This article is an exploration into how a distinct fascination with the study of religion traverses the biographies of researchers who, through fieldwork, episodically enter into the life-worlds of the peoples they study. In it, I offer up ethnographic and autoethnographic reflections on the experiential crossroads and personal biographies that are perhaps as constitutive of religion as they are of the persons who study it. Through a discussion of interconnected events that arose during and outside of my anthropological fieldwork among the Nuosu, a Tibeto-Burman group of Southwest China, I highlight how Nuosu claims to authoring my biography have brought their animistic religion and culture, as well as its international import, further into focus for myself, local scholars, and rural Nuosu persons. My argument pivots around the idea that fieldwork-based researchers and their interlocutors often appropriate each other’s biographies in rather cosmic ways, thus revealing the historically, socially, and personally contingent qualities that are involved in studies of religion.
Fieldwork, Biography, and Authorship in Southwest China and Beyond
A Study in Social Cohesion
This article examines willingness to join China's emerging green movement through an analysis of data from the China General Social Survey of 2006. A question asked about environmental NGO membership shows that while only 1 percent of respondents claim to be members of an environmental NGO, more than three-fifths say they would like to join one in future if there is an opportunity, slightly less than one-fifth reject the idea and the remainder are “don't knows.” The article tests explanations of willingness to join based on instrumentality, ideology, social identity and social capital networks. It finds that instrumental considerations dominate, although ideology, identity and networks contribute incrementally. The conclusion considers the usefulness of willingness to join as an indicator of social cohesion within the framework of a wider effort to evaluate social quality.
Challenging Girls in Rural Chinese Schools
Heidi Ross and Lei Wang
Leadership training is often described as an important component and goal of girls' secondary education and also a crucial step for realizing gender equality. This paper explores the possibilities for and barriers to effective leadership training in one "Spring Bud" girls' education project conducted in a poverty-stricken area of Shaanxi Province since 2001. Following a review of the Chinese and international literature on girls' secondary education and leadership training, the authors explore different understandings of "leadership" (and empowerment) among various project stakeholders and indicate the urgency of a mutual understanding of "leadership" and how it might be mentored in girls in formal educational settings. Authors draw upon interviews, observations, student writing, as well as the results of a 2006 survey of nearly 1,000 participating girls and their homeroom teachers, in their discussion of how to connect the concept of "leadership training" with the resources and constraints that shape girls' lives and future educational and career expectations and aspirations. The paper concludes with policy implications.
Reflections on an Ethnographic Study of Chinese Infrastructural Projects in Mozambique and Mongolia
Morten Axel Pedersen and Morten Nielsen
Based on two case studies of Chinese infrastructural interventions in Mozambique and in Mongolia, this article introduces the notion of 'trans-temporal hinge' as a heuristic methodological concept that brings together phenomena and events otherwise distributed across time. The authors explore envelopes used when paying Mozambican workers at a construction site in Maputo and roads dividing Chinese oil workers and local nomads in southern and eastern Mongolia as concrete manifestations of trans-temporal hinges. In exploring the temporal properties of these phenomena, we define the trans-temporal hinge as a gathering point in which different temporalities are momentarily assembled. As an analytical scale derived from a specific ethnographic context, we argue that the trans-temporal hinge provides a novel and, quite literally, timely conceptual invention compared with other recent methods of anthropological knowledge production, such as multi-sited fieldwork.
The Heroic Tale of “Taiyuan's Five Hundred Martyrs” in the Chinese Civil War
Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang
On 19 February 1951, a state-sponsored funeral took place in north Taipei in which a splendid cenotaph to commemorate the “five hundred martyrs of Taiyuan”— heroic individuals who died defending a distant city in northern China against the Chinese Communist encirclement—was revealed. In the four decades that followed, the Nationalist government on Taiwan built a commemorative cult and a pedagogic enterprise centering on these figures. Yet, the martyrs' epic was a complete fiction, one used by Chiang Kai-shek's regime to erase the history of atrocities and mass displacement in the Chinese civil war. Following Taiwan's democratization in the 1990s, the repressed traumas returned in popular narratives; this recovery tore the hidden wounds wide open. By examining the tale of the five hundred martyrs as both history and metaphor, this article illustrates the importance of political forces in both suppressing and shaping traumatic memories in Taiwan.
This article discusses the nature of Chinese students' transnational experiences and its impact on their identities within and beyond national and cultural boundaries. The discussion is located in the theoretical framework of transnationalism and explores in detail the ways in which students adapt, change and develop, both in the host country of their study and also on their return to work in their home countries. Empirical evidence in the article is drawn from the findings of three studies, led by the author, which have investigated the pedagogical, sociocultural and emotional challenges that Chinese students have encountered when studying at British universities, and the perceived impact of their overseas studies on their lives and careers in their home countries. The research findings suggest that there are distinctive patterns of challenges, struggles, adjustments, change and achievement over time – all of which are embedded in the processes of socialisation, enculturation and professionalisation. Such experiences are both transitional and transformational and, most profoundly, they necessitate identity change at and across different layers of boundaries. At the heart of this identity change is a constant, emotional search for a reflexive sense of self as an embodied individual, a member of a professional group and a member of an organisation.
Landmark anthropological works on fame have shown that gift-giving is often the vehicle for producing relations of 'positive value' and recognition. When viewing fame against the related notion of fortune, however, the focal point of study shifts to how people produce reputations that are 'beyond value' or 'priceless'. This article proposes that the Nuosu of Southwest China enter into an ongoing 'economy of ordeals' in order to accumulate priceless 'tokens of value' that increase their 'fate-fortune' and fame. It shows that ambitious Nuosu accept new ordeals to achieve fame, while comfortably viewing their accomplishments as akin to those of a predatory spider. Tellingly, though, these efforts are vulnerable to the counter-extractive maneuvers of other people and ghosts, which present the Nuosu with new ordeals that could deplete their resources.
A Comparison of Okvik/Old Bering Sea and Liangzhu Ritual Art
One of the central decorative features of the Okvik/Old Bering Sea (OBS) Eskimo art is a theriomorphic design with an eyelike circle-dot motif. Seventy-five years ago, Henry B. Collins proposed the resemblance between OBS animal motifs and the Taotie (or t'ao t'ieh) faces on Chinese Shang and Zhou bronze wares. However, today his conclusion is based on outdated archaeological data. New evidence in recent decades indicates that the Chinese Bronze Age Taotie originated from mask-like imagery on jade objects of the Liangzhu Neolithic culture, third millennium BC in the Lower Yangtze River region. Comparative studies suggest more similarities in artistic designs between Okvik/OBS and Liangzhu jade than between Okvik/OBS culture and the Shang/Zhou Bronze Age cultures. The prototype theriomorphic design in Okvik/OBS Eskimo art, therefore, may originate from Liangzhu rather than from Shang and Zhou.
From many perspectives, the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to gender equality and feminism offers a shining example of communism’s ideological limitations, and its historical failure to serve women’s interests. From its earliest days, Chinese communism upheld a platform of ‘sexual equality’ (nannü pingdeng), and implemented numerous policies to protect women’s equal rights. Yet its attacks on the epistemological foundations of Western feminism and its denunciation of the latter as little more than ‘bourgeois individualism’ give clear evidence of Miheala Miroiu’s ‘contradictio in terminis’.
Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs) play a very important role in worldwide environmental protection. They are often theorized as social movement organizations, as corporatist, or as an integral part of civil society. China's ENGOs cannot be analyzed easily from any of these theoretical perspectives. Instead, this article contextualizes ENGOs within the social transformation of socialist China. By doing so, the article addresses three core questions: How can the rise of China's ENGOs be explained? Do ENGOs in China have the same functions and roles as ENGOs in industrialized countries? What is ENGOs' short-term role in transforming China?