Jing Xu

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Washington, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10386

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Xu, Jing (Washington, U. of) "“Unruly” Children: Moral Development in a Taiwanese Village (1958-1960)"

This book uses a new framework to re-analyze an unpublished field-notes archive that occupies a significant niche in the history of anthropology, collected by Arthur and Margery Wolf in Taiwan (1958-60). Designed as an improved replication of the Six Cultures Study, the Wolfs’ research was the first anthropological study of Han Chinese childhood. My re-analysis examines the question of becoming moral (ages 3-12) in a patriarchal rural community during Taiwan’s Martial Law era. While the original research was guided by a behaviorist ‘child-training’ paradigm that prioritized parenting, I adopt a cognitive anthropology approach that centers on children’s active learning, including gendered and age-related patterns. I discover ‘unruly’ children who defy parental moral expectations and develop their own rules. I highlight peer-learning (including siblings) in shaping moral development, and offer a new look at the so-called ‘traditional Chinese family.’ I bring reflections on ethnographic epistemology, encountering children and making fieldnotes, into the revived anthropology-psychology synergy of studying childhood learning. To make sense of children’s life via systematic historical fieldnotes, I use a novel methodology that combines ethnography with social-network analysis and NLP (natural-language-processing) techniques, including machine-learning algorithms. I take inspiration from children’s collective minds to interrogate the nature of anthropological knowledge.