Towards a people’s anthropology 1
HAVING traveled thousands of miles over the Pacific and across the Rockies to Denver to receive this year’s Malinowski Memorial Award, my sentiments go beyond delight and gratitude. Preparing my remarks for this occasion stirred up memories of a scene that took place 42 years ago when I bade farewell to my mentor, a man who left a deep imprint on my lifelong academic pursuits. I still remember his advice to me: “By all means go on with your study of Chinese society and its culture,” he said. He was a great admirer of Chinese culture and had deep sympathy for the Chinese people. I knew very well his solicitude for Chinese students because I was one of them. He was untiring in his efforts to help and enlighten us. He had the high hope that his creative method of research into social anthropology would also be of use to social sciences in China.
But have I lived up to my mentor’s expectations? The Society for Applied Anthropology has conferred on me an honor linked to his name, and my conscience is greatly disturbed. you may recall that not long after my teacher passed away, in the vicissitudes of life, I lost contact with my colleagues abroad. Today, as we share each other’s joy in a reunion after a prolonged separation, I am not quite sure if there is anything at all I can offer you, you who are my old friends. This makes me feel ill at ease. But if you’ll allow me to say a few words for the sake of the old days, I will be very grateful to you indeed, and I’m quite ready to shake off the reserve which is hard to avoid on such an occasion. What I am saying is that I wish to share with you my personal experience and reflections on years in pursuit of studies in social anthropology, or sociology. This will be an informal chat with familiar friends, the aim of which is to dredge up, so to speak, a long silted channel of thoughts to prepare the way for our future academic exchanges.
1 This is the text of an address delivered by the author on March 21, 1980 as the recipient of the Malinowski Memorial Award for 1980 at the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.