times.

Japan within/without East Asia: experimenting with alterity and inclusion

Author: Gergely Mohacsi (Osaka University)  email

Short Abstract

How might the relations between East Asia and Japan be reconsidered as an open, ethnographic question? This paper will argue against “East Asia” as a cultural unity or a fragmented illusion. Instead, it will look at the propensity of artefacts in order to engage with a pragmatics of scaling.

Long Abstract

Along with the growing geopolitical and economic role of East Asia in the world, the question of what constitutes it as a region is gaining unprecedented momentum. Such questions have been inherent in the topics and methods of Japanese anthropology since its emergence as a discipline. From early ethnographic research of Taiwanese aborigines to the detailed studies of Han Chinese social structure and the cultural impact of Buddhism, changing conceptualisations of "East Asia" provided an important context for the development of Japanese anthropology up to more recent reflexive accounts on the colonial politics and poetics of difference. The aim of the present paper is to bring this historically and geographically grounded research into a conversation with a different line of work. Building on innovative methodological approaches at the crossroads of anthropology and science studies on the one hand, and the author's own ethnographic fieldwork in Japan and East Asia, the discussion will highlight the ways in which the propensity of artefacts—medicinal herbs, mushrooms, or hormones—animate innovative scaling between inside and outside, wholes and parts, or similar and different. By shifting the focus from regions to things, the paper will attend to the pragmatics and dynamics of scale. East Asia, it will be argued, is neither a particular unity waiting for the anthropologist to be revealed, nor a fragmented illusion to be explained away by the cultural theorist; it is closer to what Matei Candea calls "arbitrary location," a mode of relation emerging around all sorts of scaling practices.

From the realm of desire to the realm of formlessness: how anthropological meetings represent East Asia

Author: Lei Zhou (Oriental Danology Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Based on academic conferences participated by the author during 2009-2013, this paper intends to pontificate some cognitive schemata shared by anthropological conference-attenders.

Long Abstract

--Reflections upon fieldwork and conferences attended in E/SE Asia (2009-2013)

Based on academic conferences participated by the author during 2009-2013, this paper intends to pontificate some cognitive schemata shared by anthropological conference-attenders, as represented by their presentations, conference interval talks, after-conference mingling and conferences literatures; all vividly narrate a "Traidhatu" (The three realms in Tibetan language, which means desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm) they trying to negotiate and a socio-cultural inertia propels jarringly different trajectories amid East Asian countries with cultural similarities.

The crisis of Asia and discrepancies of East Asia Anthropology, in this sense, is the crisis of "subject", as people differ at their id, ego, and super-ego levels -- all corresponding to the aforementioned three different realms in spiritual sphere.

These conferences were held in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, India, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam and Nepal, all participated, partly or entirely, by anthropologists; the author will use some fieldwork data generated from Thailand, China, Myanmar, Nepal to corroborate the reflections based on conference ethnographies.

Why there may never be an East Asian anthropology

Author: Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

Intellectually there should be a common East Asian anthropology: practically, unending political discord and linguistic differences makes the emergence of an East Asian anthropology unlikely. This is tragic, because East Asia should shape the world intellectually as it now does economically.

Long Abstract

Intellectually there should be a common East Asian Anthropology: the similar historical backgrounds of East Asian societies means that there are common intellectual and cultural themes apparent within all these societies, themes that can ideally help create a new type of anthropological investigation into societies across the globe. Practically, however, the unending political discord between these societies, as well as their linguistic differences, makes the emergence of an East Asian anthropology highly unlikely. This is tragic, because East Asia should shape the world intellectually just as it now does economically; but East Asian anthropology appears implacably divided into different national camps, and thus inevitably weak in the international intellectual influence it might have.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.