Rebiya Kadeer at the VU, or the anthropologist’s dilemma

By Pál Nyiri When I lecture on China and democracy, I show students excerpts from Carma Hinton and Geremie Barme’s 1992 film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace. In the film, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square student movement, referring to exaggerated stories of the 1989 massacre, asks: “Must we use lies to stand up to our lying enemy,” i.e. the Chinese Communist Party? The same question arose in me on 30 March as I listened to Rebiya Kadeer, the “leader of the Uyghur people” according to the president of the Turkish Academic Student Association (TASA), which organised her …

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About: Seeing Culture Everywhere

Earlier this week Pal Nyiri wrote a post on his talk about the evolution of consumer boycotts in China at the AAA. Both of his new books –  Cultural Mobility and Seeing Culture Everywhere – made their debut at this AAA – the latter even sold out! Here a little foretaste about ‘Seeing Culture Everywhere’. By Pál Nyiri Joana Breidenbach and I wrote this book as a response to Ulf Hannerz’s lament about the inability of anthropologists – the professional students of human cultures – to respond adequately to “one-big-thing” books such as Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations by presenting …

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Back from the AAA

By Pál Nyiri After my inaugural lecture – in which I suggested that anthropology should study the re-emergence of shared forms of sovereignty like China’s concessions in Africa – I gave a similar talk at the British Inter-University China Centre’s conference in Manchester and then headed to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which this year took place in Philadelphia. Our department was well represented, with five or so VU anthropologists in attendance. The AAA tends to be overwhelming, but every five years or so it’s worth making the pilgrimage, just to see what’s “in”.

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Inaugural lecture on China’s foreign concessions

 Thursday, November 19th, Prof. dr. Pal Nyiri hold his inaugural lecture called ‘Foreign concessions: the past and future of a form of shared sovereignty.’  How are China’s experience of Western colonialism and today’s Chinese projects in Southeast Asia and Africa related to each other? What are the similarities between the 19th century foreign control over customs and security in treaty ports on Chinese territory and contemporary concessions on for instance palm oil plantations in Congo-Kinshasa? And why do we need both anthropology and history to understand these connections?

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Polanski and the cultural defense

Pál Nyiri wrote a short post on the Roman Polanski  affair on the Culture Matters’ weblog, examining the use of cultural relativist arguments in court cases:   I was intrigued to find out from today’s New York Times (Michael Cieply, “In Polanski case, a time warp”) that a report by two probation officers who, in 1977, made a recommendation against a longer gaol term (as compared to the 48 days  he got) in Polanski’s case of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old, they made the argument that while foreign filmmakers “enrich[ed] the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners …

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Hungarian nationalists claim Eastern origins

‘Hungarian Party campaigns for recognition of Scythian heritage’, Pál Nyiri recently wrote on the Culture Matters blog. Here we reproduce his post, which raises many interesting points about the politics of ethnic identity and the relationship between nationalism and academic writing.   According to Hungarian newspapers, the xenophobic, anti-Semitic party Jobbik (“The Righter”), which has three seats in the European Parliament, has launched a campaign to expunge from textbooks the accepted theory according to which Hungarians are a Finno-Ugric people, and replace it with one according to which they are related to the Huns, Avars and Scythians, Indo-Iranian nomads that inhabited large parts of …

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