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Sociology and Anthropology in Twentieth-Century China

Between Universalism and Indigenism

Edited by Arif Dirlik, with Guannan Li and Hsiao-pei Yen

Publication Year: 2012

Within this text, the contributors provide a historical perspective on the development of anthropology and sociology since their introduction to Chinese thought and education in the early twentieth century, with an emphasis on the 1930s and 1980s. The authors offer different windows on theoretical and research agendas of anthropologists and sociologists of the PRC and Taiwan, shaped as much by their political context as by disciplinary training. In examining the careers of several individual scholars, they also make note not only of their creative contributions, but also of the resonance of their intellectual concerns with contemporary issues in sociology and anthropology (culturalism, frontiers, women). Finally, the volume is organized loosely around the problem of how to translate these disciplines into a Chinese context(s), the issues of "indigenization" (bentuhua) or "making Chinese" (Zhongguohua), which have haunted the two disciplines since their establishment in the 1930s because of the contradictory expectations that they generate. This is where the case of China resonates with similar concerns in other societies where the disciplines were imported from abroad as products of a Euro/American capitalist modernity, conflicting with aspirations to create their own localized alternative modernities.

Published by: Chinese University Press

Series: The Formation of Disciplines Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

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About the Series

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pp. vii-viii

The series is the principal outcome of three annual workshops held in Canberra, Beijing and Hong Kong between 2007 and 2009 on the topic of “the Formation and Development of Academic Disciplines in Twentieth- Century China.” Our aim in these workshops was to construct a historically informed multidisciplinary framework to examine the complex ...

List of Contributors

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pp. ix-xi

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1. Zhongguohua: Worlding China

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pp. 1-39

Sociology and anthropology, along with the other social sciences, were foreign imports in the organization of knowledge in China. While some Chinese scholars trace social thought in China as far back as the late Zhou Dynasty (roughly 11th–3rd centuries BCE), this is quite misleading as the “social” as a category was very much a product of the encounter with Euro/America, and what “social” thought there had been earlier was ...

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2. Academic Universality and Indigenization:

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pp. 41-61

The new quest for disciplinary history has advanced from a mere retrospective of disciplinary development to an exploration of the academic debates and intellectual history of the discipline. The sinicization, or indigenization, of anthropology was once a much-debated topic among Chinese ethnologists/anthropologists, who enunciated different opinions and attempted to find more pragmatic ...

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3. The Synthesis School and the Founding of “Orthodox” and “Authentic” Sociology in Nationalist China:

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pp. 63-87

... By examining Sun Benwen’s sociological thinking and practice, this paper seeks to answer the major problematic behind this study—how and why did the “synthesis school” achieve its authoritative status in Nationalist China. As demonstrated below, the process of establishing “orthodoxy” and “authenticity” within academia was deeply intertwined with the founding of officially recognized academic institutions and organizations, the creation of academic ...

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4. Searching for a Place beyond Modern Chinese History

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pp. 89-107

... Following the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912 and with an increasing number of students returning from Japan, the United States, and Europe, sociology as an independent subject came to be established in the many newly founded universities over the next three decades. Western sociological theories were imported systematically and comprehensively. ...

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5. Cultural Policy and Culture under the Guomindang

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pp. 109-137

... While the train was winding its way through the Ural Mountains, Huang sighted a stone stele that marked the border between Asia and Europe. Inspired, Huang was suddenly struck by a question—what were the fundamental differences between Eastern and Western cultures? ...

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6. Li Anzhai and Frontier Anthropology

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pp. 139-160

The eight-year-long War of Resistance against Japan caused tremendous dislocation, disintegration, and depopulation in Chinese society. With the outbreak of the Marco Polo Incident in July 1937 and the sweeping invasion of north, central, and south coastal areas by the Japanese army, the Guomindang (GMD) government retreated to Chongqing in 1938. Once Chongqing was announced as the wartime provisionary capital, ...

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7. Southeast and Southwest

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pp. 161-190

The rethinking of anthropology beginning in the 1970s offered insightful ideas in individualizing and globalizing the local ethnographic method. Yet anthropologists have overdone this “rethinking” by erasing a crucial fact—any ethnographic research is carried out in regional circumstances, and many anthropological theories are regional in nature. Just as Richard Fardon has pointed ...

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8. Chinese of Different Nationalities, China, and the Anthropology of Chinese Culture

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pp. 191-208

The study of Chinese outside China originally aimed at understanding Chinese culture and society at a time when it was not possible to do research in post-1949 China. It was in this climate that a great deal of research was done in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Even research on the Chinese in Southeast Asia, such as the works of Maurice Freedman and William H. Newell,1 were done with an eye to understanding Chinese ...

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9. The Movement to Indigenize the Social Sciences in Taiwan:

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pp. 209-253

... As with other social science disciplines, sociology originated from the Enlightenment, the problems associated with the collapse of feudalism, and the transformation of society pushed by the growth of industrialization and capitalism in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Europe. The formation of its assumptions and problematiques have been heavily influenced by the social and historical trajectories and concerns ...

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10. From Sinicization to Indigenization in the Social Sciences

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pp. 255-282

Within this chapter, I trace in the development of social sciences (mainly anthropology and psychology) in Taiwan trends in indigenous theory, as a function of “mainstream” theoretical debates as well as “local” discourses. In both cases, the interpretation of “culture” as a framework on which it is possible to articulate native theory represents the primary problematic issue. One might ask, by what sense or authority does the ...

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11. Studying Taiwan

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pp. 283-311

“Studying Taiwan” became a catchphrase among student activists in the late 1980s, as student “Taiwan Studies” clubs were established at National Taiwan University and National Tsing Hua University, and then later at National Cheng Kung University and National Chiao Tung University, the nation’s four major universities. Intending to create a new discipline which used to be a political taboo, these college and graduate students ...

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12. On the Practice of Market Transition

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pp. 307-332

Based on an analytical review of the recent scholarship on market transition, this chapter intends to suggest a new sociological approach to analyze the practice of market transition. As I argue in this chapter, to achieve a thorough understanding of the reasons for and the dynamics of market transition, an in-depth study should scrutinize how market transition is practiced under different circumstances. ...

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13. Narratives of the “Sufferer” as Historical Testimonyi

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pp. 333-357

... They constitute both an important academic resource and an independent field of knowledge production. The social dimensions of “suffering” establish an organic link between the everyday lives of ordinary people and broader social history, such that the deep roots of “suffering” can only be apprehended from the perspective of social structures and power relationships. ...


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pp. 363-375

E-ISBN-13: 9789629969035
Print-ISBN-13: 9789629964757

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: N
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Formation of Disciplines Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sociology -- China -- History -- 20th century.
  • Anthropology -- China -- History -- 20th century.
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