Organised by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
Date: 4 – 5 March 2010
Time: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Venue:Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room Level 10 Tower Block, NUS Bukit Timah Campus
The revival of critical approaches to "civilisation" and "empire" in anthropology has lead to a new dynamism in the work of several contemporary anthropologists of China. As a civilisation, the spread of technologies, especially its logographic scripts implies surplus production, the rise of literati, and permeable forms of authority over linguistic/religious/geographic diversities. Myths, money, commercial goods, and fine arts flowing with tributary, trade and diplomatic-marital relations suggest sets of practices and meanings in the way they intermingled with each other. Religious materials crucial for axial civilizations bring about particular possibilities of seeing reality as mundane, related in particular styles to the transcendental. The techniques of body regulation of martial arts and medical therapies delineate the contours of a moral milieu extending across space and time. As an empire, the centricity and hierarchy of China was governed by the privileged status an elite literati dictating proper modes for the conducting of social relations. The emperor in his exemplary conduct is the ritual model repeated in every administrative capital of the empire. The issuing of imperial histories maintains and synchronizes conceptions of cosmological order. At the same time the contestation over civilisational orthodoxy and the hierarchical structure of imperial rule with its moral responsibility also holds the potential to provide the peasantry with justifications for rebellion. Military expansion west and northward, brought tremendous ethnic and religious diversity under the rubric of imperial centralism. In the process reconfigurations of relations between the emperor, the literati, the peasantry and the imperial Other delineated the empire's cosmological borders. All these observations have led to a number of scholars reconsidering China from the point different from conventional views such as taking China as an authoritarian entity, an economic system, or a Confucian culture.
The workshop will bring together leading scholars working on such issues to discuss aspects of long-term continuity and discontinuity, admixture, hybridity, distant connectedness arising with these conceptual frameworks, with a particular emphasis on the need to explore relations between China's long literary history and empirical studies of social phenomena in more complex and sophisticated ways. We hope to develop our understandings of the extent to which these concepts inform the modern Chinese nation-state as well as academic discussions of social change in contemporary China.
Admission is free. Do register early as seats are available on a first come, first served basis.
We would greatly appreciate if you RSVP by 28 Feb to Miss Sharon Ong via email: firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your name, email, designation, organisation/affiliation and contact number.
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