Anthropology in the People's Republic of China: 1945-1957
Watson, Rubie Sharon (b. 1945)
Master of Arts
This thesis focuses on the development of anthropology as an academic discipline in the Communist Chinese system of education from 1949 to 1957. The work and life situations of Individual anthropologists are discussed, and particular attention is given to the research which was undertaken in China during the first decade of Communist rule. The years from 1949 to 1957 were chosen because this time span serves as an exemplary and workable period through which a full cycle of government policy changed and adapted to the needs of the new society. This period includes the initial reorganization of anthropology as an academic discipline (1949-1952), the middle years of stabilization (1952-1955), a period of liberalization and intense scholarly and political activity among anthropologists (1956-1957, the Hundred Flowers Campaign), and finally the anti-rightists attacks on bourgeois social science (1957) which culminated in a period of re-entrenchment and stabilization. In 1949 when the People's Republic was established, a strong academic tradition of anthropology and sociology existed in China. However, after the Communists came to power, these two disciplines, as they are practiced in the West, ceased to exist except for a short re-emergence during the liberalization of the Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956-1957), From the Chinese Communist standpoint Western style sociology and anthropology are unnecessary because they no longer serve a useful purpose. Marxism-Leninism provides the ultimate analysis of the nature of society, and has therefore usurped the theoretical subject matter of sociology and anthropology. The task left to anthropology and sociology is to determine how the goals of Marxism-Leninism can be achieved. In China anthropology has been reduced to an extreme form of empirical and applied anthropology, which the Chinese refer to as "ethnography." This ethnographic approach is concerned with practical problems relating to the application of government policy on Chinese minority (non-Han) populations. Historical reconstruction among non-Han peoples is also an important element of Chinese ethnography. The Chinese hope that this reconstruction will aid in the "enrichment" of Marxism-Leninism, especially Marx's scheme of historical development. This study is organized into six chapters. The first chapter presents the problems and the methodology of the study. The second chapter provides background material on higher education in China prior to 1919. Special attention is given to the introduction and development of anthropology in Republican China (China from 1912-1919). Chapter Two includes an outline of the educational changes which occurred when the Communists came to power in China, with special reference to Communist policies toward intellectuals and social science. Chapter Three traces the official policy toward anthropology and the utilization of professional anthropologists' talents during the years 1949 to 1956. The intellectual and anthropological "renaissance” of the Hundred Flowers Movement of 1956 and 1957 are summarized in Chapter Four. The published sources from this period provide some of the most interesting and informative material on individual anthropologists and their research. During this short period more anthropological research was accomplished than in the previous six years. The intellectual and political life of Fei Hsiao-T'ung, China's best known anthropologist, is sketched in Chapter Five. Chapter Six summarizes the material contained in the thesis and sketches some developments in anthropology after 1957.