Newsletter No. 133

2 No. 133 19th October 1998 CUHK Newsletter 1998 Legco Elections the Focus of Conference A conference on the 1998 Legislative Council elections was held at the Cho Yiu Conference Hall on 24th September. Organized by the Political Development of Hong Kong Research Programme of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the conference consisted of four sessions, each dealing with different aspects of the 1998 Legco elections. Major issues discussed included functional representation in Hong Kong, the politicization of mutual-aid committees in elections, party competition patterns, the role of the Electoral Affairs Commission, public opinion and voter participation, and the fairness of press coverage. To Better Equip Postgraduates for Life and Study A n induction programme consisting of 55 non-credit courses in lab safety, computer skills, library skills, presentation skills, thesis writing, and research is being held from 5th September 1998 to 8th May 1999 for the fourth year in a row. Entitled 'Improving Postgraduate Learning', the programme is organized by the Graduate School and coordinated by the Teaching Development Un it for postgraduate students of the University. The reasons for organizing the programme are summed up by Prof. Kenneth Young, pro-vice-chancellor, in his foreword for the programme handbook: 'There is the growing realization among educators that postgraduate education not only the acquisition of ahigher level of knowledge in a particular subject matter; ...another aim is the development of higher-order learning skills which are useful precisely because they cut across disciplines and therefore remain useful in a rapidly changing world. ’ Faculty members from different departments and two experts from Australia have been recruited to teach the different courses and conduct workshops. New Helmsman for the Department of Anthropology Prof. TanChee Beng F or the new chair of the Department of Anthropology, building on past strengths rather than change is the way ahead. ‘ I had been teaching in Malaysia for 16 years before j o i n i ng this department almost three years ago. I am honestly quite impressed by it. Although it's small, it has established itself very well as an internationally recognized department. There's great cooperation among the staff who are all dedicated to teaching and ac t i ve ly i n v o l v ed in research. We also have a dynamic curriculum. So rather than introducing changes, I ' d like to continue with the good work that's already been done, ’ said a rather modest Prof. Tan Chee Beng amidst the dust and rubble o f the Humanities Building which is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Staffing Anthropology is the study of culture and human beings in ancient and present times. The department, established in 1980, has a curriculum largely orientated towards socio-cultural anthropology, with a few courses given to the teaching of biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. Prof. Tan said though further expansion into the three other areas, especially into archaeology, is necessary, such a move wo u ld necessitate the recruitment of more staff wh i c h, under the current f i nan c i al climate, would be exceedingly difficult. 'We hope eventually to have a full- time teacher in archaeology. Our present establishment of seven teachers is really not quite sufficient but due to budgetary constraint we're unable to hire more. What we've been doing and w i ll continue to do is employ visiting professors whose knowledge benefits our staff and students. This is also a way to make the department better recognized overseas. But what we really need in the long run is to have one or t wo more teachers to make the department's teaching more comprehensive,' Prof. Tan pointed out. World famous specialist in food and culture Prof. Sidney M i n tz of Johns Hop k i ns Un i v e r s i ty w i l l j o i n the department in a visiting capacity in spring 1999. Research The research interests o f the department's staff focus on traditional and m i n o r i ty culture in China, the international and urban culture of Hong Kong, as well as the changes of East and Southeast As ia and other comp l ex societies throughout the world. Prof. Tan's own speciality is cultural change and ethnic identities, as well as ethnic minorities in Malaysia. He has also been studying issues related to ethnic Chinese living outside China. Just this summer, he was engaged in fieldwork in a village in Fujian province. Himself of Fujian descent but residing outside China, Prof. Tan found it amazing when he returned to the land of his ancestors that he spoke the same dialect as the current inhabitants. This, he said, in addition to having many new found relatives there made research more convenient. 'I am interested in making comparisons between Chinese in China and Chinese in Southeast Asia. One often hears how the Chinese in Southeast Asia are influenced by their Chinese heritage. However the reverse also happens. In terms o f language, for instance, my research shows that in the Fu j i an area, the l e x i c on has been influenced by early migrants to Southeast Asia who returned to China. This is a cultural aspect that has not been studied very much,' said Prof. Tan. Academic Programmes The department's research students study ma i n ly issues related to ethnography, i.e., the case study of people's culture and way of life. Prof. Tan would like to encourage them to research into the ethnography of different peoples on the mainland in addition to Hong Kong: 'They should not just think in terms of Hong Kong, but in terms of the greater China.' The department is to date the only anthropology department in the Chinese- speaking world which teaches in both English and Chinese. As such it is ideal, Prof. Tan believes, for training graduate students f r om the mainland who by studying here w i ll have access to both Chinese and the most up-to-date western resources as we l l as teaching o f international standard. At the same time teachers and students w i ll benefit from contacts with mainland institutions for research and exchange purposes. Currently the department has a graduate student from Fujian and two others from Beijing and Shanghai. Some of its staff have been doing fieldwork and giving talks at mainland universities. And Prof. Tan himself was appointed honorary professor at Huaqiao Un i ve r s i ty in Quanzhou, Fujian, last June. Groundwork is currently being laid for a major conference on tourism, culture and Chinese society to be held jointly with the Department of Anthropology and Social Work of Yunnan University in 1999. The Gender Studies Programme, established last year and administratively housed at the department, is gaining popularity with both undergraduate and graduate students. Two graduate courses are being taught for the first time this year and its graduate students come from various departments. The interdisciplinary programme is currently chaired by Prof. Ma r ia Tam o f the Department of Anthropology and Prof. Catherine Tang of the Department of Psychology. Indeed with its new helmsman and renovated offices and classrooms, the department looks all ready to move into top gear. O Piera Chen