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Upper School teacher Dr. Wendy Darby is Published in China

Director of Communications Jessica Lichtenstein recently interviewed Dr. Darby about her book, Landscape and Identity: Geographies of Nation and Class in England (Berg Publishing, 2000), which has now been translated and published in China by Yilin Press, Nanjing, China. It is part of a series entitled “Humanities and Social Science” that the publisher’s website states is to “stimulate thoughts and showcase scholarship.”

JL: Your book, Landscape and Identity, deals with what you have called “the politics of access to open spaces” and was first published in 2000. Were you surprised to learn that it was being published in China?

WD: I didn’t know that it had been translated until I got an email forwarded from Yilin Press, asking for an author photo and bio since the book was about to go to press. There was about a five-year time lag from when they’d bought the translation rights to the actual date of publication.

JL: Do you think that there is a particular reason why the Chinese chose to publish your book at this time?

WD: It’s an interdisciplinary book, one that is used here and in the U.K. by history and literature departments as well as law schools (because my book gathers together the legal structure of landscape preservation in Britain over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries). Right now environmental issues are staggering in China, and there is beginning to be a consciousness of what’s being lost in the landscape. Landscape is terribly important in Chinese painting, poetry and philosophy. In political terms, historically for instance, whenever there was a new regime with which court officials didn’t agree, they’d retreat to their landholdings. Interlinked issues of climate change and land-use are of huge importance right now around the world, but especially in China.

JL: I always thought that the legal system in China made it difficult for average citizens to take legal action of any kind, despite that being possible according to their Constitution.

WD: I think things are starting to change in that regard, in fact recent reports show local-level protests about a variety of land-use issues.

JL: I understand that you have given a number of papers and pursued your anthropology research while teaching at BWL. Has it been difficult to do this?

WD: I have been fortunate in that the School has been extremely supportive, allowing me to give papers at professional conferences in the U.S. and Europe. I’ve also been able to study Aboriginal culture and the impact of tourism through a Bacon Dee grant from BWL. That research led to a publication in an academic journal. I’ve brought back into my the classroom both the results of my research and the broadening of my thinking through feed-back to the conference papers I’ve given.

JL: I wasn’t exposed to anthropology until I took an introductory course in college. How do BWL students respond to studying anthropology, and what is the main theme that you try to convey?

WD: My overarching aim is to challenge students to recognize and think about taken-for-granted assumptions and cultural biases in order to come to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the world. I want them to come to understand and be touched by the common humanity of widely disparate groups. This to me is seeing the world through an anthropological lens, and if I can achieve that, then I feel I’ve really accomplished something. What is a wonderful validation is when some of my past students visit BWL or email me and talk about the anthropology classes they’ve gone on to take. One or two have even gone on to major in anthropology.


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