Space-Time: Toward an Anthropology of Contemporaneity

Through August 25, 2012

Aug. 24

Conference Abstract:

Anthropology traverses vastly disparate geographies. Anthropologists pitch their tents to do fieldwork, and sit in ivory towers to write ethnographies, on disparate schedules. Can we make sense of our projects and our topics within a shared understanding of time? Are anthropologists contemporaries within the global diffusion of researchers and research subjects, universities and research centers?

We can no longer assume the unidirectional diffusion of anthropological methods from the West to field sites once seen as peripheral to global centers. Such a familiar trajectory entrenched a denial of coevalness in some anthropology (Fabian, 1983). Postcolonial scholarship has done much to interrupt and even invert any such one-way passage from East to West, a process in which raw field data were once thought to become “cooked” ideas or knowledge only in a few languages and among a few expert groups. Now that an evolutionary concept of history has ceased to hold as the foundation upon which anthropology can ground its facts, these distances in space and time are closing. Contemporary anthropology suggests that the ex-centric sites of our many fields have become the principal places where capitalist modernity’s emergent formations are being configured. In other words, perhaps the West or global North is playing catch-up to the non-West or global South (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2011).

Building on these ideas, this conference accepted global ex-centricity, but presumed no necessary dissonance between East, West, North, South and Center as cardinal, geopolitical spaces. Much modernist anthropology/sociology of China, for instance, has separated the progressive and rationalized time of the modern city from the cyclical and poetic time of the countryside (Steinmuller, 2011). As we increasingly realize boundaries and trajectories of “culture” to be ideal types at best, how should anthropologists theorize the present? What can anthropologists contribute to studies of contemporary China, or other contemporary worlds, as we seek significance in places both more local and more global than the nation-state?

Anthropological exchange across the frontiers of languages and scholarly communities seeks to achieve a sociality of knowledgeable bodies rather than advance sovereign bodies of knowledge. In this conference we explored the ways in which the world-wide trajectory of anthropological knowledge-making can be considered and critiqued in its unfolding. We sought to occupy the boundary space of contemporaneity, at once evanescent and vanguard, together with Chinese graduate student researchers.

In this workshop, we welcomed papers that addressed a broad range of topics included but not limited to the following:

– Embodied temporalities in everyday life
– Spatialities/Governmentalities – city planning, rural development
– Ethnographic imaginaries of the Chinese rural
– “China Model” in political-economy/social sciences – as epistemic object, discourse and analytical category
– Regimes of value and knowledge, especially in the sciences
– Aspirations, desires, anxieties


人 类学跨越迥异的地理空间。人类学家在迥异的日程下,‘支起帐篷’完成田野 工作,之后回到象牙塔中端坐以完成民族志写作。我们对研究和题目的理解, 是否有可能基于一种共享的对时间的理解来阐明?在研究人员与研究对象、大学和研究机构全球扩散的背景下,不同的人类学家还是“同时代”的吗?

我们不再能假设从“西方”到一度被视为相对于“全球中心”位于“边缘”的田野地点,是人类学方法的单方向传播; 乔纳斯·费边将一些人类学作品中存在的这种思考方式称为“对同代性的否认”(Fabian, 1983)。这种认识,把从东方到西方的过程视为由少数语言和有限专家群体将“生”的田野材料加工为“熟”的观点或知识的单向传递,而后殖民研究的作品已经深刻介入、中断、甚至颠覆了以上认识。既然对历史的进化论式认识已经不再是人类学理解事实的基础,这些空间与时间的距离也在渐渐合拢。当代人类学认为, 我们许多领域内非中心的地点 ,恰恰是正在构造资本主义现代性新兴形式的主要所在。换言之,或许‘西方’ 或‘全球北方’正在追赶‘非西方’或‘全球南方’ (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2011)。

基于这些看法,此会议接受全球非中心性(global ex-centricity),但不再认为东方、南方、西方、北方、中心等地缘政治基要空间, 也不假设它们之间必然不协调。譬如,有关中国的大量现代主义人类学社会学作品,都预设现代城市中的时间线性进步而单调,乡村时间循环而诗性(Steinmuller, 2011)。而当我们愈发认识到分立的边界和轨迹最多也只能作为理想类型存在,社会科学家该如何理论化“当下”?如果人类学家致力于理解和民族国家相比既更“当地化”又更“全球化”的地点,我们如何能对研究当代中国或其他当代境地作出贡献?

跨越语言边界和学术共同体分界的人类学交流致力于追求朝向知识的共同体的社会性,而不是推进主权化的知识主体。在这次会议中,我们探索了如何能在展开人类学知识制造的同时,思考和批评人类学知识制造的世界性轨迹 。我们期望与中国研究生一同占据转瞬即逝却持久前卫的当代性的边界空间。


• 日常生活中身体化的时间性
• 空间性/治理,如城市规划、乡村发展
• 关于中国农村的文化想象
• 社会科学与政治经济话语中的“中国模式”(“中国”和“中国模式”作为认 识对象、话语、与分析范畴)
• 价值与知识的制度(regimes),特别是在各个科学生产领域之中
• 关于期望、欲望以及焦虑的民族志文化研究


Conference Agenda

Friday, August 24th

9:30-10:00 Registration (coffee and refreshments served)

10:00-10:45 Keynote Speaker Address (Title TBA)
Prof. Zhang Xiaojun, Tsinghua University

10:45-11:00 Discussant remarks
Jay Schutte, Chen Chen, University of Chicago

11:00-11:30 Q&A

11:30-13:00 Lunch

13:00-13:30 Ten Mile Inn: The Rural Life Before and After Land Reform:
Orality, Texts, and Images
Andre Gao, Wang Shuo

13:30-14:30 Panel One: Affects, Temporalities, and Material Epistemologies

Discussants: Jay Schutte, Victoria Nguyen, University of Chicago

Post-disaster Reconstruction and Space Construction in the Xiuxi Village
Hu Dongwen, Shanghai University

An “Iron Cage” of Civilization? Missionary Psychiatry, “Chinese Family”, and a Colonial Dialectic of Enlightenment
Zhiying Ma, University of Chicago

Cultivating Desires and Managing Anxieties in An Affective Time: Women’s Online Writing and Reading in China
Yi Zhou, University of California Davis

14:30-14:50 Discussant Remarks

14:50-15:10 Q&A

15:10-15:30 Coffee Break

15:30-16:30 Panel One Recommences

Curing Disease or Protecting Homeland? A Case Study of Liulang Zhuang Village in Beijing
Liu Yiran, Tsinghua University

Wealth, Commodity, and Belief: Miao Values of Silver in Shidong, Southeast Guizhou
Li Ruohui, Central University for Nationalities

Negotiating Temporalities between Future Imagery and Past Experience in China’s Rural Development through the Case Study of Wine Production
Kiho Kim, University of Chicago

16:30-16:50 Discussant remarks

16:50-17:10 Q&A

18:00 Welcome Dinner Reception


Saturday, August 25th

9:30-10:00 Registration (coffee and refreshments will be served)

10:00-11:00 Panel Two: Space, Memory and the Work of the Imagination
Discussants: Kiho Kim, Zhiying Ma, University of Chicago

The Ecology of the “Big Shorts”: An Architecture of Destabilizing Meanings
Victoria Nguyen, University of Chicago

Sheng Xing: A Case Study of Life, Work, and Management at an Outsourcing Factory
Lu Haiqin, Central University for Nationalities

(Re-)enchantment: Consuming Bridal Photographs in Contemporary China
Chen Chen, University of Chicago

11:00-11:20 Discussant remarks

11:20-11:40 Q&A

11:40-13:30 Lunch Break

13:30-14:10 Panel Two Recommences

Imagining the Periphery on the Chinese Mainland from the 1990s: A Case Study of Literature, Art, and Cultural Texts from Yunnan
Duanling Yu, Capital Normal University

Sinosigns, Anglosigns and African Transducers: Translational Labor and the Semiopolitics of Colonial Reiteration among certain African Students in a South African Confucius Institute
Jay Schutte, University of Chicago

14:10-14:30 Discussant Remarks

14:30-14:50 Q&A

14:50-15:10 Roundtable: Emerging Themes and Final Remarks



8月24日 星期五

9:30 -10:00 签到

10:00-10:45 主题演讲 (主题将公布)
清华大学社会学系 张小军教授
10:45-11:00 讨论:书样, 陈晨 (芝大)

11:00-11:30 提问与回答

11:30-13:00 午餐

13:00-13:30 十里店 – 一则华北农村的再观察:口述、文本与图像

13:30-14:30 专题一:感情、时间性、物质认识论
讨论者:书样(芝大), 阮維莉 (芝大)

胡冬雯 (上海大学)

马志莹 (芝大)

周轶 (加州大学戴维斯分校)

14:30-14:50 讨论

14:50-15:10 提问与回答

15:10-15:30 茶歇

15:30-16:30 专题一继续进行

治愈疾病还是捍卫家园?- 北京市六郎庄村个案研究
刘怡然 (清华大学)

财富、商业与信仰 – 黔东南施洞苗族人的银饰价值观
若慧 (中央民族大学)

关于中国乡村发展未来形象与过去经历之间时间性的协调 – 通过葡萄酒产业的事例研究
金纪昊 (芝大)

16:30-16:50 讨论

16:50-17:10 提问与回答

18:00 会议晚宴


8月25日 星期六

9:30-10:00 签到

10:00-11:00 主题二: 空间、记忆、想象的作用
讨论者:金纪昊, 马志莹 (芝大)

阮維莉 (芝大)
陆海琴 (中央民族大学)

陈晨 (芝大)

11:00-11:20 讨论

11:20-11:40 提问与回答

11:40-13:30 午餐

13:30-14:10 专题二继续进行

九十年代以来中国大陆的边地想象 – 以有关云南的文艺文化文本为例
段凌宇 (首都师范大学)

孔子学院的语言政治: 在非洲的英国传教学校和21世纪汉语教室之间殖民主义的翻译和话语
书样 (芝大)

14:10-14:30 讨论

14:30-14:50 提问与回答

14:50-15:10 开放讨论与总结


Biographical Notes:

Professor Zhang Xiaojun: Professor Zhang Xiaojun is the Leading Scholar of the Creative Base of Cognitive Sciences at Tsinghua University and a joint research associate of the Historical Anthropology Research Center at Sun Yat-Sen University. He has also lectured at Renmin University. Professor Zhang’s work focuses on topics in historical anthropology and economic anthropology, while his research interests include Chinese rural society, and theory of the social field. He has published academic articles in Modern China, Social Sciences in China, and Sociological Studies, including “Land Reform in Yang Village: Reproduction of Symbolic Capital and the Determination of Class Status”, and “Composite Property Rights: From the Perspective of Realism and Capital System”.

Chen Chen 陈晨
PhD Student Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Research Interests: Contemporary China: kinship, gender, marriage, guanxi; intimacy, romantic love and Capitalism; ritual theories, “Intimate Life in Transformation: Romantic Love and Consumption in Post-Mao China”.

Duan Lingyu 段凌宇
PhD Student, Chinese Contemporary Literature, Capital Normal University
Research Interests: Consumer culture, class economy, imaginings of the periphery,

Andre Gao 高初:
BA, Science and Technology University of China (USTC), 2008 (Mass Communication, transfer from Geochemistry); China Photography Publishing House, Editor (Oral History and Photographic History series) 2009-2012
Research Interests: Photography and photographic theory, photojournalism, aesthetics, curation

Hu Dongwen 胡冬雯
Shanghai University, School of Sociology and Political Science
Research Interests: History and culture in southwestern China, construction of space between Han and Tibetans, minority politics.

Kiho Kim
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Research Interests: Yantai, Shandong; Chinese wine industry, “New Vineyards in Old Villages: Farmers, Bureaucrats, Middle Class Consumers, Marketing”.

Li Ruohui 李若慧
Central University for Nationalities
Research Interests: Modern China, ethics, affect, value (in)commensuration.

Liu Yiran 刘怡然
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Tsinghua University
Research Interests: urban/rural divide, health and disease, medical anthropology

Lu Haiqin 陆海琴
MA Anthropology, Central University for Nationalities
Research Interests: Legal studies, migrant workers/migrant experience, transnational networks, agency, political economy.

Ma Zhiying 马志莹
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology and Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago
Research Interests: Cultural/medical/psychological anthropology; science studies; disability studies; biopolitics, human rights, and ethics of care; anthropology of kinship; gender studies; everyday life; post-socialism; China.

Victoria Nguyen 阮維莉
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Research Interests: Chinese religion, Buddhist temple restoration and rejuvenation, urban planning and design, spatial theory, monumental and vernacular architecture, the cultivation of “historical” architectural tastes.

Jay Schutte 书样
PhD Student, African Studies Workshop Coordinator, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Research Interests: translation, mediation, technology and the senses, Space-time and the work of the imagination, the confluence of media and language flows between East Asia to sub-Saharan Africa; semiotic analysis.

Yi Zhou周轶
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis.
Research Interests: Women’s popular culture industry in China, cyborg theory and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), affective labor and capitalism, feminist theory, anthropology of post-socialism


Organizers: Zhiying Ma, Xueting Liu, Kiho Kim, Chen Chen, Victoria Nguyen, Jay Schutte, and Miao Jenny Hua of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.