DFG Network prepares book project “China Multiple: Un/Doing Ethnographic Regions in Anthropology” at Zurich

The photo shows the participants of the 3rd DFG network conference in Zurich. Twenty people are standing in front of the Völkerkundemuseum in warm winter clothes.
Members of the DFG network at the University of Zurich, December 16, 2022. Photo: Kyimo Ghung, Pablo Ampuero-Ruiz

From 15 to 17 December 2022, the DFG Network “Anthropology and China(s)” convened its 3rd Conference in Zurich. The meeting continued the preparation of a book that reconsiders the place of regional anthropologies in the general discipline.

The three-day event was made possible by additional funding from the Hochschulstiftung. We thank our host Prof. Mareile Flitsch and our Swiss colleagues for organizing a pleasurable meeting at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich: Lena Kaufmann, Madlen Kobi, Rebekka Sutter, Aline von Atzigen, and Verena La Mela. As an extraordinary highlight, Martina Wernsdörfer and Mareile Flitsch guided us through the fascinating exhibition “Hidden Complexities – Unfolding Miao Women’s Textile Skills.”

China as a Multiple Object: Reconsidering Regional Anthropologies

Despite critiques of the foundational concept of cultures, the reflexive turn and attention to global flows, processes, and relations, the split in thematic and regional subdisciplines continues to structure much of anthropology as an academic field. Intervening in the persistent common sense that topics could be studied in regions, our edited volume makes ethnographic regions the topic of research. Doing an ethnography of anthropological practice, we take China multiple as our case.

Culture areas have been essentialized as homogeneous entities or transformed into containers of diversity. Instead of either assuming that China exists in one of these forms or denying its existence “out there” by treating it merely as image, representation, or discourse, we approach China as a relational and material object that is enacted in multiple versions – including “in here” in anthropological practice.

The Anthropology of China’s Relations with Area Studies, Politics, and the General Discipline

Complementing our earlier work on the first network theme – the relations between the anthropology of China and area studies – more than 20 international participants joined the collective development of chapter ideas on the other two network themes. The second theme explores how politics affect which versions of China are produced in anthropological research and how these versions in turn themselves produce political effects. The third theme spotlights how major theoretical, thematic, and methodological trends in anthropology entered ethnographies of China and which topics and concepts localized in China have travelled to other regional anthropologies and influenced broader anthropological debates.

Upcoming Conference

The chapters on politics and the general discipline for our book China Multiple will be presented at our next meeting along with ethnographic chapters for our other network book [Within China(s)]: Ethnographic Explorations.  The 4th DFG Network Conference is provisionally scheduled for November 2023.

DFG Scientific Network Anthropology and China(s)
+ initiated by the DGSKA Regionalgruppe China
+ organized by Christof Lammer, Marco Lazzarotti, and Jean-Baptiste Pettier
+ based at the University of Cologne, at the chair for the anthropology of globalization, Prof. Susanne Brandtstädter

3rd Network Conference: The Politics of the Anthropology of China(s)
+ hosted by Prof. Mareile Flitsch, Ethnographic Museum, University of Zurich
+ organized by Lena Kaufmann (Zurich), Madlen Kobi (Fribourg), Rebekka Sutter (Zurich), Aline von Atzigen (Zurich) and Verena La Mela (Fribourg).

1st Network Conference: Cologne, November 2021. (report)
2nd Network Conference: Heidelberg, August 2022. (preview | report)
3rd Network Conference: Zurich, December 2022. (preview | report)
4th Network Conference: tba, November 2023.
5th Network Conference: tba, summer 2024.
6th Network Conference: tba, summer 2025.

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