CHINA SEMINAR | 05 DECEMBER 2012 | Barend ter Haar | Where Are China’s Witches?

CHINA SEMINAR | 05 DECEMBER 2012 | Barend ter Haar | Where Are China’s Witches?





Where Are China’s Witches?

Speaker:  Professor Barend ter Haar (LIAS, China Studies)
Expertise: premodern Chinese history

Date and time:  Wednesday, 5 December 2012, 3pm sharp(!)
Venue:  Arsenaal building, room 001
Language:  English

The accusation of being a witch or magician does not necessarily mean that someone really practiced witchcraft or magic. In this talk I treat it mainly as a claim intended to separate people from the social networks within which they were relatively secure, usually in order to explain unusual phenomena (such as weather disasters), or even completely instrumentally in order to fight out local conflicts. The talk deals with the curious phenomenon that we have massive information on witch hunts in the West, collected principally by historians, but also in many former colonies, collected mostly by anthropologists and sometimes by historians. This is indeed a substantial field of study, also in German thanks to the rich archives that are still extant. One would expect similar phenomena in China, Korea and Japan, but in the secondary literature research on this topic is almost absent. Over the last few years I have tried to gather more information, also in the primary literature. In my talk I will discuss my findings until now, develop a model that could also be applied to the twentieth century, and suggest why witchhunts as a social phenomenon are relatively rare in traditional China, though by no means absent.

Speaker’s resume:

Professor ter Haar obtained his PhD from Leiden University in 1990. He worked in Leiden from 1984 until 1994, then left for Heidelberg. In 2000 he returned as chair of Chinese history. He was recently appointed to the Shaw Professorship of Chinese in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford with effect from January 2013.


He published various books and articles on Chinese cultural and religious history, details of which can be found at his personal website.


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