The first meeting was hosted by the Center for Theoretical and Methodological Inquiries in Anthropology, CMU and organized by its director, Professor Wang Mingming in 2008. The Workshop consisted of several mutually related roundtable discussions. Most participants spoke in English. As planned, during the meeting, participants from Korea, Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan discussed issues related to the historical connections, contemporary situations, and future directions in the mutual involvements and reciprocal understandings among Korean, Japanese, and Chinese speaking anthropologies. The organizing committee members of the Workshop included Nakamaki Hirochika (Musuem of Ethnology, Osaka), Kim Kwang-Ok (Seoul University), Huang Shu-min (Academia Sinica), Tan Chee-beng (CUHK), Wang Mingming (Peking University and CMU). .
The central theme “Reciprocal Understandings in East Asian Anthropology” in the Beijing meeting in 2008 has very much identified the problems among us in our professional development. Historically, owing to our educational experiences, we tended to maintain vertical connections with Euro-American academic associations for our professional identity and follow research agendas established by our former mentors. The lack of horizontal communication among regional anthropological communities has prevented us from knowing the development of the discipline among neighbors. The 2009 meeting in Taipei provided a platform to continue and expand our dialogue. Participants were invited to discuss how they, as global anthropologists, practiced their profession amid local socio-cultural particularities. Has there been an increase in the number of anthropological courses offered in school curriculum? Has there been effort to organize anthropologists to form local chapters or national professional associations? What communication channels do they use to maintain contacts or inform each other about specific development? In additional to these broad pictures, we also looked at anthropologists at the personal level and raise questions such as: How do we sensitize students about the pluralistic world in which we live today? How do we handle or confront extremist viewpoint (be it racist, sexist, religious fundamentalist, xenophobic, or any other types of ideological intolerance)? How do we promote public concerns that address the rights of the historically marginalized and victimized? To what extent should we be involved in policy oriented research? How do we handle our research findings if they diverge from the “official lines?” In short, we all share similar disciplinary training as global anthropologists, and yet our unique local settings may guide us to perform very different crafts. Can we find certain commonalities that permit us to compare notes and to work out strategies to meet professional demands?
Since its establishment in 2008, the East Asian Anthropological Association has followed a rotation system to have its annual meeting held among all participatory member organizations: Beijing, China (2008), Taipei, Taiwan (2009), Seoul, Korea (2010), Osaka, Japan (2011), Hong Kong (2012), and Xiamen, China (2013). With the gradual formation of a core group of annual meeting participants, the idea of formally forming a regional professional association has gradually gained momentum. A task force, composing Gordon Mathews of Hong Kong, Liu Shao-hua of Taiwan, and Christian Park of Korea, was formed in 2010 to draft a constitution and it was formally approved in 2012. As a professional society, we hope EAAA will become a member-driven organization with open access to all anthropologists based in East Asia. It is also hoped that eventually EAAA will expand its regional coverage to include areas such as Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Another development is the replacement of personnel in the organizing committee due to retirement and other personal reasons. Numazaki Ichiro of Tohoku University replaced Nakamaki Hirochika of Musuem of Ethnology, Osaka, Gordon Mathews replaced Tan Chee-Beng (both at the Chinese University of Hong Kong), Moon Opkyo of Korean Central Academy replaced Kim Kwang-Ok of Seoul National University, and Chen Gang of Yunnan University of Finance & Bank replaced Wang Mingming of Peking University. The next meeting in 2014 will be held in Korea, Taipei in 2015, Japan in 2016, Hong Kong in 2017, and China in 2018.