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Anthropology Professor Named Changjiang Scholar

By Arjun S. Byju and Daniel R. Levine, Crimson Staff Writers

Michael Herzfeld, a professor in the Anthropology department, began his tenure as a Changjiang Scholar at the beginning of 2015.

The title of Changjiang Scholar is often considered the most prestigious academic award conferred in China, and is rarely granted to foreigners or to social scientists, according to a Harvard press release. Herzfeld, who received the appointment through a competitive application process, is an exception in both regards.

The appointment—which lasts three years—will require Herzfeld to spend a total of at least six months in China during that time. Herzfeld said he plans to hold a visiting professorship at Shanghai International Studies University while also teaching at Harvard.

His main academic goals in China are to foster collaboration between SISU and Harvard and to cultivate interest in anthropology among young Chinese scholars. More specifically, Herzfeld hopes to encourage new Chinese anthropologists to study and conduct research on groups outside of China.

“The Chinese are beginning to branch out; they’re beginning to send anthropologists to many parts of the world,” he said. “Part of the idea here have them read the anthropology of other countries and other cultures.”

Herzfeld said that the Chinese government has not expressed any intention to censor his work.

“When I would say to [Chinese authorities] that I regard anthropology as a fundamentally political discipline...this did not appear to cause any distress,” he said. “I realize that there may be issues, but, at this stage, my sense is that my charge is to do something that is totally consistent with the way that I’ve been acting here.”

To prepare for his time abroad, Herzfeld said that he is learning Mandarin as well as a local Chinese dialect.

“I do not pass any PhD student of mine until that person has given a lecture in the academic language of the country where the student works, and I hold myself to the same standard,” he said.

Herzfeld will first leave for China in May or June and plans to make a second trip in December. He said he is scheduled to be on sabbatical for one full year starting in summer 2016 and plans to spend more time in China during this leave.

—Staff writer Arjun S. Byju can be reached at

—Staff writer Daniel R. Levine can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @danielrlevine.

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