Abstract: Diasporic traders in lower-end sectors, particularly those from the global South, are becoming ‘out of place’ in Asia. They are earning less profits as many Asian countries strive to upgrade their economies and phase out low-end production niches. One of these groups is Indian textile traders in southeast China. Based on my ongoing anthropological fieldwork that started in 2009, this talk traces the entrepreneurial engagement of Indian textile traders in and beyond China. I summarize the vicissitudes of their engagement as taking place in two stages. First, throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, the traders rapidly expanded their transnational business through hypermobility between different parts of China, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia while intentionally skipping over their home country of India. This growth was largely driven by a China-centric mentality of “getting rich no matter the cost,” which was one of their various tactics in global trade and migration. The second stage started around 2015, when the decline in low-cost production in China coincided with the global decrease in demand. Despite facing steady a decline in business, the traders cannot see alternatives to China as their supply center because China’s production capacity is hard to replicate. The traders thus hang on to their business in China as long as they can without a sense of the future. As the talk will explore, the current stagnancy of this diasporic economy may indicate an end to the tide-like developmental pattern of “racing to the bottom” that spreads from more advanced countries to less developed countries in Asia, which characterized the economic rise of Asia, especially of China, in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Biography: Ka-Kin Cheuk (DPhil, Oxford) is an Annette and Hugh Gragg Postdoctoral Fellow in Transnational Asian Studies at Rice University. Ka-Kin is an anthropologist whose work revolves around the study of globalization, migration, transnationalism, and inter-Asian connections, with ethnographic focuses on China, Hong Kong, and India. He previously held teaching and research positions at Universiteit Leiden and NYU Shanghai. His articles have been published in journals such as The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. Ka-Kin is an editorial board member of Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration, for which he edited a special issue entitled “Transient Migrants at the Crossroads of China’s Global Future” (2019). He has conducted fieldwork over the past decade on the Sikh diaspora in Hong Kong and on Indian textile traders in southeast China. While writing up his research on Indian migration, Ka-Kin is currently developing a new project on flower industries and Europe-China circuits of environmental ethics.
Abstract: LanguageFrom 1884 to 1888, the late-Qing translator, writer, and world traveler Wang Tao 王韜 (1828-1897) serialized nearly 200 tales in the lithographically-printed Dianshizhai Pictorial 點石齋畫報, grouping them into the two collections Songyin manlu 淞隱漫錄 and Songyin xulu 淞隱續錄. Many scholars have regarded the Songyin serial as the “swan song” of the Chinese classical tale genre, maintaining that Wang’s innovative response to the advent of modernity is at cross-purposes with his choice of a moribund narrative form populated by ghosts and fox spirits. In my talk, I will discuss how this line of thinking symptomizes the negative consequences of the still-prevalent disregard among scholars for the medium and context of the tales’ original publication. Re-reading Wang’s tales alongside their accompanying illustrations, I will explore how the Songyin serial - written specifically for the Dianshizhai Pictorial - taps directly into its reader’s frequent encounter with the countless lithographic images of science novelty, foreign lands, and idealized women that proliferated in the most influential late-Qing illustrated magazine. My discussion will focus especially on the way Wang’s literary imagination of “the realm of illusion” - a recurring topos in his tales - crystallizes changing perceptions of the world in fin-de-siècle Shanghai. Through this talk, I aim to show that Wang’s serial, far from the last iteration of a genre in extremis, is actually one of the earliest Chinese literary works to embrace the age of mechanical reproduction and its new visual culture. Biography: Wang Shengyu is a comparatist and literary scholar specializing in pre-modern Chinese literature, with a focus on the Chinese classical tale genre. He obtained his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and currently teaches in the School of Chinese Language and Literature at Soochow University. His research interests include the fantastic and supernatural, crime, late-imperial Chinese visual and material culture, media studies, and chinoiserie. Currently, while working on a book manuscript about literatus Wang Tao’s contribution to the development of 19th century Chinese literature, he is researching late-imperial anomaly writings on animated objects and re-animated bodies.
Abstract: Dongguan Cantonese, a subdialect of Yue spoken at Dongguan locality of Guangdong, China, is a confluence of massive rural-to-urban immigration spurred by China’s economic reform. Dongguan Cantonese has eight lexical tones, in line with Middle Chinese tone categories, but the system is evolving as a consequence of the new linguistic ecology of China in recent years. This study conducted a multidimensional investigation of this ongoing change through production and perception experiments of tones on 32 young speakers (mean age = 22.7 yrs) balanced for gender, and a word reading task of Yin Ping syllables on 16 speakers balanced for gender and age (half speakers’ mean age = 20.8 yrs, and half speakers’ mean age = 50.6 yrs). Results show that Yin Ping, Yin Shang and Yang Shang in Dongguan Cantonese are in the progress of merging, while at the same time, Ying Ping is developing from a low-rise tone to a high-flat tone, presumably due to tone value transfer from prestige dialects such as Standard Cantonese and Putonghua. Thus it is anticipated that Dongguan Cantonese is gradually developing into a new linguistic variety under the new and dynamic language ecology of modern China. Biography: Dr LIANG earned the B.A and MPhil. degrees in Chinese Linguistics from the Peking University, followed by a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong, where she investigated the information structure and discourse function of dislocation in Cantonese. After graduated, Dr Liang extended her research interest from functional linguistics to Chinese dialects and phonology, language contact and development, and the study of Chinese language learning for both native and non-native learners. Dr Liang has been the research fellow at City University of Hong Kong, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor at the Shenzhen University. At present she is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese Language Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong.
Abstract: Anthropological scholarship increasingly features the concept of the ‘future’, a term which conventionally infers a sense of forward motion, of progression towards what has yet to occur. But from observations derived from ethnographic fieldwork in Hong Kong throughout the 2010s, I suggest that notions of futurity in the city could be framed as ‘suspenseful’, which can be interpreted in two ways. First, since the mid-twentieth century, Hong Kong has been described as a ‘borrowed placed on borrowed time’, to encapsulate the uncertain future presented by the inevitable end of British colonial rule in 1997. Since being placed under the sovereignty of China, Hong Kong is subject to a ‘one country, two systems’ mandate stipulating that the Chinese government will not intervene in the city’s socio-political affairs until 2047, although there are concerns that this arrangement is already being eroded. Furthermore, what awaits Hong Kong once this mandate expires remains largely unknown, and thus the city is again in a suspended liminal state, left waiting to see what will happen. Secondly, given perceptions of the Chinese government’s non-democratic practices, the Hong Kong population experiences suspense—referring to their feelings of unease and anxiety - towards a speculative future. This talk explores how people in Hong Kong make sense of, and respond to, their uncertain futures by looking at the urban contestations that have arisen since the mid-2000s. It finds that such responses involve regaining a ‘right to the city’ to dictate present and future realities, and involve a reflexive bent whereby nostalgic remembrance is used as a means of articulating and reinforcing understandings of self and place. Biography: Sonia Lam-Knott received her doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Oxford for her research on Hong Kong youth activism, and was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. Using ethnographic methods, her current research addresses the intersection of politics, historicity, and materiality in the urban space of Hong Kong, with emphasis on the vernacular experiences of everyday life in the city. She has published her research in Asian Anthropology (2017), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (2019), and Space and Polity (2019).
Abstract: Central to the modern health care ideology are the goals of guaranteeing equal care for all on the one hand and maintaining freedom of choice on the other, while containing health care costs at the same time. These goals are entangled wih a series of contradictions that cannont be pursued consistently. This presentation provides a Confucian philosophical reflection on what kinds of equality and liberty are justifiable for health care allocation. It attempts to resolve the ideological contradictions by drawing on Confucian philosophical resources and indicate a defensible configuration of equality and freedom undergirding a two-tier health care system like that in Hong Kong. Biography: Ruiping FAN received his Bachelor of Medicine from Baotou College of Medicine in Inner Mongolia, MA in Philosophy from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and PhD in philosophy from Rice University in Houston. He is currently Chair Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the City University of Hong Kong. He serves as the Subject Leader of the Philosophy Team in the Department of Public Policy and the Chair of the Department Research Committee. He also serves as Co-Editor of the International Journal of Chinese & Comparative Philosophy of Medicine (Hong Kong), Associate Editor of the Journal of Medicine & Philosophy (USA) and the Chinese Medical Ethics (mainland China). His research focuses on Confucian bioethics and comparative philosophy. He has published over 170 journal articles and book chapters (over 90 in English and 80 in Chinese), and has also authored two monographs and edited/co-edited nine volumes.