James Watson

James Watson

John King and Wilma Cannon Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society, Emeritus
James  Watson

Research Interests: Chinese kinship and social organization; ritual and political symbolism; social stratification; migration; historical ethnography; social aspects of food and eating; China, Taiwan and Britain.

Dr. Watson is Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus. He retired from Harvard in 2011, after 40 years of teaching. He previously taught at the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of Pittsburgh, University of Hawaii, and University of Houston.

He is Past-President of the Association of Asian Studies and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was appointed Harvard College Professor in 2003 in recognition of services to undergraduate teaching.

B.A. University of Iowa (Chinese Studies), 1965
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (Anthropology), 1972

Professor Watson is an ethnographer who has spent over 4 decades working in south China, primarily in villages (Guangdong, Jiangxi, and the Hong Kong region). He learned to speak country Cantonese in the Hong Kong New Territories during the late 1960s and has subsequently worked in many parts of the People’s Republic (using Mandarin). His research has focused on Chinese emigrants to London, ancestor worship and popular religion, family life and village organization, food systems, and the emergence of a post-socialist culture in the PRC. Prof. Watson also worked with graduate students in Harvard’s Department of Anthropology to investigate the impact of transnational food industries in East Asia, Europe, and Russia.

Selected Publications

SARS in China Prelude to Pandemic?
Between Two Cultures
Asian and African systems of slavery

Golden Arches East
Cultural Politics of Food
Class and social stratification in post-revolution China
Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China
Emigration and the Chinese Lineage
Village Life in Hong Kong

Articles (English)
Waking The Dragon
Chattel Slavery
Funeral Specialists
Adoption and Lineage
Ancestral Hall
Chinese Death Ritual: Introduction
Chinese Diaspora Formation

Chinese Kinship Reconsider
Big Mac Attack
Globalization in Encyclopedia Britanica
Obesity in China

Guide to Kinship Jargon
Standardizing the Gods
Feeding the Revoution
Forty Years on the Border
Geomancy and Colonialism
Rites or Beliefs
Salt Water Margin, Chinese Common Fields

Meat, A Cultural Biography in S. China

Articles (Chinese)
Rites or Beliefs
Adoption of Outsiders
Chinese Lineage Reexamined
Funeral Rites

Of Flesh and Bones
Banqueting Rites in Hong Kong
Diaspora Formation

Articles (Japanese)

Adoption and Lineage
Diaspora Formation
Killing the Ancestors
Structure of Death Rites

Contact Information

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