Tuesday, March 29, 2016

[Upcoming Seminar] Heigui: Prejudice Towards Africans and Its Implication for a Changing China

Heigui: Prejudice Towards Africans and Its Implication for a Changing China

Speaker: LIN Dan, Linessa (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong) 
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 1 Apr 2016 (Friday) 
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK


This talk is part of a study on African migrants in Guangzhou. This part discusses how and why Africans present in China are assumed to be criminals and lower-class people by certain Chinese. While such prejudice towards Africans is traditionally considered to be racial discrimination based on their black skin colour, this talk argues that it is the presumption of low economic status of Africans, and their being newcomers in Chinese society, that Chinese discriminate against, rather than the black skin colour itself. This talk will explore its implication for China becoming an immigrant society.


(A light lunch will be served at 12:30 pm. First come first served.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

[講座回放:週五研討會] 維生素C,《黃帝內經》與 笛卡爾的幽靈:當代中國的一種身體觀及其文化解釋

維生素C,《黃帝內經》與 笛卡爾的幽靈:當代中國的一種身體觀及其文化解釋








Monday, March 21, 2016

[Friday Seminar Recap] Airborne Schizophrenia: On the Dual Identity of Air Pollution in China

Airborne Schizophrenia: On the Dual Identity of Air Pollution in China

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 11 Mar 2016 (Friday)

Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK
Speaker: Edwin Schmitt (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Edwin Schmitt, our PhD candidate, gave a seminar on “Airborne Schizophrenia: On the Dual Identity of Air Pollution in China” on 11 March. In the seminar, Schmitt shared with the audience his ethnographic research on the perceptions and understandings of air pollution in Chengdu, and discussed why Chinese society has stressed the importance of smog but not the problem of climate change.

Edwin Schmitt

Schmitt first talked about ecological civilization in China and the Chinese government’s stance of balancing economic development and environmental integrity. He shared his research findings of the media coverage in China, from which he traced the international and domestic political discourse on climate change and smog. Taking a page printed by People’s Daily as an example, Schmitt explained how the Chinese media arranged its content to balance the reports on climate change with APEC announcements related to economic development. He also highlighted the myriad sources of smog information, such as from social media and official websites of monitoring stations, that are accessible to the general public.

Schmitt collaborated with two local NGOs and the Neighborhood Management Office in Chengdu to conduct a survey about Ecological Housing Estate Projects. He interviewed 41 individuals and asked them to do free listing on four topics, and air quality had been mentioned in all four. He also surveyed the environmental perceptions of 245 households, and found out that their concern for air quality was second only to food safety. In addition, he asked people to define in their own words what ecological civilization was, and a considerable proportion of respondents reported that they didn’t know. Schmitt then discovered that those who did not know about Ecological Civilization perceived air quality to be significantly less important to their life when compared with those who did know about the ideology. This finding revealed the important influence of ideology over the way people perceive the environment. As Schmitt mentioned, social class also had a role to play in people’s perception of air quality, in which the upper classes exhibited a significantly higher concern for air quality than those from the lower classes.

Apart from the state discourse that had been disseminated through the media, Schmitt, citing Fei’s differential mode of association, pointed out that the importance of family in China contributes to the duality of the “farness” of climate change and the “nearness” of smog. This duality might prevent the public from asking systematic questions and finding solutions to the problems of air pollution. To break down the duality, an older frame could mesh with a new mode of scientific thought that brings issues of climate change and smog together. However, Schmitt also highlighted that we cannot assume that bringing these issues together would be an apolitical process. Solutions to air pollution must consider the way that different social groups perceive the problem and realize that not everyone would be in favor of the breaking down of the duality that Schmitt highlighted in this talk.

The audience

Schmitt’s talk not only provided the audience with insights into the dual identity of air pollution in China, but also led us to reflect on the influence of media, state discourse, and social class on our perceptions of the environment.                        

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

[Announcement] Department e-Newsletter (Spring 2016)

The e-newsletter (Spring 2016) of our department has been published! Click here to catch up with us on our latest news, student activities, department events and alumni updates.

Department e-newsletter (Spring 2016)


Department News (P.1)

  • New Teacher
  • Department Outreach

Department Events (P.2)

  • Friday Seminars
  • Conference
  • Co-organized Talks
  • Multiculturalism in Action Project

Student Activities (P.3)

  • 2015-16 Undergraduate Student Society
  • Lunar New Year Dinner
  • 2016 New Asia Photo-taking Day
  • The 8th Annual CUHK Anthropology Postgraduate Student Forum

Alumni Updates (P.4)

  • Interview with Lee Wai Yi (MPhil in Anthropology, 1999)

If you have any suggestions, comments or news to share with our subscribers, feel free to contact Ms. Esther Chok at wschok@cuhk.edu.hk. We would like to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

[Upcoming Seminar] 維生素C,《黃帝內經》與 笛卡爾的幽靈:當代中國的 一種身體觀及其文化解釋

維生素C,《黃帝內經》與 笛卡爾的幽靈:當代中國的一種身體觀及其文化解釋

講者: 袁長庚 (香港中文大學人類學系博士候選人)
時間:  二零一六年三月十八日(星期五)下午一時正至二時三十分
地點: 新亞書院人文館115室


身體在當代人類學研究中被視為權力操控與主體能動性相遇的“臨界"(threshold),為研究者提供一種Zizek 所謂“傾斜觀看"(Look Awry) 社會深層文化張力的機會。本研究以對華北某城日用品直銷群體的民族志研究為出發點,追問諸如營養學、細胞學說之類現代醫學理論如何經由商業操作被“翻譯"成為地方知識,又與傳統中醫理論拼貼成新的身體觀念。作者認為其中折射出改革年代社區、個體被壓抑的記憶和經驗,同時提醒人們注意一種顛倒的笛卡爾主義正在浮出水面。



Friday, March 11, 2016

[Multiculturalism in Action 2015-2016] FUN with Interculturalism in Kam Tin

FUN with Interculturalism, a community outreach project launched by the Multiculturalism in Action Project this year, organized its fourth community event on 27 February, 2016, in collaboration with SKH St. Joseph’s Church and Social Center in Kam Tin. Apart from our own volunteers, we were joined by the Center’s volunteers, and teachers and Nepali students from Don Bosco Ng Siu Mui Secondary School. Seven booths showcased different cultures and jointly promoted positive ethnic relations. These included Chinese calligraphy, Indian dance, board games, henna drawing, art gallery as well as Equal Opportunities Commission information.

The art gallery (left) by Mr. Rai Dipendra and Chinese calligraphy (right) by Miss Chan Chan
Informative board games (left) by the Equal Opportunities Commission and henna drawing (right) by “One World One Family” Program
An Exhibition on South Asian Communities in Hong Kong was displayed at the covered playground, complete with explanations from our docents.

Our docent at work
Three kabaddi sessions were held by our volunteers, Annie and Kiu. In the first session we invited our Nepali guests to play - their skills and talents showcased the excitement of kabaddi and attracted the audience to stay and join the later sessions. The second and third sessions were held successfully with a lot of enthusiasm from both children and adults from different ethnic origins.

Guests of honor enjoying a game of kabaddi
Kids loved kabaddi!
The audience then enjoyed a series of performances prepared by the Center. There was Nepali dance by the Blessed Flowers Children Group, as well as storytelling in Cantonese by Khapangi Magar Prans.

Nepali kids performing an ethnic dance
Khapangi telling a story in Cantonese
Ms. Jackie Law, an experienced Indian dance performer and teacher, shared with us some stories behind Indian dance and explained the meanings of the gestures. After a fabulous dance, Ms. Law invited the audience to join her in learning some simple steps.

Ms. Law explaining the meanings of the gestures in Indian dance
Ms. Law performing Indian dance
Learning Indian dance
Last but not least, we would like to thank SKH St. Joseph’s Church and Social Center for providing the venue and booth supplies, and the volunteers who contributed to making this event a success. It certainly was an afternoon filled with joy and fun!

Thank you for your contribution and participation!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

[Upcoming Seminar] Airborne Schizophrenia: On the Dual Identity of Air Pollution in China

Airborne Schizophrenia: On the Dual Identity of Air Pollution in China

Speaker: Edwin SCHMITT (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 11 Mar 2016 (Friday)
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK


The global concern with climate change is often related to one aspect of air pollution described as greenhouse gases. However, in China, climate change is not considered as important as another aspect of air pollution called smog (霧霾), which has become a problem for China primarily because of airborne particulate matter. Although both greenhouse gases and smog are related to air pollution, this talk attempts to address why Chinese society has only stressed the importance of smog. One explanation is related to a previous discourse within the Chinese media and the environmental policy choices of the Central Government which kept these two issues separate. However, the spread of such a discourse by the media and government has formed in a dialectal reaction to the social perceptions and cultural interpretations of air pollution. This talk argues that it is the perception of smog as being socially “near” which allows the discourse to resonate with the Chinese populace in a way that clearly takes precedence over a concern with climate change which for most is perceived as being socially “far”.


(A light lunch will be served at 12:30 pm. First come first served.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

[Friday Seminar Recap] Chinese Muslim Interpreters in Global Trade

Chinese Muslim Interpreters in Global Trade

Speaker: XIANG Biao (Visiting Professor, HKIHSS, The University of Hong Kong, and Professor of Social Anthropology, Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 26 Feb 2016 (Friday)
Venue: Lecture Theatre 2, Mong Man Wai Building, CUHK

Prof. Biao Xiang, a Visiting Professor at the HKIHSS, The University of Hong Kong, and a Professor of Social Anthropology at the Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, gave a seminar on “Chinese Muslim Interpreters in Global Trade” on 26 Feb. In the seminar, Prof. Xiang talked about the background of Chinese Muslim interpreters, the challenges they faced, and their sense of hope and identity.

Prof. Xiang

The Chinese Muslim who assisted foreign traders as Arabic-Chinese translators were mostly from North West China, particularly Ningxia Hui. They were generally coming from the countryside or small cities, with an education level of junior high school. Many of them failed or underperformed in schools, or dropped out without certificates. Perceiving outmigration as the best prospect, they became interpreters by learning Arabic from the masjid or madrasas affiliated with Mosques, privately-run Arabic language schools, or state-run madrasas.

Approximately, 60% of these interpreters were male with an average age of 35, while 40% were female with an average age of 25. Male were usually employees of foreign trading companies or owners of companies hiring interpreters; whereas female worked in Chinese trading companies. These interpreters concentrated at places like Yiwu, Guangzhou, and Shishi (Fujian). Trading hubs were set up based on dispersed production capacity, with sophisticated and flexible service system available. Apart from translation, interpreters visited factories and markets, finalized orders, and followed up with delivery, shipping and quality control.

The movement of these interpreters from remote poor places to the prosperous parts of China, as Xiang described, was a shift from one type of precarity to another. The volatile trade brought no formal contracts or stability, and the interpreters, especially the self-employed ones, found it increasingly difficult to settle. The interpreters were stressed by debts, risks, and the need to establish and sustain stable relations with foreign traders. Political instability in the Middle East and the rising price of Chinese goods also rendered them to an unfavorable state.

On the other hand, the situation they faced also led to some kinds of transformation. For instance, they had stronger association with their Muslim identity, and they had a greater emphasis on self-discipline and self-improvement. They also regarded their trade as a kind of social work which repaid the society. To overcome the precarity in their trade, they tried to develop community-based security and adopt stability focused approach.

The audience

Prof. Xiang’s seminar not only gave the audience insights into the role and work of Chinese Muslim interpreters, but also brought our attention to the interplay of ethnicity, religion and business.

Monday, March 7, 2016

[Multiculturalism in Action 2015-2016] Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation

Multiculturalism in Action 2015-16
Pakistani Culture Workshop: Making a Change for the Better

Session 6: Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation 

Mrs. Arjumand Naveed (President, Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong)
Mrs. Nigar Qureshi (Director, Spa Beauté Par Zai; Winner, Hong Kong Most Valuable Companies 2016 Award)
Mr. Yasir Naveed (Founder, Chefo!)
Ms. Ada Wong, JP (Convenor, Good Lab and MaD – Make a Difference Institute) 

On 16 January, 2016, the Multiculturalism in Action Project organized a public seminar entitled Ethnic Minority Enterprise and Social Innovation at the Pakistan Club. It aimed to provide a platform for the public to know more about the contributions and challenges of the Pakistani individuals residing in Hong Kong.

Our first speaker, Mrs. Arjumand Naveed, shared with the audience the work of the Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong. It was set up in 2013 and its aims were: 1) to bridge the education and financial gap among Pakisani women in Hong Kong society; 2) to provide exposure for Pakistani women to mainstream society; and 3) to help Pakistani women to become contributing members to society. Mrs. Naveed pointed out that the Pakistani community faced difficulties such as language barriers in schools and hospitals. Besides, the gender concept in Pakistani society restricted women to stay at home. Mrs. Naveed said that the Pakistan Women Association of Hong Kong worked on connecting professionals and social organizations to offer classes and events to help Pakistani women to integrate in Hong Kong community. For instance, the Association collaborated with the Multiculturalism in Action Project, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to organize seminars on various themes to heighten the cultural sensitivity of the locals towards the Pakistani community in Hong Kong. Besides, the Association also worked with the Equal Opportunities Commission to educate women about their rights and domestic discrimination.

Mrs. Naveed discussing the challenges faced by Pakistani women in Hong Kong

To bring the “hidden women” out from their homes, the Pakistan Women Association has formed self-help groups such as Cantonese classes, cooking classes and handicraft classes. The handicraft classes, as highlighted by Mrs. Naveed, helped the women to make use of their cultural skills to earn money which brought them self-confidence as well as appreciation from others. The next step which Mrs. Naveed and the Association planned to do was to work on small-scale businesses, with an intention to educate the public “how to trade, not aid”, and to achieve sustainable development with their cultural talents.

The second speaker, Mrs. Nigar Qureshi, stressed that not all girls are treated unequally in Pakistan. Her own experience was that, her family was happy for having her as the only girl in the family. She shared tips to be a good entrepreneur, such as: keep planning and get out of your comfort zone. Even though she was a very busy entrepreneur, she still cared for the community and continued to work with whoever seek help from her.

Mrs. Qureshi sharing her experience as a successful entrepreneur

Mr. Yasir Naveed, the third speaker, talked about his personal stories and how the idea of Chefo! came about. When he was a university student in Hong Kong, he faced difficulties in finding halal meals. Not accepting this as an unsolvable problem, he began to think of bridging his personal need with Pakistani community talents.

Mr. Naveed sharing the story of Chefo!

He said there were many ethnic minority women who were good at cooking, and who lived in different districts in Hong Kong. This labor power should be utilized effectively to bring about a win-win situation. Not only the customers could benefit from enjoying fresh halal meals, but ethnic minority women would also benefit from using their cultural skills to bring in an income and be appreciated. Mr. Naveed started Chefo! as a social enterprise, but he admitted that sometimes he wanted to quit, as it was not easy at all to run a social enterprise. However, he knew that he could not give up as Chefo! was a platform for ethnic minority women to be empowered, and its efforts had been recognized by the society. For instance, Chefo! was selected one of the Top Three Most Promising Entrepreneurship by The Economist. Mr. Naveed stressed that “passion” was the most important element to push an entrepreneur to succeed, and he would use his passion to make Chefo! even better. 

Ms. Ada Wong, convenor of The Good Lab and MaD – Make A Difference Institute, responded to the sharing of the above speakers. She also introduced different funding sources such as Social Innovation Fund, and commented that the most important thing about social enterprise was not a business degree, but commitment, action, and determination. She concluded, social innovation was an attempt to help the needy and to sweep away social injustice.

Ms. Wong answering questions raised by the audience

After the break, there was sharing by three practitioners in the empowerment of Pakistanis in Hong Kong. Ms. Zareenah Ho, Principal of the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College, talked about school programs for Muslim girls to develop their talents and skills. Ms. Shabana Jamil, council member of The Pakistan Association, shared her views that empowering females was important, as it helped to eliminate gender bias. Last but not least, Ms. Ansah Malik, a welfare worker from Caritas Hong Kong, shared her appreciation for women who were great home-makers, and added that discrimination should never happen.

Practitioners sharing their efforts on empowering Muslims females in Hong Kong
(From left: Ms. Ho, Ms. Jamil, and Ms. Malik)

There was active participation from the audience in the open discussion. Mrs. Qureshi observed that the difficulties faced by the Pakistanis was not only from the minority identity, but also from their Muslim identity which was portrayed negatively in the media in the last 10 years. It is hoped that these successful entrepreneurship stories can show the audience that Pakistanis in Hong Kong were contributing to make Hong Kong a better and more multicultural society, and these efforts should not be overlooked.

The panelists in the open discussion (From left: Mrs. Qureshi, Mrs. Naveed, Mr Naveed, and Prof. Tam)

The audience also took the time to view the Exhibition on South Asian Communities in Hong Kong, as part of the “FUN with Interculturalism” project. Volunteers served as docents in explaining the content of the exhibition and distributed pamphlets in five languages: Chinese, English, Hindi, Nepali, and Urdu.

Docents at the Exhibition

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

[Upcoming Seminar] ‘Disappearing Workers’: Foxconn in Europe and the Changing Role of Temporary Work Agencies

‘Disappearing Workers’: Foxconn in Europe and the Changing Role of Temporary Work Agencies

Speaker: Rutvica ANDRIJASEVIC (Associate Professor of Management, University of Bristol, United Kingdom)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 4 Mar 2016 (Friday)
 Lecture Theatre 2, Mong Man Wai Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


In this talk I will investigate the role of Temporary Work Agencies (TWAs) at Foxconn’s assembly plants in the Czech Republic. Drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork, I will show TWAs’ comprehensive management of migrant labour: recruitment and selection in the countries of origin, cross-border transportation, work and living arrangements in the country of destination, and return to the countries of origin during periods of low production. The talk asks whether the distinctiveness of this specific mode of labour management can be understood adequately within the framework of existing theories on the temporary staffing industry. In approaching the staffing industry through the lens of migration labour analysis, the article reveals two key findings. Firstly, TWAs are creating new labour markets but do so by eroding workers’ rights and enabling new modalities of exploitation. Secondly, the diversification of TWAs’ roles and operations transformed TWAs from intermediaries between capital and labour to enterprises in their own right.


(A light lunch will be served at 12:30 pm. First come first served.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

[Friday Seminar Recap] Utopian Communities: Making Better Worlds

Utopian Communities: Making Better Worlds

Speaker: Martin BOEWE (PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Date: 1:00 – 2:30PM, 19 February 2016 (Friday)
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK

On 19 February, Martin Boewe, our PhD candidate, gave a seminar on “Utopian Communities: Making Better Worlds”. He discussed the social implications of utopian communities by describing three communities he had been doing field research on: Life Chanyuan in China, Christiania in Denmark, and Damanhur in Italy. He described utopian communities, which were intentionally formed, as social laboratories demonstrating an alternative way to live and challenging the dominating paradigms of society.

Martin Boewe
Life Chanyuan, Boewe said, practiced religious syncretism with its ideology coming from Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and the New Age religions. The charismatic community founder promoted an egalitarian lifestyle and taught about the purpose of human life, self-refinement, and emotional and material detachment. As Boewe put it, Life Chanyuan was a communist utopia that criticized the urban-based Chinese modernization model. It addressed the problem of social alienation, and sought to establish a heaven on earth based on communism and free love.

Christiania was a political community that practiced self-administration and participatory decision making. It embraced the ideology of freedom, and was against neo-liberalism and the concepts of leadership, hierarchy, and domination. Community members included activists, pushers (drug-dealers), and social drop-outs. Christiania members were concerned about humans’ losing control against forces of global capitalism, and attempted to build an anarchist place of freedom.

Damanhur was more hierarchical and focused on lifelong spiritual development. It emphasized rituality, which was manifested in its monastic lifestyle. The interplay of humanity and divinity within the community was central, as it blurred the boundary between story-telling and reality sometimes. Damanhur used alchemy and magic as tools of war, and fought against state, church and capitalism. Its ideology was in opposition to global capitalism, and it addressed the question of how to live better life by looking for the divine in oneself and in society.

The audience
Boewe also talked about the value contests in the three surrounding societies, which were addressed by the communities. The path towards modernization in China alternates between collective and individualistic approaches. Denmark as a tiny nation at the fringe of the European Union is engaged in a search of a new identity in the globalizing world, and is caught between a conservative longing for the egalitarian and ethnically inclusive life of the former village collectives and global capitalism. In Italy idealistic models of a unified nation contrast with a pragmatic model of statehood, which always led to factionalism. His analysis showed that all these utopian communities acted as distorted mirrors of their societies and were historically specific to them. They all had a message to their respective societies about how life could be better.