Grass roots

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am

Name: Ku Hok-bun Age: 36 Occupation: Anthropologist and sociologist

Young Post: What is the difference between anthropology and sociology?

Ku: It mainly depends on the research method used in the studies.

Basically, sociologists usually use theories and models to analyse a social phenomenon or a case, while anthropologists get involved in the case themselves to gain first-hand experience and carry out trials.

I studied both sociology and anthropology but personally I like the latter more because it involves more field trips. Living in the community that you were studying for a year was a prerequisite for the PhD anthropology students at the university I attended in Britain. I stayed in a Hakka village in Guangdong.

YP: What kind of research do you conduct?

K: China studies are my major focus. I am doing a long-term project in Yunnan in collaboration with the Yunnan University. We have launched some experimental programmes in an ethnic minority community, Zhuang.

For instance, we are collecting their village history and festive rituals, which may be published in a book so that other people can learn more about Zhuang.

Also, we are undertaking some income-generation projects with the goal of improving their living standards.

For example, we try to sell their handicrafts and embroidery, which are very characteristic, in the city markets.

In addition, we and the villagers have set up a community centre where they can have entertainment together or discuss development of the village. This is to help them build up something like a village management scheme.

I travel there three to four times a year and each time stay for several weeks.

YP: Why are you so enthusiastic about the development of rural villages on the mainland?

K: Rural development is very important for China. The mainland has been growing rapidly in the past decade, but modernisation tends to have neglected villages.

I believe our research can contribute to rural development.

In fact, the central government also understands the importance of rural development.

The leaders in Beijing have repeatedly highlighted their rural policies. But unfortunately the quality of local government is still quite low so that many policies do not work out as they are supposed to.

YP: What satisfaction do you gain from your research?

K: Seeing some improvement in the villagers' lives gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

A researcher has to be very patient because it takes time for the trials to have results. The biggest motivation for me to go ahead is that I believe in hope and change.

It is not only me helping the villagers. I benefit a lot from them. I enjoy the time in the village very much. It gives me a break from the hustle and bustle of life in Hong Kong.

Hongkongers are so used to the busy pace and luxurious life-style in the city that they often forget life can have another style.

In the country, I can read a book lying on a lawn for a whole afternoon. It is so relaxing.