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Day 1 14:00 Panel 5

Re-Narrate History

Coleridge Room

Zhai Runzhuo, Wang Shengyu, Zheng Yushuang

Zhai Runzhuo

University of Oxford, 1st year DPhil, Oxford Centre for Economic and Social History, History Faculty,

Slave of the Empire: An Empirical Investigation of the Authenticity of Official Population Data in China (2-1911)

This paper uses the quantitative method, combined with historical and institutional analysis, examines the authenticity of all the population data left in Chinese official history books. The study finds that China’s population registration system is a tributary to the taxation system. The quality of population data is seriously affected by political factors: (1) national aggregate data before Dual Tax Reform (DTR) in the mid-Tang dynasty is relatively reliable, but the subsequent data, especially in the Ming and Qing dynasties, can hardly be used directly; (2) at the sub-regional level, data quality in the regional political centres (Shengzhi) is much higher than others, and the gap is rapidly expanding after DTR; (3) for the political centres, although the data quality before DTR is good enough, it is higher afterwards.
 

Wang Shengyu

University of Oxford, Year 3 PhD in Archaeology

The Retirement Farewell Conference for Professor Craig Clunas: Confidence and Introspection of Chinese Art History Scholarship in the West'

On 6th June 2018, a workshop entitled “East” held at the History of Art Department, University of Oxford, brought together Western scholars in the field of Chinese art history. It was a farewell party for the retirement of Professor Craig Clunas. Despite a relaxing and friendly atmosphere, the presented papers can be seen as reflecting a mind-set, if not a subconscious ideology concerning Chinese art history as it has been practiced in the West. Considering the workshop as a starting point of this presentation, I will discuss, together with some personal experience of studying early Chinese art and archaeology in China and the UK, the long-existing problem of ‘centre’ and ‘border’, the possible strategic ways in which both Chinese and international scholars more objectively identify themselves and their researches, and also critically examine some theoretical or even imaginative approaches in the Chinese art historian circle in the West. The busier global academic context nowadays does not necessarily mean more effective communications, and scholars like James Cahill and Craig Clunas himself doubt their proper right to speak as they are not always present in China. Question remains to be asked whether their continuous introspection is an unsolvable dilemma, or it represents a promising path to truly breaking the edge in between East and West in this era.

Zheng Yushuang

University of Oxford

The Historical Tradition of Chinese Anthropology: An Alternative Perspective

The 1980s saw the establishment of “historical anthropology” as a research field within the Chinese context, but its prelude can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since the 1920s, a bunch of Western-trained Chinese anthropologists and sociologists returned back to the field of South China to do ethnographic research on indigenous Chinese society, whose accomplishments later became part of the theoretical background for the research field of “historical anthropology” of Chinese society established by the “South China Gang” scholars in the 1980s. Undoubtedly, the emergence of “historical anthropology” within the context of China studies opens up a conversation between the two disciplines of history and anthropology, allowing both sides to consult each other and reflect on their weaknesses. More significantly, the burgeoning research field of “historical anthropology” sees the possibility to critique the Western-dominant anthropological discourse derived from a philosophical tradition and to establish an indigenous discipline based on a historical tradition inherited from the Confucian legacy. Such attempt not only grounds the theoretical and methodological construction on the native Chinese society, discovering a unique Chinese “anthropological” tradition, but also casts doubt on the modern disciplinary system produced and dominated by the Western world. By tracing the trajectory through which the field of “historical anthropology” of Chinese society was established and has developed, the paper not only disentangles the controversies and conversations between the two disciplines, but also argues for an alternative perspective to approach anthropology via a unique Chinese perspective in which history plays a central role. Moreover, by questioning the definition of “historical anthropology” brought up by the scholars of South China studies, the paper proposes a deeper and more complicated amalgamation of the two disciplines within Chinese context, extending its influence to grander communities of mainstream anthropology and ethnology.

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