Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018 Anthropology Final Year Project Forum

The 2018 Anthropology Final Year Project Forum will be held on 25 April (Wed), 1:30-6:15 pm, MMW LT2. All interested are welcome--please come to share the moments of inspiration and fun with our students and teachers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

2018 Anthropology Methods Summer Workshop Recruitment!

2018 Anthropology Methods Summer Workshop

Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


The Anthropology Methods Summer Workshop will teach students about research design and train them in qualitative and ethnographic research methods. The students will develop their own research proposals, with the opportunity to receive critical comments from teachers. They will also benefit from peer learning, and will experience the advanced pedagogical techniques used at CUHK. This training and experience will broaden students’ horizons, helping them in their future studies.


The Workshop will be held from Friday 15 to Tuesday 19 June 2018, including morning and afternoon class sessions, and two half-day field trips as practicum for the topics covered in the Workshop. The Dragon Boat Festival will serve as a setting for a practical exercise in developing observational, note-taking, and interviewing skills.

Target Students

Students majoring or minoring in Anthropology, Ethnology or related disciplines (e.g. Sociology, Cultural Studies, Social History, Religion, etc.) intending to pursue postgraduate degrees will be eligible for the Workshop. Priority will be given to senior undergraduates and MA/MPhil students, as they will soon be applying to PhD programmes. All students will be expected to be able to function at a high level in English since that will be the primary language of the Workshop.

Seminar Topics:

  • Research Design: How to Frame a Proposal for Ethnographic Research
  • Research Ethics in Anthropology
  • The Literature Review
  • The Statement of Goals and Significance
  • Interviewing Skills
  • When and How to Use Questionnaires
  • Participant Observation and Rapport
  • Keeping and Retrieving Field Notes
  • Direct and Unobtrusive Observation
  • Using and Analyzing Visual Media
  • Text Analysis and Identifying Themes
  • Ethnographic Writing


Dr. Joseph Bosco, who has taught the postgraduate methods seminar for 24 years, and was Graduate Division Head for 19 years in the Department of Anthropology, CUHK, will lead the workshop. He will attend all sessions with the students; some current teachers from the Department and advanced PhD students in the Anthropology Department will participate in the Workshop to discuss their fieldwork experiences and answer questions, giving participants a practical and deeper understanding of fieldwork.

Costs and Expenses

The Workshop is free. Free on-campus accommodation and a modest meal allowance will be provided. Students are expected to cover the cost of transportation to Hong Kong and to the CUHK campus. Please consult your local authorities for visa procedure and fees.


Application deadline: Saturday 21 April, 2018 (Successful candidates will be notified by Friday 4 May, 2018)

Application procedure:
Please fill in the online application form and upload supporting documents, including:
1) Official transcripts (mandatory)
2)Two letters of recommendation (mandatory)
3)Two short essays (under 800 words in total) in English, with the prompts “I want to pursue postgraduate studies in anthropology because…” and “The research topic I am most interested in is….” (mandatory)
4)TOEFL or IELTS scores, or any other evidence of English ability (optional)

If you cannot access the online form, you can send your name, institution and contact email as well as the supporting documents to anthropology@cuhk.edu.hk by the same deadline, titled “2018 Anthropology Methods Summer Workshop Application”.




暑期人類學方法工作坊面向人類學、民族學或其他相關學科(如社會學、文化研究、歷史學、宗教學等)、有志於攻讀碩士或博士學位的學生。該工作坊由香港中文大學人類學系前研究生主任Prof. Joseph Bosco指導,教授定性及民族誌研究方法,幫助學生制定自己的研究計劃。人類學系的其他教師及博士生亦會分享田野調查中的親身經驗。工作坊將主要以英語進行,主題包括:


1. 工作坊不收取學費,提供免費校內住宿和少量膳食津貼。學生需要承擔交通費用,並自行處理來港出入境事宜。
2. 申請截止日期為2018421日,錄取者將在201854日前收到通知。
3. 申請程序:

如無法填寫網上表格,在截止日期前將姓名、所在學系和聯繫電子郵件連同申請文件發送至anthropology@cuhk.edu.hk,標題為“2018 Anthropology Methods Summer Workshop Application”.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

[Roundtable Workshop Recap] Maritime Archaeology and Ceramic Road in Southeast Asia and China

Roundtable Workshop: Maritime Archaeology and Ceramic Road in Southeast Asia and China

Date: December 1, 2017

Speakers and Topics:
Mr. Chhay Rachna (Angkor Ceramic Unit, APSARA Authority, Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Topic: Understanding the Context of Khmer Ceramics and Kilns and their Association with Cross-Cultural Exchange

Dr. Ellen Hsieh (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA)
Topic: Non-invasive Scientific Analysis on Trade Ceramics from Consumption Sites and Shipwrecks

Dr. Brian Fahy (The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Oxford)
Topic:Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Holistic Study of Southeast Asian Shipwreck Assemblages

     Ceramics has always been one of the main focuses in the field of maritime archaeology. On 1st December 2017, a Roundtable Workshop was held by our department, inviting three guest speakers to share their thoughts on maritime archaeology and ceramics. We had Mr. Chhay Rachna from Angkor Ceramic Unit, APSARA Authority, sharing on Khmer ceramics and kilns and their connections with other Southeast Asia cultural groups; Dr. Ellen Hsieh, from Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, talked about non-invasive scientific analysis on trade ceramics found in shipwrecks and consumption sites; Dr. Brian Fahy, from The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Oxford, presented his arguments on the essentiality of establishing a holistic study of Southeast Asian shipwreck assemblages.
Prof. Sharon Wong giving a welcoming speech
Khmer ceramics produced in the Angkorian period were only for local use, suggested by Mr. Chhay, while relations and interactions with outer regions lied within the economy of ceramic imports. Mr. Chhay studied the Khmer interactions with other regions in ceramics during the Angkorian period by comparing ceramics found in the production sites and consumption sites, and evidence from terrestrial archaeological sites beyond Khmer Empire and Southeast Asian shipwrecks.
The presentation mainly focused on three primary stoneware ceramic production sites, namely the Angkorian core region group (Group I), provincial Angkorian production centre (Group II), and late Angkorian production centre (Group III). The ceramics in Group I are mainly green glazed and unglazed. White clay was used to make small glazed containers, while grey clay from the nearby source was used to make unglazed ceramics. Stoneware excavated in kilns of Group I ranges from roof tiles to boxes, bottles, pots, plates, large jars and large basins, with diverse patterns incised by potters. For Group II, most of the ceramics found were brown glazed and dark green glazed, made of red clay, and supported by regular fire clay inside the kilns differing from irregular fire clays found in Group I. Most of the stoneware found in Group III were likewise brown glazed, produced in kilns with structural elements similar to those in Group II.
Mr. Chhay argued, these Khmer wares were for daily use, commonly excavated in various consumption sites, while imported Chinese ceramics tended to be more precious, bulk of Chinese ceramics assemblages were rare to be found outside the Greater Angkor Region which is the elite context. For instance, in Prei Monti Temple in Roluos, which was the early Angkorian site from the 9th Century, 17.5% of excavated ceramics were imported, with 73.6% Khmer earthenware and 8.9% Khmer stoneware. There were Chinese ceramics and ceramics from other countries found in archaeological sites that are located in Greater Angkor Region, but no Khmer ceramics was found in both terrestrial archaeological sites beyond Khmer Empire and Southeast Asian shipwrecks. By comparing ceramics in production sites and consumption sites and evidence from shipwrecks, Mr. Chhay proposed that ceramics from the mentioned three sites were for local consumption; the relations and interactions with outer region were found to be in the import trade as abundant ceramics from other regions were found in elite consumption sites.
Mr. Chhay Rachna
Archaeologists face various challenges when they adopt prevalent methods to identify ceramics. There are visual analysis, which includes the observation of the types, forms, glazes, pastes and decorative patterns of ceramics, and scientific analysis, such as the study of chemical composition, crystallization process and weathering process. The visual analysis did not serve well for archaeological research, which often involves dirty, broken, tiny sherds with no decoration, while scientific analysis requires sophisticated invasive laboratory instruments which are not suitable for the large quantity of sherds or to be used on site, given the time and money they cost, and the damages they made on the sherds. In response to these problems, Dr. Ellen Hsieh proposed non-invasive portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) for the identification of ceramics in archaeological context. The presentation mainly focused on the application of pXRF, and the pXRF patterns of chemical elements in blue pigments and white areas on ceramics produced in Jingdezhen, Zhangzhou from China and Hizen from Japan were shown. Dr. Hsieh analyzed the pigments of blue-and-white ceramics found on Santa Cruz shipwreck from the Philippines with pXRF and identified them to be produced in Jingdezhen by comparing the data which the compositional pattern of pigments in Jingdezhen ceramics found to be highly matched with those on Santa Cruz, showing cobalt-based blue pigments, with poor Iron and rich Manganese. Dr. Hsieh presented her application of non-invasive technology in identifying ceramics and argued that this provides new possible ways to see global networks from chemical composition.

Dr. Ellen Hsieh
A ceramic-centered narrative is not enough to understand a shipwreck, argued by Dr. Brian Fahy, who agreed the importance of ceramics but also other often-neglected materials that could be found on shipwrecks. Dr. Fahy studied the materials that were excavated in six Southeast Asian shipwrecks and sites, namely Turiang, Bakau, Rang Kwien, Ko Si Chang III, Lena Shoal, and Santa Cruz. These materials include iron sand, tin ingots, Chinese coins, manufactured materials such as mirrors, armaments such as lantakas, sword and spearhead, net weight, fishing hook, duck egg, aniseed, peppercorns, minerals, beads, grinding stone, earthenware, and so forth. The study of these materials can serve for a better understanding of the social, economic and political context of the past. For instance, the rosette on the tin ingots found on Turiang, a shipwreck near to Malaysia, corresponds to the pattern on the money used in Malaysia. What does this phenomenon imply? What is the significance of the pattern? This may need further study, but it shows how these materials play a role in facilitating us to understand the past. With the consideration of the aforementioned materials, Dr. Fahy argued that it will give us a more complete picture of the networks as established by the ships back then.
Dr. Brian Fahy

Text: Sonia Fung Lok Shan


日期: 29/9/2017
講者: 盧泰康教授 (國立台南藝術大學藝術)
題目: 臺灣文化資產中的窯業遺跡與傳世古陶瓷調查研究







Tuesday, February 6, 2018

[Friday Seminar Recap] Family Runs in the Vessels, Vines Run Through the Family: An Anthropologist Engages with Systemic Therapy

Date: November 17, 2017
Speaker: Teresa Kuan (Department of Anthropology, CUHK)
Title: Family Runs in the Vessels, Vines Run Through the Family: An Anthropologist Engages with Systemic Therapy

In this Friday Seminar, Dr. Kuan started by introducing the background of her paper. Firstly, kinship was once considered the “real guts of social anthropology”, and is a field of study recently invigorated by Marshall Sahlins’ new book, What Kinship Is--And Is Not. In this book, Sahlins defines kinship as “the mutuality of being”, and kinship, as Dr. Kuan points out, is about not only relationships but also how people construct their realities, especially the boundaries between the self and the other. While modern people are taught that the self ends at the surface of the skin, this is not how most of us experience actual life. Kin, as Sahlins puts it, “are people who live each other’s lives and die each other’s deaths”.

Secondly, in recently years, China anthropologists are discussing a “psycho-boom”, as a new, private sector of mental health services has been growing in China. Dr. Kuan did fieldwork in a research institute established in 2014 for family research and family therapy in Shanghai. The institute is embedded in a private wellness company founded by an overseas Chinese businessman. A lot of money was poured into the facilities, in order to train new therapists. Well-established professionals from the state sector act as mentors, and the trainees are mostly middle-aged women who have gone into counseling as a second career. The families seen at this field-site tend to be middle-class but this is not always the case. They usually come with a teenager that has been either hospitalized and/or medicated with no signs of improvement.

Dr. Kuan then detailed a case in which the therapeutic process illustrated a problematic transpersonal distribution of resentment and responsibility. The “identified patient” was a teenage girl on anti-depressants, and her parents divorced several years ago yet still got into fights. As the psychiatrist and therapist, whom Dr. Kuan calls Dr. K, analyzed it, with evidence from biofeedback data, the daughter has put herself in her mother’s position, feeling her feelings for her, just as the mother had put herself in her daughter’s position, reading the father’s every “attack” on their daughter as a personal attack on her. This sort of confusion of selves and run of emotions was called “entanglement”, which, as Dr. K believe it, is poisonous rather than nourishing: The girl admitted that she found it increasingly hard to handle schoolwork, and the burden she felt made her want to collapse. Dr. K commented, “Putting too much energy here, things won’t be so smooth in the outside world.”

The purpose of therapy at the Institute, therefore, is “individuation” or “differentiation”. According to Murray Bowen, one of the founders of family therapy, differentiation refers to the degree to which a person is able to remain “objective” even while engaged in ongoing human intercourse. Anxiety determines differentiation. Relationship-oriented, poorly differentiated people put too much “life energy” into seeking “love and approval”. Highly differentiated people, on the other hand, are “more contained”, more “self-determined” and “goal-oriented”. While Dr. Kuan clearly points out Bowen’s idealization of objectivity and rationality, she maintains what this theory highlights is an existential, ethical problem – i.e. the question of how to conduct oneself in one’s relations with others, particularly kin.

In the case described above, Dr. K contended that everyone is trying to control everyone else has confused proper roles and positions, leading to everybody’s shared pain. Dr. Kuan argues that the work that Dr. K does is moral in essence, as the protocol works on human relationships. This kind of family systems therapy exposes and tackles all the grudges and hurts that are either too sensitive or too banal to recognize, let alone address in the course of everyday life. And it is not only about feelings and emotions; the taking of responsibility that is not one’s to take is also consequential in a situation of suffering. Family therapy, as Dr. Kuan sees it, offers one possible (though hardly perfect) response. In conclusion, Dr. Kuan argued that we should pay attention to the difference between individuation and individualization, and avoid reducing everything to the framework of neoliberal governmentality.

Monday, November 20, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] "Do you realise this is a Chinese school?": White parents as ethnic minorities in the local Hong Kong school system

Date: November 3, 2017
Speaker: Paul O’Connor (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University)
Title: "Do you realise this is a Chinese school?": White parents as ethnic minorities in the local Hong Kong school system

Dr. O'Connor

In this Friday Seminar, Dr. O’Connor examined the case of white parents attempting to enroll their children in local kindergarten and primary schools in Hong Kong. He started by outlining the context of his research. From 2012 to 2014, Hong Kong witnessed a rise of anti-mainland sentiment, and a series of political protests took place. A localist Hong Kong identity seems to have come to the forefront. On the other hand, Dr. O’Connor’s wife is an English who grew up in Hong Kong, and their three sons were all born in Hong Kong and very strongly identify as Hongkongers. Dr. O’Connor and his wife tried to send their youngest son into a local kindergarten so that he could learn Cantonese. While he initially did quite well, after he changed to another kindergarten as the family moved, his Cantonese learning virtually stopped. These macro and micro contexts made Dr. O’Connor very interested in the current research topic.

When it comes to schooling in Hong Kong, Dr. O’Connor pointed out that the change to Mother Tongue Instruction in 1997 was a crucial move, as the importance of English got diluted, while the focus on Chinese became more important while complicated and messy. Currently, more than 300 schools use Chinese (Cantonese) as their MOI (medium of instruction) while English is used in select, elite and designated schools. Dr. O’Connor highlighted that international schools experience an exodus of white parents after 1997, and currently almost half of the students in international schools are Chinese.

While white people compose less than 1% of the population in Hong Kong and are ethnic minorities in this sense, their average monthly salary almost triples that of the Hong Kong population, and is way higher than that of Thai, Pakistani, Indonesian and Indian people in Hong Kong. This leads to the question: how do we frame white people as ethnic minorities in the circumstance? Another relevant background is that according to statistics, around 25% of white people in Hong Kong, while Dr. O’Connor believed the actual percentage is far lower than that.

So, why are more white parents sending their children to local schools? When he was conceiving the research, Dr. O’Connor thought that this has to do with Hong Kong identity, while his co-researcher, Dr. Julian M. Groves, believed that it is about preserving privileged status. They conducted semi structured interviews with 18 white parents with an average age of 44. While the number of interviewees is relatively small, Dr. O’Connor explained that they achieve data saturation pretty soon as these white parents had very similar experience.

Their findings are a mix of both issues. The white parents have multiple motivations: On the one hand, the high cost of international school can be a burden for those families that are in a financially more precarious position, and some parents are concerned of how their kids are going to find a job if they do not speak Cantonese. Dr. O’Connor argued that recently there is a value judgement about international schools, criticizing them as elitist and privileged. These parents are convinced that a more wholesome way to raise your kids is to give them an authentic experience of the culture in the local Hong Kong society, and sending their kids to local schools is a more challenging but also more rewarding route to take. Dr. O’Connor argued that this is a way for these white parents to preserve their privileged status, and values like global citizenship and multiculturalism are emphasized. This also shows a commitment to Hong Kong: Dr. O’Connor explained that there is a focus on Cantonese, which is seen as more authentically Hong Kong than Mandarin and will enable one to live a truly local life in the community. Having said that, Dr. O’Connor clarifies that no parents they interviewed held a localist stance. These values, however, can be co-opted and inconsistent. Dr. O’Connor discovered that the parents can be anxious about sending their children to schools with “too many” Pakistani, which might compromise their ability to let their children learn Chinese. The values about diversity and inclusion stop when they cannot get the value they want, understandably so.

Dr. O’Connor discussed how this privileged community experience great difficulty and even what they perceive as discrimination when applying for local schools for their children. Drawing on the parents’ own accounts, he illustrated how the schools insist that they are “Chinese schools” meant for Chinese people, and the white kids are seen as a hassle and rejected outright. The teachers also do not believe that the white kids can possible learn Chinese. When there are ethnic minorities students in the class, sometimes they are arranged to sit on the same table and separated from other students, and therefore cannot really learn Chinese. These difficult and frustrating attempts to enroll the kids in local schools have caused significant emotional distress and internal conflicts to the white families.

Dr. O’Connor argued that the education system in Hong Kong offers very little guidance or support for these parents. Despite their wealth, social capital and privilege, white people have similar marginalization and obstacles as other ethnic minorities do in Hong Kong when it comes to education, which leads Dr. O’Connor to the conclusion that the schooling system is broken, and the division of local and international system problematic.

Related publication:

Groves, Julian M., and Paul O'Connor. "Negotiating global citizenship, protecting privilege: western expatriates choosing local schools in Hong Kong." British Journal of Sociology of Education (2017): 1-15. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/kdZgeG2T6EZTDug4x5kg/full

Thursday, November 9, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong

Date: October 27, 2017
Speaker: Chee Wai-Chi (Department of Education Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University)
Title: Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong

Dr. Chee

What are migrant students’ opportunities and challenges in Hong Kong’s education system? How do they negotiate their identities and belonging? In this Friday Seminar, Dr. Chee Wai-Chi tried to answer these questions by looking into the academic trajectories and identity formation of two incoming teenage groups to Hong Kong – from mainland China and from South Asia (predominantly India, Pakistan, and Nepal). Dr. Chee started by outlining the context. For the South Asian group, ethnic minorities constitute about 8% of the whole population in Hong Kong. School attendance rates of ethnic minorities are significantly lower than those of the whole population, especially at the post-secondary level. The proportion of people working in elementary, non-skilled occupations, on the other hand, is much higher among the South Asians than among the whole population in Hong Kong. For mainland Chinese, from 2006 to 2016, 40,000 one-way permit holders entered Hong Kong every year. Yet, there are no statistics about their education and occupation since they are not categorized as a separate group in government census. Dr. Chee conducted longitudinal study of these two groups of teenage immigrant students in Hong Kong.

Dr. Chee found out that the Induction Programme (IP) plays an important role in the immigrant students’ academic trajectory. If the students can stay in the same school after IP, they usually develop strong bonding with that school, while those who have to leave experience a love-hate relationship with their IP school. Dr. Chee argued that the IP schools are like “green houses”, and that is why it feels particularly bad when students are denied a place in their original school. “It is their first experience of being rejected in Hong Kong, by a school that has been so supportive and reassuring, which may lead to resentment.” Whether a student can stay in the same school or not of course have to do with their individual performances, yet there are also structural reasons at play. Dr. Chee discovered that when a school has too many ethnic minorities students, the Chinese parents may withdraw from sending their children there. Therefore, the schools have to pay attention and keep ethnic minorities students within a limited proportion. Dr. Chee argued that finishing the IP is a turning point in the academic trajectories of many immigrant students. Paradoxically, while IP is a nurturing space for the students who are new to Hong Kong, it does not prepare them well for the larger educational realities of Hong Kong and may eventually fail them.

When it comes to the construction and negotiation of identity, Dr. Chee found that there is a predominant emphasis on Cantonese linguistic capital, be it at official level or in everyday encounters of individuals. The official term for immigrant students is “Non-Chinese speaking students”, which appears to be offensive by some. One student said, “Can I call you ‘non-English speaking’? Why not address it as a second language learning, or non-mother tongue learners?” In their daily life, fluency in Cantonese seems to open up another door for friends, career prospects and many other things, and the lack of it is a shame. One student said, “This is a school for ‘disabled’ people like me. We don’t speak Cantonese.” Another student reported being treated impolitely while working at McDonald’s because his Cantonese was not good. Dr. Chee argued that the major significance of Cantonese in the immigrant students’ construction of a Hong Kong identity is a rather new phenomenon. Several years ago, the students would use entitlement (the rights they enjoy in Hong Kong) and descent (their family members being Hong Kong permanent residents) to explain why they see themselves as Hong Kong people. Dr. Chee suggested that the rise of importance of Cantonese may have to do with the rising emphasis on local Hong Kong culture in recent years.

Dr. Chee looked further into the difference between the two groups. Many South Asian students feel that they have a “mixed” identity. One Indian student commented that she is a Hongkonger but she still has some Indian things since she grew up there, and it was not important to be a “full” Hongkonger, as long as she herself is comfortable with both parts of her identity. Another Nepalese student said that he could easily “switch” his identities depending on where he is, in Nepal or Hong Kong. The mainland students, Dr. Chee argued, embed their Hong Kong identity under their Chinese identity, as they mainly see themselves as a Chinese who is living in Hong Kong. Dr. Chee found that interestingly, their self-identification as “Hongkonger in/of China” (中國香港人) is heavily informed by a categorization of identity mainly constructed by the polling of the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme.

The Audience





Thursday, October 26, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Deliberate Design or Accidental Abuse? Misappropriations of Applied Anthropology in Global Design Consulting

Date: October 20, 2017
Speaker: Non Arkaraprasertkul (Department of Architecture, Design and Planning, Sydney University)
Title: Deliberate Design or Accidental Abuse? Misappropriations of Applied Anthropology in Global Design Consulting

Dr. Non Arkaraprasertkul

Since the 1970s, “design research” has become popular in the consulting industry. It is a form of research that emphasizes empathy, and aims to create demand for yet-to-be realized needs. Dr. Arkaraprasertkul started to investigate design research by introducing the idea of “Anthropology Inc.” raised by Graeme Wood. Nowadays, the largest margin of any market across the globe lies in everyday consumerism. Therefore, the consulting companies treat people’s everyday experience as a research subject of major value, and turn to anthropology and use the method of field research. Jane Fulton Suri, author of Thoughtless Acts and founder of Human Centered Design Research at IDEO, is a prominent figure in this field.

Dr. Arkaraprasertkul introduced the characteristics of design research. Design research relies on observing people as they act naturally, and empathy is a regarded as a crucial guiding principle, as the researchers defer judgement on value. Importantly, design research is clearly goal-oriented, and the goal is usually a commercial one. The key methods of design research, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul explained, are: go out and watch people; ask questions, no matter how “dumb” they appear; embrace extreme users; find people who break rules when using things and find out why; think about experience rather than things; think in verbs rather than nouns; and borrow ideas from other areas. Dr. Arkaraprasertkul then showed several examples of design research.

While it all looks great in principle, what Dr. Arkaraprasertkul experienced during his six-month fieldwork in a transnational global design consulting firm based at a first-tier city in China turned out to be less than ideal. He found out that in this firm, the design researchers, who were supposed to listen to their informants carefully, were too ready to instead speak on behalf of the informants. The interviews were mostly structured and directive, and the researchers often told the rest of the research teams what, as they believed it, the informants thought. Utmost emphasis was put on film and sound recordings, as they could be used as “solid evidence”. What’s more, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul sensed a strong sense of entitlement among the design researchers, who actually saw themselves more as consultants, would like to keep a distance from their informants, and held a deep sense of hostility toward “academic research”. Most importantly, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul pointed out, the researchers have to be result-oriented so as to meet deadlines and get paid. In conclusion, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul argued that the essence and spirit of anthropology is “diluted” in design research.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization: Kabaddi and Local-Global Disjuncture in Taiwan

Date: October 6, 2017
Speaker: Wyman Tang Wai-man (Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Title: Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization: Kabaddi and Local-Global Disjuncture in Taiwan 

Dr. Wyman Tang

Kabaddi is a traditional game popular in South Asia. As it is simple and requires no instruments, it is called “game of the masses”. Under the influence of the nationalist movement in India, this game was formalized and standardized into National kabaddi, which has been promoted to other countries and played in international games since 1990.

Dr. Tang first looked into why Taiwanese players are interested in playing kabaddi. After the Doha Asian Game in 2006, a Taiwan businessman brought Kabaddi to Taiwan. In Taiwan, Kabaddi is often thought of as “an Asian game for Asians”—since there are weight limits (85kg for male, 70kg for female), it is thought to be suitable for the smaller bodies of Asians. While such a discourse sounds like the popular racial discourse in sports, Dr. Tang argued that what people want to emphasize is an ideal that Kabaddi should be an inclusive game, which is not dominated by particularly strong and huge people but can also be played by different people with smaller body size. Having said that, Dr. Tang discovered that in practice, Kabaddi players do make many efforts to gain weight and approach the weight limit, though still believing that Taiwanese are born to play kabaddi. Also, this new sport gives new hope to many “elite athletes” who showed talent in sports during secondary schools yet failed to reach the top level. They shifted to kabaddi, which is still less competitive than the traditional sports, with the hope that it can give them the opportunities to join the national team.

Another major group of kabaddi players in Taiwan are the indigenous people. The popular discourse follows the ethnic stereotype, i.e. indigenous people are better at playing sports. In the media, some indigenous kabaddi players also compare playing kabaddi with their childhood experience of hunting. However, Dr. Tang’s conversations with indigenous players show that most of them do not believe there is a significant bodily difference between Han Chinese and indigenous players. What is indeed happening, as school teachers explain to Dr. Tang, is that for the indigenous students, their families are less likely to be able to afford tuition classes from secondary school onwards. To play sports and go through the elite athlete scheme is an alternative method to enter university without good academic results, and kabaddi is cheaper and less competitive compared with other sports. This is why indigenous students have a higher participation rate in kabaddi.

Then, how is it like to play kabaddi in Taiwan? Dr. Tang introduced that in 2008, Taiwan was recognized as a member in the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF). Since then, Taiwanese team has been participating in the international tournament. In 2014, the Professional Kabaddi League (PKL) was established in India, and two Taiwanese players have joined the league so far.

In Taiwan, having the opportunity to join the national team and play in international matches is very important. Many jobs in the sports field are low-paying and unpromising. The ideal career for an athlete is to become a school PE teacher as it gives a stable, good income. Yet, through the formal channel, the chance was small. By contrast, if a player can join the national team and play in the international game, their chance to become a licensed coach in a school will be raised to a great extent. However, Dr. Tang pointed out that the Taiwanese team’s chance of participation in various international games are still very limited.

So, Dr. Tang asked, why are the opportunities for Taiwanese kabaddi players so limited? He answered this question by analyzing the global politics in kabaddi. India is an emerging economy. The profits generated in the PKL are not enough for promotion of kabaddi in wealthier countries. On the contrary, money flow from these countries to India, if they want to join the India-centered global kabaddi club. For the poorer countries, IKF send them various resources to develop kabaddi, looking forward to a good return from selling products and broadcast rights in the long run. Taiwan, however, is in an embarrassing position. Taiwan developed kabaddi without the support from the government, and India can reap little direct benefits from Taiwan to India. Dr. Tang argued that the in-between role of Taiwan – neither too poor, unlike Nepal, nor too rich, unlike Japan – made it difficult for Taiwan to get on the kabaddi train.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Talk and Concert: Sheng-xiang and Band 【生祥樂隊·講座+演唱會資訊】

The Department of Anthropology and Chung Chi College are honored to invite Mr. Lin Sheng Hsiang, the song writer, vocalist and moon guitarist of Sheng-xiang and Band to give a talk on his experience of participating in social movements via music.

Anthropologists are curious about cultural differences — why are we all human beings even though the differences between us are huge?  Yet, in fact, people from one society could also be sharply different from each other. When the majority in a society are interested in accumulation, self-enterprising, and a (materially) abundant life of success, there are people who are more interested in simple, rustic life: staying in one’s village and appreciating floating clouds and beautiful mountains. Mr. Lin is one such person: he cannot help but cares about the dying farming villages, hopeless marginalized groups, and polluted environment that one can easily find in any intensely industrialized society. Soon after he graduated from college, he realized that he can hardly adapt to the music industry in Taipei that relies on packaging a lot. When he then learned about the development of anti-dam campaign in his home town Meinong, he returned home without hesitation and started planting the seeds of protests with his unique rock n’roll mixed with Hakka mountain songs. Why did he not give up his concerns for the marginalized, the farming villages and the environment when he struggled to support his family in spite of being a critically acclaimed and awarding-winning musician? Why did he say that musicians and songs alone won’t bring changes even though he has been questioning the policy of favoring industrial development over agriculture and has been singing stories of the distress of home-leaving youth continuously for 20 years? Please join us to find out about Lin Sheng Hsiang’s persistent journey on both music and social activism. (The talk will be conducted in Mandarin.)

After the talk, the 6-musician Sheng-xiang and Band will present in full band their newest album Village Besieged, concerning petrochemical industry and pollution, at Sir Run Run Shaw Hall on 18 October. Toru Hayakawa, the bassist of Sheng-Xiang and Band once commented: “Being a musician is about being honest with oneself.” Anthropologists and musicians both believe in understanding through bodily practices. Join us to listen, find and cultivate the seed of change in your heart.