Archive 2000

The Anthropology and Linguistics of TABOO Language

Christopher Hutton

Venue: Hong Kong Museum of History
100 Chatham Road South, Tsimshatsui Lecture Hall, Ground Floor

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000
6:30 p.m.

Are Language standards declining in Hong Kong? Do language standards reflect moral standards? One aspect of this debate concerns taboo language, which has in recent years made significant inroads into Hong Kong public life. Anthropologists have traditionally been interested in notions of taboo as applied to cultural domains such as ritual behaviour, gender relations, and caste and class differences. Linguists use the term taboo to cover a wide range of phenomena, including blasphemy, obscenity, and so-called linguistic superstitions. This talk gives examples of different kinds of taboo language in English and Cantonese, looks at the explanations given by linguists for how linguistic taboos function, and examines the role of taboo language in defining social boundaries. The fundamental question can be framed as follows: Is fear of bad language a form of linguistic superstition? Or are there good reasons to preserve certain linguistic standards in the form of taboos?

Christopher Hutton is Senior Lecturer, Department of English, the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Linguistics and the Third Reich: Mother-Tongue Fascism, Race and the Science of Language (Routledge 1999), and "Bad boys and bad language: chou hau and the sociolinguistics of swearing in Hong Kong," in G. Evans and M. Tam eds., Hong Kong: The Anthropology of a Chinese Metropolis (Curzon/ University of Hawaii Press, 1997). He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Dictionary of Cantonese Slang (Hurst). Dr. Hutton is former Chairperson and current Secretary of the Hong Kong Anthropology Society.

Why Hong Kong Cantonese is such an EXTRAORDINARY variety of Chinese

Prof. Robert S. Bauer

Venue: Hong Kong Museum of History
100 Chatham Road South, Tsimshatsui Lecture Hall, Ground Floor

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2000
6:30 p.m.

Cantonese has achieved a unique place among Chinese dialects through its historical connection with Hong Kong. Among urban Chinese speech communities in which regional dialects are spoken, Hong Kong distinguishes itself for several reasons. First, only in Hong Kong do most school children learn to read the standard Chinese characters with the pronunciation of the regional dialect instead of Mandarin. Second, while dialects are usually thought of as low-status speech, only in Hong Kong has the regional Chinese dialect become the high-prestige language of government, television, motion pictures, stage productions, and so on. Third, only in Hong Kong has a nonstandardized form of Chinese writing based on the regional dialect come to be extensively written in newspapers, novels, comic books, and advertisements. Fourth, no variety of Chinese has been more influenced by its contact with English than Hong Kong Cantonese, with remarkable results.

Robert S. Bauer is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His study of the Cantonese language began 27 years ago, and his research has focused mainly on Cantonese sociolinguistics, phonetic variation and change, and written form. He is first author of Modern Cantonese Phonology ( Mouton de Gruyter, 1997).

Post-Colonial Anthropology: Local Identities and Virtual Nationality

Prof. Nicholas Tapp

Date: 17 Oct., 2000 (Tuesday)
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Hong Kong Museum of History

This lecture will re-assess some of the previous work on Hong Kong done by anthropologists such as Barbara Ward and James L. Watson in light of the concerns of a post-colonial anthropology, showing the importance of Hong Kong studies and reflecting on the Hong Kong Anthropological Society at this historic conjuncture. From a concern with issues of local identity to a concern with how traditions are constantly reinvented, the talk will center on nostalgic reconstructions of the past, and nostalgic constructions of place, by dispersed and diasporic communities. What role does imagination play in the construction of national movements, and to what extent are communities bound together by the separations they undergo? Now that Chinese minority cultures are re-establishing themselves transnationally through the use of global telecommunications, what implications does this hold for our understandings of nationalism and community?

Nicholas Tapp lectured at the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1986 to 1992, and at the University of Edinburgh until recently. He is now Senior Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the Australian National University. He has researched on the Hmong (Miao) people in North Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and southwest China. His books include Sovereignty and Rebellion: the White Hmong of Northern Thailand (1989) and Recitations: Hmong Agents in Chinese Contexts (forthcoming). He is currently researching transnational contacts among the Hmong as a global community. He is previous chairperson of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society (1989-91).

Macau Visit

Date: 14~15 Oct., 2000 (Sat. & Sun.)
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

The HKAS is organizing a two day visit to Macau. Members and members-to-be are welcome to join us for a tour around some of the fascinating and historic sites of old Macau. Renowned local historian S.J.Chan will be our guide around the sites of Old Macau. Our itinerary is flexible, but will probably include visits to

  • The East India Company Cemetery
  • The Maritime Museum
  • The Ma Kok Temple

We will also visit Taipa Island, where we will be accompanied by Mr Antonio Robarts, Curator of the Taipa House Museum, who will show us around the museum and its adjoining buildings on the Taipa waterfront. Members may recall his fascinating talk to the Society on " the Fabric of Macau Society" in December of last year.

The Anthropology of Tourism


Prof. Shinji Yamashita
Venue: Hong Kong Museum of History
Date: Thursday, Sept. 28, 2000
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Increasingly, today, people don't simply live in cultures; rather, they present their cultures and natural environments as commodities to be seen by tourists. In this talk, Prof. Shinji Yamashita explores the paradoxes of cultural tourism and eco-tourism in Sabah, Malaysia. Cultural tourism may serve as a way not simply of selling culture but of developing a nation's pride in its culture; but of course cultural tourism may bring in commercialization, and the potential destruction of any authentic culture. Eco-tourism, likewise, may serve as a way of preserving the natural environment, but at the same time, the more popular eco-tourism becomes, the more the natural environment may be threatened. Ecotourism, as a cultural product of Western middle class values and ideology toward the natural environment, also tends to be a way in which first-world people can safely and comfortably thrill to the environment of still-unspoiled poorer areas of the world.

Shinji Yamashita is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tokyo, and is one of the most celebrated Japanese anthropologists at work today. He is the author of numerous books in Japanese on the anthropology of tourism as well as on contemporary Indonesia; he is the chief editor of the recent English-language book Tourism and Cultural Development in Asia and Indonesia.

Some of Hong Kong's Lesser Festivals and Monuments and the Culture that Surrounds Them
Dan Waters

21 June 2000
Wednesday at 6:30 pm
Activity Room 1, Ground Floor, the Hong Kong Museum of History

Dr. Dan left England for Hong Kong in 1954 and has lived here ever since. His career was spent in the Education Department. After retiring in 1980, he has written widely on local history, culture, and customs. Dr Waters served on the Government Antiquities Advisory Board for eight years and is now in his fourth year as President of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch.

This talk will examine some of Hong Kong's not-so-well-known festivals as well as some of its monuments. Often little is considered other than a monument's age, architectural merit, and physical condition. Nevertheless, such aspects as legends, oral history, and the culture that surrounds these festivals and monuments deserve more consideration than they often receive. Many of the festivals and monuments examined are on Hong Kong Island's Mid-levels District and a few are in other parts of the Territory.

Although some customs are changing and some festivals are fading, a few are burgeoning. Why is this? What evidence is there that folk religion in its varied forms is maintaining its popularity?

Money, Gold and Power in Highlands Papua New Guinea
Neil Maclean
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Sydney
16 May 2000
Tuesday at 6:30 pm
Activity Room 1, Ground Floor, the Hong Kong Museum of History

This lecture will be based on ethnographic fieldwork in a village on the political and economic margins of the Western Highlands Province of PNG. Ideas about wealth, particularly money and the alluvial gold that is being mined from local rivers will be discussed. Attitudes and approaches to wealth provide a commentary on relations between village and state in PNG. The speaker is interested in local perspectives on corruption in PNG politics.

Dr Maclean has taught Anthropology at the University of Sydney since 1985 and has been editor of Oceana, a major journal of Southwest Pacific ethnography, since 1996. Dr. Maclean has conducted fieldwork among Maring speakers in the Jimi Valley of the Western Highlands in 1979-80, 1987 and 1991. He has published primarily on the subject of post colonial local politics in PNG and the impact of a cash economy. Publications include 1) "Mimesis and Pacification: The Colonial Legacy in Papua New Guinea," History and Anthropology, Vol 11 (1 ) 1988; and 2) "Freedom or Autonomy: A Modern Melanesian Dilemma," Man, Vol 29 (3) 1994.

The Anthropology of Aristocracy
Grant Evans
Chairman, Sociology Department, University of Hong Kong
19 April 2000
Wednesday at 6:15 pm
1st Floor, the Hong Kong Museum of History

The Lecture will present on-going research into the Lao aristocracy during the modern period. It will examine the aristocracy's colonial transformation, its symbolic role before and after its overthrow and its tenuous survival today both in exile and in Laos. The lecture will raise questions about status in the modern world. There will be numerous color slides and genealogies.

Dr Evans is Reader and Chairman of the Sociology Department at the University of Hong Kong. He also holds the distinction of being the longest serving past Chairman of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society. Dr Evans' scholarly interests focus primarily on anthropological concerns relating to Laos, Vietnam and Southwest China. He is author, editor and/or co-editor of a number of books including the following short sample list: Laos: Culture and Society (1999); The Politics of Ritual and Remembrance: Laos Since 1975 (1998); Hong Kong: The Anthropology of a Chinese Metropolis (1997); Asia's Cultural Mosaic: An Anthropological Introduction (1993); Red Brotherhood at War: Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos Since 1975 (1990).

Chinese Water Buckets, Baby Baths and Coffee Tables,
From the Household to the Antique Shop
Diana Martin
Social Anthropology, Oxford University
22 March 2000
Wednesday at 6:30 pm
Activity Room 1, Ground Floor, the Hong Kong Museum of History

Dr. Diana Martin is a former resident of Hong Kong and previous Chairman of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society. Her early academic research and writings focused on pregnancy and childbirth in Hong Kong and South China. Dr Martin's most recent interest is Chinese material culture, particularly household wooden utensils. At present she is a Tutor in Social Anthropology at Oxford University and Oxford Brooks University.

The lecture will be illustrated with slides. Dr Martin's perspectives are informed in part by the writings of Christopher Steiner in his book African Art in Transit. She will show how utilitarian Chinese household artefacts like rice barrels or water buckets are transformed by antique shops into moderately expensive collectibles sought by overseas foreign buyers. In the process their original uses are frequently transformed into things like magazine holders, coffee tables, and CD containers. Dr Martin will discuss the issues of antiquity and authenticity in the context of this practice.

Kau-Sai Chau Boat Trip
the Antiquities & Monuments Office, Hong Kong Government
11 March 2000
Saturday at 8:00 am

On Saturday, March 11 th, the Antiquities & Monuments Office (AMO) of the Hong Kong Government is planning a series of ceremonies in Sai Kung District to mark the formal restoration of the Hung Sing Temple which is located on the southern tip of Kau-Sai Chau, the island which seperates Port Shelter from Rocky Harbor. Kau-Sai, incidentally, is the fishing village where Barbara Ward based her anthropological studies from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Following a boat ride to the island, village leaders and Hong Kong Government officials will carry out formal ceremonies scheduled for 8:00am and later at 10:30am. The village leaders then will host a fisherman's "pun choi" lunch (common pot lunch) for all attendees. Thanks to the generosity of the AMO and the villagers, our Hong Kong Anthropological Society has been allocated one 1 2-person table at the pun choi lunch. Both before and after the lunch there will be ample time to visit and explore the Hung Sing Temple, Kau-Sai Village and the surrounding area.

Dinner with karsten Kruger

10 March 2000
Friday at 7:00 pm
Renfrew Restaurant, HK Baptist University

A unique cinematic partnership has developed over the last decade between certain German documentary film experts and their Chinese counterparts interested in the minority nationalities of China. The key person in this relationship is Dr Karsten Kruger from the Institut fur den Wissenschaftlichen Film in Gottingen, Germany. He and his colleagues have established strong relationships throughout China with Chinese academic and film institutes that focus on ethnography. Yunnan Province is particularly active. Not only has Dr Kruger's Institute encouraged China to make available the many documentary films of minority nationalities shot in the 1950s and 1960s, it also has assisted young Chinese students make their own documentary films in recent years..

Dr Karsten Kruger will be passing through Hong Kong on his way to Kunming on Friday, March 10th. Officers of the HK Anthropological Society have decided to invite Dr Kruger to dinner that evening, and he has accepted the invitation. At dinner he is prepared to discuss the various documentary film projects involving minority nationalities that are currently being undertaken in China. He also will be carrying with him several documentary films made by Chinese students. Our Society is hoping to use one or two of these films for our own Anthropological Film Festival later this year.

The dinner with Dr Kruger will be open to all members of the Society who might wish to meet him and learn more about the documentary film scene in China today.

The Chinese Dragon In Legend & Practice
John Lagerwey
Ecole Francaise d"Extreme Orient, Paris, France
24 February 2000
Tuesday at 6:30 pm
Activity Room 1, Ground Floor, the Hong Kong Museum of History

This lecture will touch on both the origins of the dragon in Chinese folklore as wel as recent anthropological fieldwork findings from rural Southeast/Central China which document how the concept of the dragon is embraced in actual practice. Dr Lagerwey whose research in Fujian and adjacent provinces has been ongoing since 1992 will discuss dragon dances, dragon lantern processions, dragon boats and "dragon veins" (long-mai, the central concept of geomancy). He will explain how dragon lantem processions are used to represent lineage segmentation while also demonstrating the demographic and political power of families and clans. He likewise will show how dragon dances are closely linked to "dragon veins" and reactivating geomantic "energy."

John Lagerwey at present is Visiting Professor in both the Department of Religion and the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His permanent appointment is with the Ecole Francaise d"Extreme Orient (EFEO) in Paris, France. During the 1 980s and 1 990s, he has taught and carried out research at the University of Paris, the University of Geneva, and Academia Sinica in Taiwan. Dr Lagerwey's doctorate was in Chinese Literature at Harvard University, and today he is recognized as one of the most knowledgable Western authorities on Taoism in China. His publications include: Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History (New York: Macmillan, 1987), Le Wu-shang pi-yao: somme taoiste du Vle siecle (Paris:EFEO, 1981), and Le continent des esprits: la Chine dans le miror du taoisme (Brussels: La Renaissance du Livre, 1991).

New Year Clan Rituals in the NT
Chan Kwok-shing & the South China Research Group
HK University of Science and Technology
19 February 2000
Saturday at 3:00 pm
Fanling Wai, Fanling, Hong Kong

Fieldtrip Organized by Dr Chan Kwok-shing and the South China Research Group (HK University of Science and Technology)

Between the 8th and 1 6th days of the First lunar month several New Territories villages carry out annual rituals called "tai-ping hung-chiu." Most of the rituals revolve around ceremonies calculated to exorcise evil influences from the village and its newly born male members. The rituals include "lighting the lanterns," "hanging of the peace insignias," "pulling the boat," "offerings against evil spirits," and various forms of chanting.

Dr Chan will be leading interested people to Fanling Wai in Fanling on Saturday, February 19th. The residents of this village largely belong to the Pong Clan which has been helping him with his research for quite some time. Individual members of the HK Anthropological Society are welcome to join the observer group.

The various rituals and ceremonies may stretch on into the evening, but there is no obligation to stay for everything.


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