Anthropologist wins friendship award in China

The Chinese city of Chongqing recently presented York anthropologist David Lumsden with a Three Gorges Friendship Award.

Right: David Lumsden

Chongqing is a municipal region of 32 million people located near the massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzi River. Lumsden is nearing the end of a two-year sabbatical at Southwest University there, but his association with what is administratively the world’s largest city (the actual urban-area population is about 4.1 million) goes back 25 years.

“It’s an honour for me for sure, but more importantly, it helps strengthen the ties between the two cities of Toronto and Chongqing,” says Lumsden in a recent e-mail from China.

Every year, Chongqing’s municipal government solicits nominations from the city’s universities and business groups for the Three Gorges Friendship Awards. Lumsden, nominated by Southwest University, was one of 10 expatriates living in Chongqing to receive the award in 2007. The other winners came from Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the USA.

Chongqing vice-mayor Wu Jianong presented the awards at a ceremony late last fall.

                           Above: Chongqing, Toronto’s sister city

The award honours Lumsden’s past and present contributions to Chongqing. The city has been part of his life for 25 years. His interest in China was sparked by students during his tenure as Bethune College master from 1983 to 1989. In 1985, he travelled to China as part of a Toronto delegation that chose Chongqing as a sister city and ever since he has played a leading role in maintaining that official friendship. In April, Lumsden will be part of a welcoming committee when Toronto mayor David Miller visits Chongqing.

The Three Gorges Friendship Award also recognizes Lumsden’s current sabbatical research and other contributions.

Lumsden is interested in displaced populations and ethnic identity and has been investigating the impact of Chinese reforms aimed as urbanizing displaced peasants and migrant workers flooding into cities.

The Three Gorges Dam will have displaced an estimated 1.4 million people by the time it is completed in 2009 and another four million after it is finished. Many rural people who have lost their homes due to the project have been forced to relocate in the city. Chongqing is a national experimental zone where China is pioneering ways to “urbanize” incoming peasants – including the Tujia minority.

Also while on sabbatical, Lumsden has copy-edited and written for a local English-language review, Chongqing Currents.

When Lumsden returns later this spring, he will step in as Chair of the Anthropology Department in the Faculty of Arts.