Thursday, March 29, 2012

In the Press Hong Kong in March: See you at the Sevens!

[WildChina Interview with Dr. Joseph Bosco]
Source: WhildChina. To see the full version of the article, please click here.


Over the weekend, WildChina took a break from the rugby to speak with anthropologist Joseph Bosco at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has been doing research into rugby culture and the Hong Kong Sevens, to better understand how a sports event held in Hong Kong became so immensely popular (because, let’s face it, rugby is not usually what springs to mind when you think of the Chinese urban metropolis).

Bosco says the sport itself, the nature of sevens rugby is “ideal for socializing, since it has spans of intense action and excitement along with half-time breaks (two minutes), and pauses between games (about five minutes). The Sevens game fits the Hong Kong pace of life and attention span. In Hong Kong [time] is scarce; while everyone else in the rugby world enjoys an 80-minute game, the city has shortened it to just 14 minutes.”

“Sevens is also easier to understand…it’s a more open game. Spectators can see the ball almost all the time, and they can see players form lines of defense, and though they may not understand how the gap was created, they can easily see the player spurt through a hole in the line to break away into open field, do a side-step on the hapless halfback, and score. Even someone who has never before seen rugby can understand the basics of sevens rugby.”

Finally, he says, “the Hong Kong Sevens means different things to different people, but the different meanings complement each other and have synergy. Spectators who come for the party also learn to enjoy the rugby. Rugby fans who come for the athletic contest also enjoy the festive atmosphere. And the businesspeople who come for branding and networking can do their work more effectively and pleasantly thanks to the party and the rugby.”


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the Press: Professor Gordon Mathews Comments on the Hong Kong CE election

Are Hong Kong people losing their freedom? Will Article 23 come back? Click here to listen to what Professor Gordon Mathews says.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

HKAS Highlight: Sailors on Container Ships in a Neoliberal Era

Mr. Andrew Wu Liang
Former M.Phil. student, Anthropology Dept., CUHK
"Sailors on Container Ships in a Neoliberal Era: 'Breadwinners', 'Guards' and 'Prisoners'"
Invited Talk at the Hong Kong Anthropological Society
21 March 2012, Hong Kong Museum of History

In an age where most anyone of means can obtain any sort of manufactured goods. Shipping remains the major mode of transport for goods across the world. In his talk, Sailors on Container Ships in a Neoliberal Era: "Breadwinners", "Guards" and Prisoners", Wu Liang covers the lives of sailors on container ships. Wu illustrated the hardships of life in the open sea from the isolation, to the physical strain as shipping companies continue to seek ways to minimise expenses and downsize. The goal of manning a ship at minimum cost often means that crew members are drawn from all over the developing world from Eastern Europe to East Asia. The result is a mish-mash of ethnicities on these polyglot crews. Comradery is often reduced to a formality due to cultural differences. Close friendships are difficult to form, as crew composition is constantly changing.

Wu’s most notable point is the irony that seafarers, who bring the fruits of globalisation, are denied some of globalisation’s greatest benefits like easier international communication and travel. While many of us receive news from loved ones from continents away at the click of a mouse, it takes low ranking seafarers days and sometimes weeks to receive the same news when they are at sea. Calling friends and family is rare, as the cost of satellite technology is expensive and mobile phone reception is nonexistent at sea. While, increasing travel afforded by cheaper airfares has allowed more and more people to see the world, seafarers are seeing less of it than ever before. Wu noted that seafarring has and still continues to be promoted as a career path for those seeking to see more of the world, yet seafarers are less able to see the world than in previous eras, as on shore leave has become increasingly limited due to shorter stops at ports as ports seek to maximise their efficiency in the neoliberal era.

Through his years of fieldwork, Wu Liang manages to use his study to give voice to the hardships faced by these unsung heroes of globalisation. In doing so he shows the importance and relevance of ethnographic studies in giving voice to those whose voices are not heard.

For more information please visit the Hong Kong Anthropologist to see a copy of Andrew’s research paper on which this talk was based.

M.Phil Candidate

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Invited Seminar: 宗教救度團體及其在華人社會的發展

中國社會科學院世界宗教研究所副研究員, 當代宗教研究所副主任,《宗教人類學》輯刊主編
16 March 2012

Prof. Chen Jinguo the World Religions Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing gave a very detailed and informative talk on the development of what has been termed “Religious Salvation Movements”. Prof. Chen began by briefly reviewing the way that Chinese and foreign scholars have analyzed the way concepts of salvation developed within religions in China. He explained that the increasing importance of Christianity during the late Imperial Era placed pressure on the Chinese popular religious system. According to Chen, some scholars have even recognized that in reaction to Christian influence in China, popular religion began to adopt forms of Christian practice and theology into their own system, which some scholars describe as “localization” or “bentuhua.”

To highlight the development of such practice and their importance for Chinese society, Prof. Chen focused his empirical discussion on the historical development of Yiguan Dao, which is described very much as a “blend” or syncretization of Taoist, Buddhist and popular Chinese ritual practices. The speaker separated the history into three main periods, starting from the Late Imperial Era up to the its present wide spread practice in Taiwan. During this period though, this fairly isolated “cult” opened itself up to accepting followers from all over the world. Today there are now upwards of 30 million Yiguan Dao practitioners.

Prof. Chen’s fieldwork in S.E. Asia describes the path of transmission of Yiguan Dao into that part of the world and how it has become an important social cohesive force within Chinese communities there. On the one hand it has become integrated into the education system for overseas Chinese, thus instilling Yiguan Dao principles in children at a young age. But perhaps more importantly Yiguan Dao has had important implications for establishing networks between business owners and the larger Asian market system. Shared foundational belief of Yiguan Dao between strangers in Taiwan and S.E. Asia helped establish a sense of trust between business owners. Moreover, practitioners have been able to create a large international network (which Prof. Chen likened to Mormon influence within Amway) of strong business ties. Thus the spread of the religion and its adaptation has developed an important social purpose in the global market place.

PhD Student

救渡團體一詞源自學者Prasenjit Duara提出的Redemptive Societies,意指民國湧現的一些宗教組織,它們結合基督教和伊斯蘭教與傳統的三教,並將其組織現代化。Duara認 為把這些組織歸類為邪教或異端學說會忽略他們在中國現代宗教歷史上的重要影響,因此「救渡團體」可以理解為近現代中國的宗教復興運動。救渡團體的出現是由於西方宗教進入中國所產生的文化碰撞而引發的宗教本土運動,故帶有混雜的個性。它們吸納了基督宗教的成份,也糅合中西宗教的觀念。其混雜性表現在其不恒穩 的宗教氣質上面,左右移動於理性主義和靈性信仰之間。以一貫道為例,它從以往扶乩的靈性實踐轉向強調講經說法、推動慈善;另外,它們也重整其神靈體系,以文明上帝替代舊有的神明。有別於民間信仰,救渡團體是跨地域性的,特別是在東南亞的華人社會也有一定的影響力。華人作為區域的少數族群,救渡團體扮演了復興、維護華人文化的角色,同時也建立對自己文化與族群的認同和歸屬感。另一方面,講者指出活躍於東南亞華人社會的救渡團體一般都是以儒為宗,而且組織裡的 領導階層多為社會上的成功人士。他提出這種儒商結合是有歷史根據的,可追溯至明代當時的棄儒就賈的現象。由此,他認為救渡團體擁有一種新生資本力量,並反 駁一般人對於救渡團體存有的「落後」、帶有抵抗性的印象。

M.Phil Candidate

In the Press: Panic Attack

[China Daily Interview with Dr. Joseph Bosco]
Source: China Daily. To see the full version of the article, please click here.

Alarming rumors of child abductions that have swept Hong Kong in recent weeks have turned out to be bogus. But experts say the stories reflect deep-rooted problems and spread so widely they risked plunging the city into a 'moral panic'. Simon Parry reports.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In the Press: Kidnap rumours reflect Hong Kong's uneasy ties with the mainland

Joseph Bosco warns that allowing the stories to spread would only fan panic

Source: South China Moring Post. To see the original post, please click here.

Rumours of mainlanders attempting to kidnap Hong Kong children are spreading here. It began with a small story in Sing Tao Daily on March 2 which claimed that a couple and a teenage boy boarded the MTR at Sham Shui Po, with the woman carrying a girl aged two or three.

The report said the girl was crying and trying to get away, and some people became suspicious because the couple - who looked like they were mainlanders - did not carry any child-care items. One passenger questioned the couple, but they ignored her. At the next station, the "mainland" couple and the boy tried to leave and, in the scuffle, they dropped the child but got away. The paper said a woman appeared later, saying the girl was her daughter. The report ended by saying that although some netizens were sceptical about the truth of the story, most said it was better to be safe than sorry.

That principle - better safe than sorry - has helped the story get picked up by online news aggregators, and has led many Hong Kong residents to post the story on bulletin boards and to forward it by e-mail. Facebook groups critical of mainlanders are also spreading the story. Earlier incidents are now being reinterpreted as cases of mainlanders attempting to kidnap Hong Kong children.

The story is illogical, however. Kidnappings of children happen worldwide, but they are exceedingly rare. What would mainland criminals do with kidnapped Hong Kong children? It is not that easy to get them over the border. A mainland criminal seeking to kidnap a child would surely find it easier to do so on the mainland.

These stories were made more believable by a recent report in which the Ministry of Public Security said that it had rescued 77 children and arrested more than 300 suspects in swoops on child-trafficking gangs. But many cases of "child selling" on the mainland are actually informal adoptions, because there is no legal avenue for it. When abductions have occurred, they have often been of poor children whose parents have no means to press for their rescue.

Rumours can be dangerous. Incidents of ethnic violence always begin with rumours that one group is about to attack the other; it happened in Sri Lanka and Rwanda. Our children are our most precious possessions, so an attack on them is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It is understandable that many parents are concerned, but we need to analyse why such rumours are spreading.

The government refuses to recognise mainlanders as an "ethnic group", saying "we are all Chinese", but ethnic differences do not have to be large to be significant. Mainlanders who violate Hong Kong etiquette by pushing, not getting in line, or eating on the MTR can be annoying, especially to the many local people who are not doing well economically.

These stories are spreading because they reflect many Hong Kong people's anxiety about the relationship with the mainland. There is the problem of the growing number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong. There is the fear of mainland drivers undermining road safety if they are allowed to drive in the SAR. There is uncertainty over the election for the new chief executive, and whether Beijing will interfere.

In each of these cases, there are many people in Hong Kong who fear, with some justification, that there are hidden forces in the North that Hong Kong cannot control.

If we understand this background, we will not panic but just take normal precautions to keep our children safe. We will realise that it is a mistake to make scapegoats of mainland tourists.
If this rumour continues to spread, it is just a matter of time before the police are called in because bystanders have ripped away a child from his or her parents simply because the child was having a temper tantrum. And that traumatised family may not be from the mainland: they could be any one of us. Hopefully, with more openness and democracy, such rumours will disappear.

Joseph Bosco is an associate professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Monday, March 12, 2012

Invited Seminar: Foster Care

PhD Candidate, Princeton University
"Foster Care: Child-rearing Across Generations in Guangxi"
9 March 2012

With the recent release of books such as Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the of the Tiger Mother and Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe, parenting has once again become a popular topic in public discourse. These books cover the Chinese and French ways of parenting, respectively. It is with this background that the Anthropology Department invited Princeton PhD candidate, Erin Raffety, to give a talk about the intergenerational parenting discourses in relation to foster child care in China, specifically in Guangxi.

In her talk Raffety covers two generations of parents, the seniors (52-71 years old) and the middlers (22-41 years old). Rafferty unpacked the conflicting ideas of parenting between these two cohorts using ethnographic examples based on participant observation with foster families and her work with an orphanage. Rafferty found that foster parents in Guangxi tended to be seniors, while orphanage workers tended to be middlers, some of whom had children. The seniors would discipline their children through humiliation and (bluffed) threats such as telling the children that they would be taken back to the orphanage or that they were unwanted. The middlers said one should just ignore the children when they misbehaved and use positive techniques such as telling children how much they loved them at other times to encourage them. Rafferty noted that the former technique is the older more Chinese method of parenting that is predicated on a more confrontational discipline, while the latter is influenced by recent western models of positive parenting.

The conjecture over the effectiveness of different parenting methods is not only intergenerational, but intercultural. This was reflected in parts of the question and answer session. Some audience members noted that the positive parenting advocated in western societies led to spoilt children, as Chinese orphans were excessively doted on by families. The foster parents in Guangxi felt that telling the children that you love them would only lead them to be spoiled. Yet, there is also the question of the children’s feelings of abandonment. Raffety noted that this was matter of context. There are times when children should be disciplined and times when they should be loved and encouraged, and what is appropriate depends on the cultural context and expectations. Raffety’s talk shows how anthropology can successfully unpack different perspectives on issues such as parenting and analyse the conflicts between these perspectives.

M.Phil Candidate
    改革開放之後,每年都有大量海外家庭收養中國大陸被遺棄的兒童。這一現象與後社會主義中國政治經濟變遷及與外部世界的互動存在密切相關。 39日,人類學係有幸邀請普林斯頓大學人類學系博士生候選人Erin L. RAFFETY女士就這一問題於週五研討會Friday Seminar)上發表演講。


Raffety的研究主要針對老年家長52-71歲)與中青年家長22-41歲)這兩個群體各自對教養子女的認識展開分​​析。例如在針對如何管教孩子這一問題上,老年群體傾向於體罰或責罵,而中青年群體則認表現出更多容忍且更願意表達鼓勵。同時,在面對NGO組織的觀念衝擊時,雙方所持態度也並不相同。 Raffety因此認為當下關於兒童養育的代際話語差異實際上是現代化背景下傳統價值觀所受到的挑戰以及轉型期人們對安全感的強調,同時她還認為家庭結構由大家族向小家庭的過渡,會使人們重新認識孩子在生活中的意義。

YUAN, Changgeng 
PhD Student

Monday, March 5, 2012

HKAS Highlight: The Manila Hostage Crisis and Hong Kong Interethnic Relations

Ms. Candy Hiu Yan Yu
M.Phil Candidate, Anthropology Dept., CUHK
"The Manila Hostage Crisis and Hong Kong Interethnic Relations"
Invited Talk at the Hong Kong Anthropological Society
29 February 2012, Hong Kong Museum of History

First year MPhil candidate, Candy Yu gave a talk based on her undergraduate research on how the Manila Hostage Crisis affected the relations between Filipinos and Hong Kongers. Yu examined this relationship on three levels – the individual level specifically focussing on the relationship between Filipino Domestic Workers and their Employers, the societal level and the international level with the dynamic between China, the Philippines and Hong Kong in wake of the crisis.

While noting that there have been many cases of abuse by employers, Yu found that there were many cases where employers realised that the crisis had nothing to do with their employees. She pointed out cases where employers stood up for their employees when the helpers were the target of abuse when shopping. Yu noted that there was a parallel discourse on internet forums that was much more derogatory in the wake of the crisis. Yu argued that this is because many of those on the internet forums did not have domestic helpers and had never met any Filipinos, thus the only image of Filipinos that they have is the media’s portrayal in the wake of the crisis.

Yu’s coverage of the international level illustrated the precarious position of Hong Kong in international affairs. She focussed on Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s inability to reach President Benigno Aquino, who dismissed Chief Executive Tsang as not being on the same standing internationally. Yu argued that this showed that despite Hong Kong not being a nation state, Hong Kongers did not want the Chinese government to intervene on a diplomatic level, reflecting a wider societal suspicion towards Mainland China.

Yu’s talk shows how anthropology can be used to examine current events such as the Manila Hostage Crisis. With the use of interpretive anthropology, analysing the Manila Hostage from multiple perspectives of the individual, society and international relations, Yu was able to shed light on several issues such interethnic relations to the political position in Hong Kong.

For more information please visit the Hong Kong Anthropologist to see a copy of Candy’s research paper on which this talk was based.

M.Phil Candidate

Invited Seminar: The Ethnic Minority Health Project

Dr. Kevin K.C. HUNG
Assistant Professor, CERT-CUHK-Oxford University Centre for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response, School of Public Health and Primary Care, CUHK
"The Ethnic Minority Health Project: 
Health Promotion in Remote, Extremely Poor, Disaster Prone, Ethnic Minority Communities in China."
2 March 2012

How do practices change? Who should change them? This is one of the key issues in Kevin K.C. Hung’s talk about his work with the School of Public Health at CUHK on their China Village Project. The project aims to promote better public health in impoverished, ethnic minority areas of China that have undergone natural disasters. Hung’s talk focussed on the work at one of the project’s field sites in the village of Ma An in Gansu province in North Western China. They have introduced measures to reduce incidents of diseases such as lung cancer by encouraging the use of alternative sources of fuel in cooking, other than raw fuels like wood or charcoal, and encouraging smokers to quit smoking. Hung noted that on follow up trips much of the information that they had passed on to villagers had been forgotten and that this was problematic. Hung hopes that the gap in retaining information and implementing it can be overcome with greater utilisation of anthropological research methods.

There was a rigorous debate during the question and answer session after Dr. Hung’s talk, about changing the practices of local villagers. Many in the audience felt a sense of unease about a group of affluent Hong Kongers going up to Mainland China to tell people how to live better, healthier lives. Some audience members questioned the practicality of advice such as abandoning cooking with raw fuels indoors and the adaptability of a model based on interaction with Africa in the context of China. Others in the audience pointed out that anthropologists had often romanticised local practices in the past. What should be done? How can the optimum policy in public health be achieved, while acknowledging the validity of local practices such as burning wood? Hung noted that increased collaboration and empowerment of local people are important factors in achieving the best outcomes for public health in remote, impoverished areas. Thus, anthropologists have a key role to play in building a mutual understanding between local villagers and the public health workers.

M.Phil Candidate

Friday, March 2, 2012

Invited Seminar: The Apotheosis of Wu Feng

Dr. Magnus FISKEJÖ
Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Cornell University

"The Apotheosis of Wu Feng"
24 February 2012

Magnus Fiskesjo’s talk, The Apotheosis of Wu Feng analysed the story of Wu Feng. The story, which is still passed down by people of Han Chinese descent in Taiwan to this day, is that Wu Feng was noted for his efforts to stop the practice of head hunting among the Tsou people. This effort cumulated in his heroic death in his old age as he sacrificed himself when he rode to his death, as the final kill of the local warriors, who then repented and abandoned the practice. Fiskesjo noted that this was the portrayal in the museum, which was built by Taiwanese settlers of Han Chinese descent and was never visited by the local Tsou people.

Fiskesjo unpacked the layers of interpretation of this story from the perspective of different groups in Taiwan. From the perspective of Taiwanese Aborigines, Wu Feng is a treacherous trader who cheated them out of profits and justifiably died as a result. From the perspective of Taiwanese of Fujianese descent, Wu Feng is seen as someone who can teach important lessons about the superiority of Chinese morality and about self sacrifice in his efforts to stop the Tsou people’s practice of head hunting. From the perspective of the Japanese colonisers of Taiwan, the story of Wu Feng served a purpose of propaganda for their expansionist policies in Asia, supporting an evolutionary view of cultures with Japan now serving as the civilizing force. This myth was readily adopted by the KMT party since it supported Chinese dominance. Fiskesjo tied these layers of interpretation to broader macro level political factors such a colonialism and political repression by the Japanese and KMT.

It was not until the 1988, with the lifting of martial law and the beginning of democratisation in Taiwan, that there was a freer discussion and eventual revelation about the truth behind the story of Wu Feng. Prior to that there had not been much freedom of speech and the adoption of the story by the KMT made it even more difficult to question its veracity. The final blow for the credibility of the story of Wu Feng, Fiskesjo pointed out, was evidence that it had served and been promoted by the Japanese colonists. These factors contributed to its erasure from school texts.

Fiskesjo showed that the story of Wu Feng and the controversy surrounding it hinges on the issue of indigenous relations in Taiwan. Fiskesjo pointed out, significantly, that head hunting was a relatively recent practice by indigenous people. Fiskejo argued that head cutting was used as a device to portray the Tsou people as savages in the story of Wu Feng. In modern day Ahlishan there is a tourist industry built upon Wu Feng. Fiskejo points out that none of the tourism enterprises such as stalls and guest houses are owned by the local Tsou aborigines. Fiskejo uses this case to illustrate the issues of indigenous relations surrounding the story of Wu Feng through this displacement of Tsou from their land.

Fiskejo painted a portrait of the plight of indigenous peoples like the Tsou in Taiwan through the multiple interpretations of the story of Wu Feng and the larger macro level factors of political economy, which led to its spread and eventual erasure from school texts. He noted that the story is still widely known by those over forty years of age, and though some Taiwanese who sympathise with the indigenous people have disavowed the story of Wu Feng, others continue to pass it down as though there is no controversy.

M.Phil Candidate

Arts Faculty Colloquium: Understanding Globalization through Chungking Mansions

Dr. Gordon Mathews
Professor, Anthropology Dept., CUHK
"Understanding Globalization through Chungking Mansions"
24 February 2012

The Anthropology Department’s, Dr. Gordon Mathews presented the first in a series of Faculty of Arts Colloquiums based on his book Ghetto at the Centre of the World about Chungking Mansions. As well as covering the background of Chungking mansions and the people there, the talk focussed on explaining the anthropological methods that he used in the course of his research. These included methods of participant observation such as hanging around, listening and asking questions, as well as staying in some of the guest houses. Mathews also talked about the application of theories such as Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems theory and Arjun Appadurai’s of globalisation theory in his research. The talk showed how anthropological research methods, particularly long term field work, can yield findings that other forms of research such as questionnaires would not be able to uncover. Mathews noted that because most of what was going on in the Chungking Mansions in relation to trade such as the trade in copy phones was illegal, researchers would need to gain the trust of the traders before they would share their stories. Overall, Dr. Mathews’ talk showed listeners how anthropological research is carried out and its effectiveness in sensitive situations such as that of Chungking Mansions.

M.Phil Candidate