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The aura of the local in Chinese anthropology: grammars, media and institutions of attention management

Steinmüller, Hans ORCID: 0000-0002-5921-421X (2022) The aura of the local in Chinese anthropology: grammars, media and institutions of attention management. Journal of Historical Sociology, 35 (1). 69 - 82. ISSN 0952-1909

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Identification Number: 10.1111/johs.12359


Since the late Qing dynasty, Chinese scholars have confronted the challenges of indigenisation: what are the limits of (Western) universalism, and how can social science, history, and anthropology become ‘Chinese’? This article deals with a series of Chinese ‘native anthropologies’, from Republican-era outlines of ethnology and anthropology, to current anthropologies of history, urban experience, and immorality. Rather than an assessment of the merits and flaws of indigenisation in these debates, I analyse the social practices of attention management that decided which scholars and texts became influential, and which ones were ignored. These practices of attention management include the grammars, media, and institutions, within which interaction networks were established and scholarly communities formed. What held the attention of many fellow anthropologists was the aura of the local conveyed: a sense of incommensurability based on the unlikely identification of the anthropologist with the subject of study and with the intended reader. The aura of the local, I argue, appeared precisely when new grammars (such as empiricism and social theory), media (e.g. academic journals, books), and institutions (universities, government offices) made it increasingly difficult for anthropologists to construct shared understandings with the people they studied and the readers they wrote for.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2022 11:27
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2022 12:54

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