Will Hong Kong remain a distinctive, quasi-autonomous outpost on the southern tip of China, or will it become just another Chinese city? This talk explores the history and cultural traditions of Hong Kong in an attempt to understand the recent pro-democracy demonstrations: Why now? Who are the leaders? What do ordinary people in Hong Kong think about their future as citizens of China? The speaker, an anthropologist, seeks answers in Hong Kong’s ethnic and linguistic distinctiveness (Cantonese combined with English) and its legacy of British colonialism (1842-1997).
James Watson was one of the first students to study Chinese at the University of Iowa (BA 1965) and received his PhD (1972) at the Univ. of California at Berkeley. He was, until his retirement in 2011, Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Watson also taught at the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and the Universities of Pittsburgh, Hawaii, and Houston. Together with Dr. Rubie Watson, he has conducted anthropological research in Hong Kong’s New Territories since the late 1960s. His publications include Emigration and the Chinese Lineage, Kinship Organization in China, Death Ritual in Chinese Society, The Cultural Economy of Food and Eating, and Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. The Watsons’ current project is a jointly authored book entitled The Last Colony: Everyday Life in British Hong Kong, 1898-1997.