Stephan Feuchtwang

Interviewed by Alan Macfarlane
Filmed by Alan Macfarlane
Edited by Sarah Harrison
Interview Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes, and 25 seconds

Interview date: March 12, 2006 

Description of Interview

“All anthropologists cultivate being marginal to some extent, and may already incline in that direction,” says Stephen Feuchtwang. In this interview, Feuchtwang speaks of his life and his work in Taiwan and China. He was born in Berlin in 1937 but his family fled less than a year later during the Anschluß. Six months earlier, Feuchtwang’s Austrian father had been released from the gaol with immunity. Following the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, the family escaped to stay with Feuchtwang’s paternal aunt in Holland, before they eventually settled in England. Life in England was not that easy however. Feuchtwang’s father was interned in the Isle of Wight during the time of World War II, while his mother worked several jobs and was dependent upon others for assistance in educating and caring for Stephan. 

In recounting his childhood memories, Feuchtwang reflects upon his religious beliefs, “I think I was always an atheist.” He describe his sense of wonder for the world as something more close to the Freudian concept of “oceanic feeling.” (While reflecting upon these thoughts, Feuchtwang also reminds us of his psychoanalytical background, his mother was psychoanalyzed and his wife is a psychoanalyst.) Feuchtwang also notes that despite of respect for and skepticism of God, his interests in anthropology of religion stemmed from his personal experiences—of which religious discrimination was quite frequent. Yet Feuchtwang explains that it was not just being Jewish that had attracted him to anthropology, but being an outsider in so many contexts. 

Video Index and Transcript

0:09:07 Born in Berlin in 1937; father had just come out of gaol where he had been tried and acquitted of smuggling gold out of the country; he had Austrian nationality so had a certain amount of immunity; he had been in gaol most of my mother's pregnancy so very distressing for her; six months later at the Anschluss my father realized we no longer had any immunity and we would leave that night; we went to his sister's in Holland; the next morning the Gestapo went to the house to round us up; spent a year in Holland and then we came to London; the only grandparent I knew was my mother's mother; she came to visit us in London then returned to Berlin and later to Austria where she spent the War; she was not Jewish although my mother's father was; in 1947 I went with my mother by train to Switzerland and then to Austria to see her; my father's father was the Chief Rabbi of Vienna but he had died in 1936; his father was also a Rabbi at Nikolsburg, now called Mikulov, in Moravia; have visited both their graves; my mother's mother was a very independent woman - a pacifist and Rosa Luxemburgist during the First World War; she ran an art gallery in Unter den Linden in Berlin; she brought up all her children to be tolerant and cosmopolitan, and gave each an Aryan and Biblical name; my mother's father was a businessman, then my grandmother remarried a solicitor for the UFA film studios in Berlin; my father was a businessman and came to England through his business contacts; he was a patent broker and industrial advisor; he had been quite successful in Germany as an asset stripper; he was interned during the War; my mother formed a relationship with a publisher with whom she got a job; they became the founders of Thames and Hudson; my father was quite authoritarian but extremely charming; I have an affinity with babies which I think I get from him; my mother was the opposite and I could see how awkward she was with my children; she must have been like that with me; both my parents married again and I could see my father become more authoritarian with my half brother and sister as they grew up; I rebelled against his authority although I did not spend much time at home as I was at boarding school; I distanced myself from him and only became close again as a young adult; he died at sixty-seven; my mother was a passionate person about everything, including her work; she was always fashionably dressed, and became a fairly grand lady as I realised when I was adult; I was closer to her than my father; my father was a rather sad figure in England whereas my mother found herself; he had suffered having to get us to England and being interned in the Isle of Man. 

10:44:17 I had an orthodox bar-mitzvah; for a short period I went to Hebrew lessons near my boarding school, in Welwyn Garden City; habitually in the family it was just Friday evenings, but for a few years both before and after my bar-mitzvah I did go to Synagogue for festivals; I have not gone since and am basically an atheist; as a Jew, I felt that I had to interpret everything; I went to mainly Christian schools and although I felt the lessons read in services were not mine, I could try to understand them; when I think about why now I am an anthropologist of ritual and religion I feel it was a development of that stance; being of German birth during the War in England, Jewish or not, was to be marginalized; I was quite embarrassed when my mother spoke to me in German in public; I only realized in my forties that I must have been German-speaking before I learnt English at kindergarten; don't think it is being Jewish that attracted me to anthropology, but the marginality; all anthropologists cultivate being marginal to some extent, and may already incline in that direction; I am a political animal and think that for an anthropologist the normal stance is to be an anarchist, to see things from the grass roots; that I was predisposed to by my previous life, but don't know if I am typical of other anthropologists of religion; I do think I felt the need to understand the big religious traditions, including my own, as an outsider; I was not inside as I had rebelled against my father, but the Friday ritual at home is important now and I think it was then; it was a hidden presence then as most of my life was in boarding school where this was edged out; the adage that anthropologists are anarchic in their own society but conservatives in the societies where they work is true of me; what I loved in the end about the festivals that I became most interested in Taiwan and other parts of China, is both their richness and innovativeness as well as their repetitive nature; when I see how politicians and others seek to turn these festivals into cultural heritage, I resent it; I would like to see it bubble up from below as I think of it as a sort of anonymous, collective, poetry; of course it is not anonymous but it is embedded in what was already there; when it is reinvented as a tourist spectacle, or a Temple is rebuilt for the same reasons, I feel it is both wrong and artificial, although I acknowledge it is no more artificial than the previous one was. 

20:45:13 I think I was always an atheist; I had to ask myself what is God all the time; however, I am deeply respectful, as well as utterly sceptical, of what people say they have as their spiritual experience including what they say about God or gods; I come from a psycho-analytically inclined family culture; my mother was psycho-analysed and did graphology, and I am married to a psycho-analytic therapist; what Freud calls an oceanic experience, the emotion of religiosity that goes with a belief in God, I think I can detect in myself; I have never had an epiphany but have had oceanic experiences, the sense of wonder, as the arch-atheist, Richard Dawkins, himself has; I think that is part of one's human heritage. 

23:22:05 I went to a series of kindergartens in London and Oxford; because my father was interned my mother was reliant on friends and relatives as she had no money; we moved from place to place to live with different people; think that the first was at Headington in Oxford; my mother trained me to go to the bus terminus where the kindergarten was so I travelled on my own aged three or four; it was cold and I remember her singing an English nursery rhyme to me; then I went to the Anna Freud clinic in London, which was terrifying because the other children were so disturbed; then went to another in London; at all of them I learned English; next I went to my favourite, Bunce Court, run by two German sisters Anna and Paula Essinger; they realized in 1933 when Hitler was elected Chancellor that they couldn't go on; they were Quakers; they arranged a school trip and took all their pupils, with the agreement of their parents, from Germany to England after having found Bunce Court in Kent; I did not go to that place as it had been requisitioned by the Army, but went to Shropshire where it was removed to until the end of the War; it was coeducational, strict in academic terms, but also progressive; from there I went to a rather grim school called Sherrardswood in Welwyn, also coeducational; it was the first time there that I came across anti-Semitism and anti-Germanism; I did not suffer from it much as I was able to stand up for myself; curiously, one of my best friends was the most anti-Semitic and anti-Germanistic, a boy called Walter Kelly; his parents were in the Fabian Society, and he and I were the only ones who could match the girls, who were always top of the class; after that I went to Gordonstoun on a scholarship as my mother could not afford the fees, and was there for the last four years of my schooling; academically it was a disaster because the teaching was not good; I really enjoyed the outdoors life but I was frustrated by the school; they kept telling us we were being prepared for life, which I wanted, and leadership, which I did not want; at that time I wanted to be either a psychiatrist or a journalist; the latter was an anthropological instinct as I wanted to be able to tell stories about other people; English was my best subject; the teacher was the Headmaster, and he was somebody I remember well; his name was Brereton; he taught me to love Robert Browning; remember not only reading Shakespeare but also Granville-Barker on it for my A levels; did not do well at A level for which I did maths, French and English, but only got English; I then joined the Army as I couldn't get into university. 

31:27:03 I was keen on long-distance running but didn't particularly enjoy it; what I did enjoy was being in the mountains; that was quite tough, walking in the Cairngorms which were cold and windy; I also learned to ski but had an accident whereby I tore a ligament in my knee and did not ski again; music was also very important; I learned the violin from the age of eight and at Gordonstoun there was a very good teacher who was herself German, Frau Lachman, and had been a student with Hindemith, the composer; she was a viola player; she was a fierce teacher but I took up the viola and played in the orchestra; also played chamber music, a glorious experience; I gave it up when I went to Oxford because I was never really good enough to continue; at school my closest friend was an Hungarian called István Horthy, the grandson of Admiral Horthy who ran Hungary during the War; he and I listened to Mahler symphonies in our study; I could hear others playing 'Salad Days' and traditional jazz which I didn't like; as soon as I left I got very interested in modern jazz, almost exclusively so, and then got back into classical music again; I do write to music although I know I should be listening to it; when I write I get hyper-active and excited by what I am doing so music is an alternative focus; it is not in itself an inspiration. 

36:29:07 I went into the Army to do National Service; that was a vivid experience; I failed the test for officer training, which I am pleased about as it would have been too much like boarding school; I lived for a whole year in Aldershot learning to type as I was in the Army Service Corps; one thing that was good about that was that I met a huge variety of people that I would not have met otherwise, mainly working class, and learned to get on with them; our children went to state schools so this was not a problem; I had wanted to be in the Intelligence Corps, and when I got to Oxford I met people who had learned Chinese while in the services; that did not happen; I dreaded having to go to Germany but got posted to Stanmore in London where I was personal assistant to the Deputy Director of Army Legal Services; I lived at home, putting on my uniform once a week to collect my pay; in the meantime I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the evenings because I wanted to do composition; also became interested in acting; at that time I got interested in jazz and met an American saxophonist there; he was a much more accomplished composer but we did write a cantata, he the music and I the words; it was about nuclear holocaust and was never published; at that time I became quite closely connected with the Beat Generation in Paris, where I went afterwards; got interested in the poetry of Gary Snyder; he is a sort of anthropologist; although I was unpolitical I had become interested in anarchy and quite often read 'Liberty', but my interest was poetry and art; when I went to Oxford I went to do Chinese; I got into Oxford while in the Army as I also did my college entrance then; I was accepted with only one A level on the basis of the entrance exam; I had extra Latin lessons at University College to enable me to do that. 

43:21:08 I had decided to do Chinese instead of English as an act of unacademic arrogance; I felt I could learn what I needed to; Thames and Hudson had published a book by Alan Watts, 'The Way of Zen', and I was very taken with that; I had read Arthur Waley's translations of Chinese poetry; I realized that Zen was Chang and linked to Daoism, and wanted to learn to read Chinese poetry; I felt that to do a course on China didn't confine you to doing literature, but could do history and philosophy; felt that if I wanted to become a writer or journalist that I could do that on my own - there was the arrogance; the most significant person at Oxford for me academically was David Hawkes; he helped me a lot although he was not my Tutor; I was at Queen's College but I had most of my tutorials on Tang poetry with Wu Shi-chang who was not at that college; he was not actually an expert on Tang poetry but on 'The Story of the Stone'; David Hawkes was the translator of that book for Penguin - a fantastic translation that I would recommend to anybody; he led me to my first publication; he had been asked by a Ming ceramics collector to translate a poem on a certain kind of blue and white ware for an article to be published in 'Oriental Art'; he gave it to me to do at the beginning of my third year, a fantastic thing to do; David Hawkes disappeared in my last year as he decided that in order to work on the translation of 'The Story of the Stone' he had to stop teaching, which I think was admirable; I was in by far the largest year of students doing Chinese; it was in 1958 and there were eleven of us; John Gittings who was foreign leader-writer of 'The Guardian' was there, and Bill Jenner, the historian and translator were my contemporaries; at Oxford I tried to do too much; I wanted to play the viola, act and write, and the former two fell by the wayside; I wrote poetry and belonged to the Poetry Society and was a Beatnik in my habits; then with a friend, Geoffrey Cannon, took over a journal, 'Oxford Opinion', which we wanted to turn into something much more substantial; we had photo essays, film criticism, news articles, and completely redesigned it; I published poems there but was mainly an editor; we took it out of Oxford when we left and tried to make it into a national magazine and that was a tremendous time-wasting effort, getting advertising etc.; it was called 'Evidence'; we put out only one issue and that was all. 

51:22:09 At that time I had not encountered anthropology; I went to work in the Chinese bookshop just opposite the British Museum which was run by Charles Curwen; not long after he became a teacher of modern Chinese history at SOAS; I worked there for a year while trying to produce the journal; partly through talking to a friend who was Malayan-Chinese, it dawned on me although I had learned Chinese and could read poems, I couldn't speak Chinese nor understand it; we had not been taught anything but classical Chinese at Oxford; thought this absurd and wanted to go to China, and that was when I learned about anthropology; Maurice Freedman was one of the two poles of the London-Cornell Fellowship; at that time I was married with two children, having married while still an undergraduate; I needed a fellowship if I was going to get to China, and these fellowships offered people with Chinese the chance to become anthropologists or vice-versa; Freedman told me that I couldn't get the Fellowship unless I did a masters degree in anthropology; then I registered to do anthropology at LSE; I had through doing Chinese, met Robert Reedman who had been in the ambulance service on the Burma road and had learned Chinese, and he gave me his Chinese dictionary; his partner was Maitland Bradfield, a medical doctor who had become interested in archaeology and anthropology; he became a kind of early mentor in anthropology; he was already interested in 'The Elementary Structures of Kinship' and had done his own translation and summary of it which he lent me; I had already begun reading 'Triste Tropique', partly as a literary work, and found it deeply fascinating, so became an anthropologist through Levi-Strauss, the anthropological love of my life; I wrote a lot about Levi-Strauss for Maurice Freedman's classes; I was at the LSE from 1963 to 1965 and worked at Thames and Hudson to pay my way through as a picture and text editor. 

56:46:13 Maurice Freedman was a huge influence on me; I liked him and at the same time felt distanced from him; we were so different politically and in our dress; he always felt to me to be verging towards pomposity and armoured himself in his waistcoats in some way, and kept a distance from his students; at the same time he came over to the students and taught extremely well and I enjoyed his seminars; he and the other pole of the London-Cornell Fellowship, Bill Skinner, whom he brought over for a series of seminars on his marketing systems theory which was just about to be published; that was fantastic and I felt invigorated to know about China in a different way; effectively they became my two models of how to learn about China; Maurice's insistence on kinship and the distinction between lineage and family, I learned but I didn't want to do them; I was more interested in friendship and territory and neighbourhood; I guess it was similar to what I did to my father as I was anti-authoritarian; I respected him and he respected me despite the fact that he knew of my politics, and had himself stood at the gates of the LSE..., and I didn't like him for that; as my PhD Supervisor he had the admirable capacity to say that he didn't know what I was writing about, that I was a good fieldworker but my theory was beyond him, however he respected what I did with it; I had a real respect for him and hope I made that clear in the festschrift that I co-edited for him before he died; Stephen Morris was my Tutor initially; he was a distant person but I liked him; I partly got the notion of pluralism from him; later I became very interested in race and picked the notion up again; I was affected by the presence of Raymond Firth and of Jean La Fontaine; masters' students could attend the Friday seminars at that time though I didn't like the way Firth ran them, and the stereotypical notion that he had of each of us, but he was good at allowing someone to speak and then making something of it.

Second Part

0:09:07 I got the London-Cornell Fellowship, then spent a year at Cornell University learning Taiwanese; I knew I wanted to study religion and had already read much about Chinese religion in English and French, and written a dissertation on Feng Shui which eventually got published; I had thought of working in Penang but then decided that Taiwan was the best place; at Cornell became interested in phenomenological anthropology and linguistic anthropology, but the main point of being there was to learn Taiwanese; there was a large cohort of students and we all went to do fieldwork, mainly as anthropologists but a couple of sociologists too, in 1966; I had to come back for my father's funeral then went on to Taiwan where I spent a year and a half doing fieldwork on religious change; I had gone there under the auspices of the Joint Commission for Rural Reconstruction as you had to have a sponsor; it is an odd institution of the State, joint between the US and Taiwan, and was for agrarian extension and development, at the most senior level of government; I went on a trip with them to find a field site; there was a strange moment one evening in Puli, right in the centre of Taiwan in the mountains; we were walking down a street with stalls when a person with divination sticks called out to me that my father had just died; thought it uncanny, but didn't stop to have my fortune told; another time when I had taken the lead among a bunch of us student, finding our way in another place we had been taken to; realized that although I could ask the way, I found it very difficult to understand the answer; it took about five months to learn enough to understand; in the early months I did ordinary repetitive things, such as a census in the small town I was in called Shiding; I went round every house asking questions which they must have found curious, but they knew there was this strange foreigner living on an open balcony just under the roof of a temple with teachers from the school; after five months, having been invited into their homes during festivals, I think my Taiwanese was pretty good; at that time my wife and two children came to join me and moved to Taipei; the small town was in reach of Taipei as I wanted to see how people who moved into the city changed their ritual habits, if at all, and how they kept their links; we lived in Taipei for nine months, then they left and I stayed on for another five or six months, living with two Taiwanese friends in one room; I had a very distorted vocabulary, able to do everyday speech, but could do Daoist ritual vocabulary better than most ordinary Taiwanese could; I was studying Daoists in a certain temple at that point, and was interested in the linkages between temples and households through a set of lay Buddhist brothers who did all the funerals; the Daoists did all the "jiao", big refurbishment ceremonies for reopening of temples in a much larger region of that part of Taiwan; I went with them to the various places where they did that; I thoroughly enjoyed my fieldwork; I was not sick though I ate local food; I was lonely to begin with and felt a little persecuted by the children; it was a great idea to have my own family there, though Miranda was very isolated as she spoke no Chinese and didn't have anything to do; she was at home with our younger child, Anna, while the elder, Cordelia, went to an American school; one of my older informant's daughters came to our house to help her learn Chinese; what she loved was to come to the funerals and festivals with me, and our children came too. 

12:08:17 What I wanted to find out was how religion changed; there was a dilemma that everybody must have when coming to something new, that first of all I had to understand what was not changing; I tried to do so by taking copious notes and comparing them over the time I stayed; as a Levi-Straussian I was interested in understanding the structure, and I did achieve that, but did not get a sense of the change; that came a long time later; what I did achieve then, and eventually published my findings in 'Imperial Metaphor', was a sense of territoriality as such as a ritually defined thing, having certain ritual elements; found these in certain kinds of procession festivals which were true, not only for Taiwan, but the whole of China; I was accused of treating Taiwan as being Chinese which was an accusation made about all of us who were working in Taiwan; it is a justified accusation; Maurice Freedman never claimed to be projecting his work to the whole of China although he was accused of doing so as well. 

16:03:13 I came back to write up my PhD under Freedman; I was offered two jobs while still doing fieldwork, one was as a lecturer in Asian anthropology at SOAS and the other was from Arthur Wolf to take up a Ford Fellowship at Cornell; instead I did take two small Ford grants, one to organize a fieldwork seminar for Wolf of everyone doing fieldwork in Taiwan and Hong Kong, in Taiwan; the other was to do library research in Taiwan, Tokyo, and the Library of Congress, for Bill Skinner; it was on gazetteers, on ritual and ritual institutions in cities - Taipei and Ningbo - which were then my earliest publications in Bill Skinner's city books; I did take the job at SOAS; Maurice gave me free tuition because at that point I was registered just with the University of London, not the LSE, and his supervision was pretty minimal at the time; I would send him chapters and he would correct the grammar; I was trying to teach anthropology at SOAS while I was writing when I came back in 1968; remember being in New York at the time of the occupation of Columbia University, students sitting on the wall saying that Paris had come out for them, thinking how incredibly insular they were; in Taiwan it had dawned on me that I was working under a military dictatorship; even a friend in the Army clearly had sympathy with the idea of Taiwan independence but couldn't speak of it at the time; that politicised me a little bit; I had already been on demonstration against the war in Vietnam at Cornell; the time I didn't have set politics but was just against the war; in Taipei, sent daughter to an American missionary school rather than one associated with the military; at the time did have an odd relationship with the Naval Attaché at the American Embassy because he knew how to get marijuana, and we would smoke together; he was very interested in Buddhism and taught me how to meditate; I lost touch with him until many years later he sent me a beautiful book of Sutras; I knew Arthur Wolf and Bill Skinner well until they became antagonists at Stamford; Wolf was then involved in the splitting of the anthropology department itself, by which time Skinner had moved to Davis; when I was at Cornell I went to all their lectures; Arthur may have been against the war but is a very strictly unpoliticised anthropologist; his work on religion, although I didn't agree with it, was really pioneering work- 'Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors'; I was there when he gave it as a paper and was very influenced by it; I went to Arthur and Margery's field site after they had left to watch a "jiao", and was introduced through them; Margery's book 'The House of Lim', which came out while I was at SOAS, I think is a wonderful book; before I became interested in doing research I thought their work on childhood was extremely good; saw my own childhood in the light of their analysis of the transition from being indulged by a father to being taught how to be a son, which can be a stark moment in Taiwan. 

25:21:05 I took Mendelsohn's place at SOAS; I admired him for his expositions of Levi-Strauss, and the way he wanted to work poetry into his anthropology; his course, which I then taught, was my best teaching experience; it was basically a reading group in advanced theory; he had chosen a series of classic anthropological texts which everybody had to read, plus all their re-readings and re-doings, each week a new one; thought it a wonderful way of teaching theory; the person who became my bugbear was Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf; Barbara Ward became an auntie figure for me; Abner Cohen had his over-rigidly dualistic theory of everything, but it was very exciting to see him working it out and to be in seminars with him; being at SOAS, much more than being a post-graduate at LSE, meant learning about India of which I knew nothing; the way in which Haimendorf ran his seminars seemed to me so inferior to the way Firth ran them; he either did not have the intellect or energy for them, he always went to sleep; he considered me a troublemaker and he was on the side of the Director, Phillips; he disliked my not wearing ties or jackets and also thought I should distance myself from the students; I had written something on the SOAS school of imperialism with an undergraduate and a post-graduate, which was not a well-researched piece of work which I then had to apologise for; as soon as that came out, Phillips was overheard to say at a meeting that I had to go; Haimendorf was part of that; when I was made to go - I was not given tenure after five years - Haimendorf offered to write me a reference for a job in Papua New Guinea; instead, I got a job at the City University and became a sociologist; David Seddon - with whom I tried to publish a magazine - also fell out with Haimendorf at about the same time, and went off to UEA where he still is; did not know Piers Vitebsky was there as I only got to know him later. 

31:46:12 I kept on doing research on China and taught an historical introduction to anthropology at City University; I missed being in an anthropological context very much but did become interested in the relationship between racism in the UK and the history of British imperialism; while I was at SOAS I had already written what was my first anthropological publication, in Talal Asad's 'Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter'; I had done research at the RAI and other places on the relationship between indirect rule and the wish of anthropologists to be both of use to a colonial regime but also critical of it; I tried to set anthropology into a rather broadly defined ideological and political context and got into rather bad odour with various anthropologists for that; Talal and I had both been running seminars on the subject and we put them together into this book; at the City University I took over a course on the sociology of race and developed my own syllabus for it; that became a major interest; I did not do fieldwork but I did do pretty intense work on police racism, for instance, and the canteen culture; there is an extraordinary number of policemen that became anthropologists and did fieldwork on their police work; on Talal's book, I do still agree with it because I was conscious of the fact that it was ambivalent; I think there were points at which the conclusions became too strident, but my main argument was to look at what it might have been possible to write at the time of the writing; my main criticism of Fortes, for example, was that it could have been much more historical; I tried to figure out why it was so unhistorical; why did Malinowski refer to "upstart natives", what was it that could allow an anthropologist to write that; in Evans-Pritchard's preface the fact that the Nuer got strafed is there, but why isn't that a significant ethnographic fact; then I found myself doing it when I went to Taiwan because it is very difficult to do history; it is now what I want to do on a huge time scale using the concept of civilisation; I admit I did not understand the difficulty at the time. 

38:58:19 I have done so much with Wang Mingming who did his PhD at SOAS; in some of his books he calls me his supervisor which I was not, but it is a Chinese way of speaking about someone senior; I met him through the London China Seminar which I was organizing while at City University but which held its meetings in SOAS; I realized that this extraordinary student was doing something so close to what I had done - he was interested in festivals in Quanzhou, where the people that I studied came from - so we had big mutual interests and I was very excited about that; the way in which he was doing it was very much influenced by people that I didn't have much time for at SOAS; it was very post-structuralist and I had already read what they wrote and was using them in different ways; he was also looking at things which I didn't and couldn't know, the relationship between the revived local festivals of Quanzhou's neighbourhoods and the official, State, festivals; I was interested in his work and in the paper that he gave; then when I got a big grant from the ESRC to do work on mutual support systems; I knew when I went to visit field sites myself (it was all done by Chinese colleagues, one of whom was Wang Mingming) I realized that we could do some work on religion; we then did some work together in a village in Anxi, Fujian province; this is now a relationship that is twenty years old; he has enabled me to rejuvenate my Chinese anthropology so has contributed an enormous amount to me, through doing joint fieldwork mainly, though he does much more of it than I do; since then, by being constantly invited to come in a senior capacity to comment on students' work; you cannot be with Wang Mingming for very long without become more and more historically conscious; he later did work in Taiwan where I had originally worked, comparing a similar culture but under completely different regimes; within two months he had found out more about the history than I knew was even there; realized that it was not just linguistic, it is an immediate instinct he has for looking for genealogies or whatever it might be; he did the same thing on the mutual support study; he talks about Chinese civilization and how we as anthropologists think about it; now I am really involved with it as a concept; I began working with Mike Rowlands at UCL who is an Africanist and Mediterraneanist; we have now given a number of lectures at Wang Mingming's invitation in Beijing; I am going to give one on the concept of civilization and Chinese civilization at Fudan University; it is looking at the really long-term, mainly of material culture, but I always want to go beyond that compared to Mike, who is an archaeologist; Wang Mingming was trained as an archaeologist as well and an anthropologist; we are reviving the concept of civilization developed by Mauss and trying to rethink all that was done by diffusionism and ethnology, but without any ethnocentricity or a universal evolutionist perspective; the challenge is to be able to see continuity and radical transformation all at the same time - what is it that continues and how does it become the vehicle for change or learning new things, all this over periods of change that can last hundreds of years; that is the comparative civilizations project. 

46:56:19 On the Maoist era, I gave a public lecture at the LSE on this in a series called 'After Thirty Years of Reform', and I realize that Maoism as a state is less than thirty years; Mao was so extraordinary - he likened himself to the first Emperor who only last lasted twenty-five years but had an enormous influence - but I don't think he will have that influence; he thought he would far exceed the first Emperor as he had the people on his side; not true in my opinion, but nevertheless, the state that he established in China, with institutions like the Communist Party itself and its way of working, are still going on, so I don't think it is just a blip; the deep continuity over time has often been broken, but the Maoist break was probably the biggest; the extent of destruction was probably greatest in the Cultural Revolution but under the Kuomintang there was immense deal to turn temples into schools etc.; there have been periods of iconoclasm before that in China, but there are certain things that seem to be continuous though their content may have changed; my shortest definition of Chinese civilization is "sage rule and self cultivation", and I think that still goes on; the notion of a moral leadership is quite peculiar to China, and the notion of self-cultivation through bodily techniques or feng shui and the cosmology that goes with it of balance, is still true. 

51:16:23 My interest in place and spatial formation to which I have now added the idea that one could look at different senses of place - I wrote the introduction and a chapter of a book, 'Making Place', on China - is an extension of my interest in feng shui; I now want to add that not only do different people have different senses of the same place which they each centre for themselves, but they have different senses of time and histories; I want to be able to develop that in the future; I am writing something now for the second in a series of workshops, which Laura Bear of the LSE and I are organisers of, called 'Conflicts in Time'; it is also about different senses of time which I am calling temporalities; that is another ongoing project; I am preparing a paper for this on planning in Quanzhou which includes different peoples' senses of the place they are in and their histories, and their sense of the future as well as the past.