The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Harvard professor speaks on Chinese lineage, society

The role of kinships and prevalence of Chinese lineage has evolved through different political systems and plays a dominant role in the success of the Chinese society and economy today. This was the idea that Dr. James Watson conveyed to students at the George and Mary Foster Distinguished Lecture in Cultural Anthropology on Monday.

Watson is an expert in the field of Chinese society and is a professor of anthropology at Harvard University. He has spent most of his life studying Chinese rural society and lineage since the mid-1960s.

The main focus of his study and lecture was based around the Mon lineage of southern China. This ancient Chinese family rested on both sides of the border between China and British-ruled Hong Kong until the relinquishment of British rule to the Chinese in 1997.

“The Mon lineage is great for study as we can see how the effects of immense collectivism under Mao rule for 40 years affected the lineage and lineage worship differently than that of their brethren in the vibrant capitalist society of British Hong Kong,” Watson said.

He noted that the Shenzhen River, the border between Hong Kong and China, became the forefront of the Cold War when China converted to Communism under Mao in 1949.

“It was the frontline of the war, the equivalent to checkpoint Charlie, and this represented the greatest contrast between the lineage as communists very heavily suppressed ancestry worship,” Watson said.

Watson cited an example of a family from the Mon lineage leaving British-ruled Hong Kong during this heated time and starting a successful restaurant chain in Europe. Their fellow Mon from the other side of the river were not allowed to leave Communist China, and the separation grew ever farther.

Watson spoke of this same family returning to China after economic integration had occurred in the 1990s, and Watson said it was like a whole other world to them.

“The world had been flipped upside down,” he said. “The vibrant capitalist economy was now on the other side of the river. Integration was taking place between China and Hong Kong and the family took this opportunity to reunite the lineage.”

According to Watson, the Mon lineage is now the most powerful in China, with many Chinese vying to prove their relation to the lineage to reap the benefits.

Watson then showed the correlation between the role of Chinese lineage under various political and economic systems and their rise along with economic prosperity.

Watson then concluded his lecture on Chinese lineage and the effects of hard borders with some application to Western society.

“Borders are like mirrors that reflect the historical breakpoints of any era,” he said. “They speak volumes about changing notions of nationalism and nationhood, something we can apply to our ideas of lineage and society here in the U.S.”

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