James Watson

John King and Wilma Cannon Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society, Emeritus; Former director of the Fairbank Center 1992-1995


Dr. Watson is Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus. He retired from Harvard in 2011, after 40 years of teaching. He previously taught at the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of Pittsburgh, University of Hawaii, and University of Houston.

He is Past-President of the Association of Asian Studies and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was appointed Harvard College Professor in 2003 in recognition of services to undergraduate teaching.

Professor Watson is an ethnographer who has spent over five decades working in south China, primarily in villages (Guangdong, Jiangxi, and the Hong Kong region). He learned to speak country Cantonese in the Hong Kong New Territories during the late 1960s and has subsequently worked in many parts of the People’s Republic (using Mandarin). His research has focused on Chinese emigrants to London, ancestor worship and popular religion, family life and village organization, food systems, and the emergence of a post-socialist culture in the PRC. Prof. Watson also worked with graduate students in Harvard’s Department of Anthropology to investigate the impact of transnational food industries in East Asia, Europe, and Russia.