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David Palmer visits Cornell with two major presentations

David Palmer poster

Department of Anthropology Colloquia 

David Palmer, Associate professor, The University of Hong Kong

Friday, November 9

3:00 p.m.

McGraw Hall 215


"Descola, Granet, and the forgotten influences between French Anthropology and Sinology”



In his seminal Beyond Nature and Culture (2005/2013), the French anthropologist Philippe Descola draws heavily on the work of Marcel Granet (1884-1940) in his conceptualization of “analogical ontologies,” bringing to the surface a forgotten history of mutual influences between scholarship on Chinese religion and French anthropological and social theory. This paper will outline the story of these interactions, highlighting the pivotal role of the sinologist and sociologist Marcel Granet, whose most influential works, Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne (1926) and La pensée chinoise (1934), have never been translated into English. I will discuss his collaboration with Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, and his influence on Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu and Philippe Descola. Building on this discussion, I will propose some potential avenues for fruitful engagement between social theory and empirical studies on Chinese culture and religion.

Monday, November 12

4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Goldwin Smith Hall G64

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI) welcomes Dr David A Palmer, Associate Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong to present the final lecture in our fall, 2018 series. American Daoists in China: Cultural Appropriation or Soft Power?

This talk is based on the newly released book Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality (University of Chicago Press, co-authored with Elijah Siegler), a multi-sited ethnographic study of transnational encounters between American spiritual tourists and practitioners and the Chinese monks and hermits of the sacred Daoist peak of Huashan.

The American organizer of the “China Dream Trips” is unapologetic about the “appropriation” of Daoist body, meditation and healing practices into the culture of American spiritual and sexual freedom, while Chinese officials see potential and challenge in using Daoism as an instrument of soft power, and monks use the Americans as a foil for discourses on the spiritual superiority or decline of their orthodox tradition.

The talk will discuss the formation of a global Daoist field in which self-identified Daoist practitioners from around the world communicate about the Dao and contest each other’s claims to authenticity and authority.