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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 3, 2008

Ida Beam lecturer to take a historical look at pork in South China Oct. 9

Iowa may boast about being the pork capital of the world, but China has been using pork for centuries and still consumes far more pork than any other country with the world's largest pig population.

James L. Watson, Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and anthropology professor at Harvard University, will present a public lecture titled "A Cultural Biography of Meat in South China: The Story of Pork," from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, in 40 Schaeffer Hall on the UI campus. He will visit as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

During the lecture, Watson will discuss how meat, primarily pork, has been central to Chinese cuisine for centuries despite the fact that, until recently, few people actually ate it on a regular basis. Based on 40 years of ethnographic fieldwork among Cantonese villagers in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, Watson argues that food -- especially meat -- provides privileged insights into the economic, social and demographic changes that have swept through China during the past century. The talk will be illustrated with color slides of Watson's own field research.

"It is a privilege to have Professor James Watson, an internationally acclaimed anthropologist of China, on our campus," said Sonia Ryang, UI associate professor of anthropology and international studies and the director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. "Professor Watson's contribution to the U.S. anthropology of Asia has been tremendous and his groundbreaking research has created important landmarks in the field. He is an outstanding educator and mentor, having produced many leaders in the field of anthropology."

Watson is a UI alumnus and has taught at many institutions, including the University of London and the University of Pittsburgh. His research has focused on Chinese emigration, ancestor worship and popular religion, family life and village organization, food systems, and the emergence of a post-socialist culture in the People's Republic of China. Watson recently worked with graduate students in Harvard's Department of Anthropology to investigate the impact of transnational food industries in East Asia. He teaches courses on Chinese society, transnational-global culture, and comparative food systems. He is currently preparing for another round of field research on the rapidly changing border zone that links Hong Kong with the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.

On Dec. 4, Watson will present a second lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in 40 Schaeffer Hall, "Cold War borders in a Post-Socialist World: Hong Kong/China." More information about the second lecture will be announced at a later date.

The UI Office of the Provost sponsors the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program. The UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Anthropology, UI International Programs and the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies are also sponsoring Watson's visits.

The UI established the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program in 1978-79 based on a bequest from the late Ida Beam of Vinton, Iowa, who willed her family farm to the University of Iowa Foundation. The proceeds from the farm's sale enabled the UI to establish a fund that brings top scholars in a variety of fields to campus for lectures and discussions.

UI International Programs, which enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Sonia Ryang, 319-335-0522,; Kelli Andresen, 319-335-2026,