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Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: August 10, 2009 NO. 32 AUGUST 13, 2009
The World Outside
An international gathering of anthropologists and ethnologists opens Chinese academics to more conversations about cultures

Jing Jun, a Tsinghua University sociology professor who presided over this congress, said Chinese anthropologists and ethnologists have a language disadvantage in making their works known internationally. Jing said that the most renowned academic journals in the world are all in English, marginalizing many Chinese scholars conducting studies who do not write in the language.

"That does not mean their research and studies are not up to the best standards," said Jing, who received a doctoral degree in anthropology from Harvard University. He has conducted research on AIDS in China over the past nine years and co-authored a paper titled China and AIDS—The Time to Act Is Now, which was published in the journal Science in 2002.

According to Jing, scholars from Hong Kong and Taiwan are more proficient in English compared to their mainland counterparts, he said, which allows their studies to be published internationally.

To overcome the language barrier, Vargas suggested that China's anthropology groups select the best papers by Chinese scholars every year and post them on the IUAES website with translations. He said enlarging scholar exchange programs with foreign institutions would also enhance the international recognition of Chinese scholars.

Robert Moore, an anthropology professor at Rollins College in Florida who chaired a panel discussion at the congress on contemporary Chinese culture, said that China has a number of anthropologists whose research and studies are up to international standards. Moore, who spends a lot of time in Beijing for his research, knows several Chinese ethnological professors who were invited as visiting scholars to renowned universities like Stanford, Harvard and Cambridge.

Other scholars believe that studying the cultures of other countries can also improve the openness of Chinese researchers. Jing said China's curiosity toward other cultures could prove its own self-awareness and confidence.

But developed countries have many more scholars working to understand developing countries' cultures than the other way around, he said. He believed that an important reason for this phenomenon is that developed countries are more financially capable to finance such programs.

"Westerners can look at China and China can also look at the West. We see different things. That makes anthropology very interesting and diverse," said Peter J. M. Nas, an urban anthropologist from the Netherlands and also the President-elect of IUAES. "Thus we can learn from each other."

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