An Anthropology of “Applied Anthropology” in Postwar Hong Kong: 戰後香港「應用人類學」之人類學探討

Heung Wah WONG, Hoi Yan YAU

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


This article is an anthropological attempt to review the development of applied anthropology in postwar Hong Kong. Arguing that the relevance of anthropology is determined by the socio-historical order in the sense that the utility of anthropological knowledge is socially and historically specific, we have chosen to reframe the review as the study of the social ”relevance” of major anthropological studies and the ”utility” of anthropological knowledge these ”applied” anthropological researches produced in Hong Kong.We first examine how the socio-political settings of post-war Hong Kong have given rise to a specific character and form of applied anthropology in Hong Kong. But this examination also reveals that ”applied” anthropological work has never been popular among anthropologists nor considered as mainstream anthropological research in post-war Hong Kong. This is due not only to the institutional constraints in Hong Kong but also what Kuwayama (2004) calls ”the world system of anthropology,” in which there is a power inequality between the anthropological practitioners in the center (US, UK, and France) and their colleagues in the periphery. This power inequality not only accounts for the lack of enthusiasm among anthropologist in Hong Kong but also has profound impact on their research agenda. However, the development of applied anthropology in Hong Kong is not just the reproduction of the anthropology of the center. There is always a gap between the anthropology of the center and its counterpart in Hong Kong. This gap is created by the intervention of the legacy of the Taiwanese anthropological traditions in Hong Kong. To push this argument further, we shall argue that individual practitioners are not just bearers of the Taiwanese anthropological tradition either. Their anthropological enterprises would also deviate from the traditions, as a result of their biographical experiences.

本文通過人類學的研究方法,企圖對戰後香港應用人類學的發展歷程作一個評論性的回顧。本文認為,人類學的相關性是由特定文化的歷史文脈所決定,延伸下來的是,人類學知識的「效用」也是由該社會文化及歷史所決定的,因此筆者認為有必要把此回顧重新定位為探討香港人類學研究的社會相關性,以及由此種應用人類學研究所產生的人類學知識的「效用」。本文將先分析戰後香港的政治社會背景如何造就香港獨有的應用人類學之出現。然而,這分析同時揭示了從事應用人類學的香港學者只是寥寥可數,而應用人類學本身更從不是香港人類學研究的主流。應用人類學在香港學術界的邊緣地位當然與香港學術單位的制度有著密不可分的關係。然而更重要的原因是如日本學者桑山敬己所指出的“world system of anthropology”(人類學的世界體系)。基本上,這體系指出的是,在人類學中心的學者與人類學邊緣的學者之間存在著權力不平等的現象。這種權力不平等不但使香港人類學者無意涉獵應用人類學,更影響著人類學邊緣的學者的研究取向。然而,香港的應用人類學的發展不可能只是中心的翻版。也就是說,人類學中心與人類學邊緣之間存在著一定的隙縫。這隙縫一方面由臺灣人類學歷史傳統之介入所造成的,另一方面,學者們自身的成長背景與經歷也都使得他們的研究取向有別於人類學中心的方向。
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-87
JournalChinese Journal of Applied Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

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