Connecting cultures

Connecting cultures

  • The Cambridge Rivers Project
    An image from the Naga Database

The spirit of cultural interaction initiated by the pioneers of anthropology, connecting past cultures with a modern global audience, continues to thrive at Cambridge.

“April 19th 1939. Marched to Shongphel, gathering masses of orchids en route… chowkidar [nightwatchman] drunk in honour of Kuki headman’s funeral… and tried to pitch my men out of the cookhouse. Held spear-throwing, and took coloured film.”

All in a day’s work for anthropologist Ursula Graham Bower. Her observations form part of the Naga Database, which the Cambridge Rivers Project is helping to translate and disseminate. The collection comprises diary extracts, photos and films that anthropologists collected in the 20th century as part of their study of the Naga peoples. Thanks to their work, the language, culture and traditions of these inhabitants of the mountainous Assam-Burma border are now available for future generations. The rapid destruction of these non-industrial societies in the latter half of the 20th century makes the preservation of these records vitally important.

We use the greatest university in the world, the University of Cambridge, as an extended educational experience in order to help students appreciate other cultures and begin to learn about world civilizations. The superb museums, Colleges, art galleries … are built into the course. Students learn through talks and books, but also through walking, visiting buildings and encountering artefacts.

Zilan Wang, Cambridge Rivers Project Research Associate

The Cambridge Rivers Project

A gift from Mr Vincent Xin Zhao and Mrs Jiehan Guo supports the work of the Project in the University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA). This donation has made possible the appointment of a part-time research associate and a collections associate, in addition to a travel and research fund, and general support of other initiatives.

The Cambridge Rivers Project is named after one of the founders of modern fieldwork anthropology, the Cambridge academic WHR Rivers. Launched in 1983 by Professor Alan Macfarlane FBA within the Department of Social Anthropology and King’s College, Cambridge, it is now formally affiliated with the MAA.

Cultural exchange

Dedicated to innovation and communication in anthropology, the Project is concerned with making available material on cultures in Asia and the West. Using technologies such as a multimedia database and the internet, knowledge is also shared through teaching and international collaboration. Alongside work on the Naga Database and academic research, the project has hosted cultural exchanges between the UK and Asia. Recent events include a Chinese poetry festival, a photography exhibition about the poet Xu Zhimo, and a summer school on world civilisations.

Cambridge Rivers Project Research Associate, Zilan Wang, explaines the value of Cambridge as a venue for these programmes: "We use the greatest university in the world, the University of Cambridge, as an extended educational experience in order to help students appreciate other cultures and begin to learn about world civilizations. The superb museums, Colleges, art galleries … are built into the course. Students learn through talks and books, but also through walking, visiting buildings and encountering artefacts."

The spirit of cultural interaction initiated by the pioneers of anthropology, connecting past cultures with a modern global audience, continues to thrive at Cambridge.

Inspired?

Give to the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology 

See more about the Cambridge Rivers Project

 

Stay informed

For regular updates about the impact of giving to Cambridge, follow @yourscambridge on Twitter.