Q & A: Sidney Leonard Greenblatt

We talk to Editor Sidney Leonard Greenblatt about his title 'The People of Taihang: An Anthology of Family Histories', which is part of our Routledge Revivals programme. 

Routledge Revivals

Drawing from over 100 years of innovative, cutting-edge publishing, Routledge Revivals is an exciting new programme whereby key titles from the distinguished and extensive backlist of the many acclaimed imprints associated with Routledge will be re-issued.

The programme allows you to discover past brilliance and purchase previously out of print and unavailable titles by some of the world’s most eminent academic scholars.

Interview with Sidney Greenblatt

1. The People of Taihang was first published in 1972 and has been selected to be re-issued as part of the Routledge Revivals programme, how does it feel for it to be re-issued some 40 years later?

I am excited the book is coming out again! I thought the book was worth translating almost four decades ago and believe that what it tells us about the values of Chinese society in the 1960s is still important.

2. As the book was first published in 1972, do you feel it will have a wider/different appeal now?

If anything, it should have a wider appeal now than in 1972. The book helps one understand the appeal of the Chinese Communist Party to the masses in the 1960s and the forms of behaviour that won their approval and support.

3. Can you tell us a bit about how this book came about and why you chose to publish this anthology?

As the editor of Chinese Sociology and Anthropology  (M.E. Sharpe), I was reading articles written mainly during the 1950s and 1960s in the People’s Republic of China and selecting for translation those I thought would be of particular interest to scholars in the West.  Reading a wide range of articles, I noticed the importance of role modelling. At the time, I was also reading the work of the historian David Nivison who pointed out the roots of Chinese Communist role-modelling in Neo-Confucian thought. I was especially attracted to the portrayal of the exemplary actions of PLA soldiers and villagers in The People of Taihang.  In this history of the PLA soldiers in the Taihang region, the author relates the kindness of the villagers in providing food, medical care, and comfort and the soldiers responding to their peasant hosts as if they were members of their own families. At the time, I thought it was important that scholars in the West understand how Chinese writers were portraying this period.

4. Do you feel this area of study is still important for students of Asian Studies and Anthropology, and if so why?

It is important because it helps one understand the history of relationships between different groups and classes in Chinese society and sheds light on Chinese society today.

6. Can you tell us an unusual fact about yourself and/or this book?

My first academic position was in the Department of Sociology at Drew University. I left Drew in the early 1980s to become a Consultant to various institutions and businesses who wanted closer ties with China. For a number of years, I acted as translator and interpreter for educational institutions, private firms, travel agencies, medical associations, and the National Committee on US-China Relations frequently traveling to China and hosting delegations from the PRC in the USA. This career ended in 1989 when I joined Syracuse University’s Office of International Services. After my retirement in 2007, I taught in Syracuse University’s program in Asian and Asian American Studies until my second retirement in 2010. Since then, I have continued to be associated with international students in English conversation classes at Syracuse University and now spend some of the winter months living in India.

7. Who do you think would be interested in reading this book and why?

This book will be of interest to students of Chinese history, politics, and society. It is especially relevant for anyone researching the People’s Liberation Army, the early days of the People’s Republic of China, and the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. On the one hand, the book can be read as a history of the years before the PRC came into power, and on the other, as a propaganda piece of the new government. It will also appeal to students and scholars studying the persistence of Confucian ideals in Chinese society.

8. Are there any stories or family histories that stay in your mind from the book?

The stories that I recall most vividly are about  the relationships between PLA soldiers and the women in the villages they occupied.  In The People of Taihang, the soldiers treated the women with great respect, always addressing them in kinship terms. However, in the mid-1950s Chinese women’s magazine carried articles by women complaining that their husbands -- PLA soldiers who had  lived in rural areas -- married second wives from the areas to which they were posted. This leaves one wondering whether the exemplary behaviour in The People of Taihang was an accurate portrayal.

9. Are you working on any publishing or research projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little about them?

In my retirement, my interest has shifted to mentoring young people. I have a long-standing interest in migration and now that I live in India every year for a few months am able to expand my understanding of forced and voluntary migration.

10. The book was designed to bring an insight into rural life to a new generation of Chinese youths, do you feel that this work would still be insightful for the Chinese youth generation now?

I think so because Chinese youth today are also in motion: crossing rural and urban boundaries in search of education and jobs. With the transition to new areas come problems of adjustment to unfamiliar dialects, institutions, and social and work roles. The People of Taihang is an engaging portrayal of an earlier generation that negotiated new surroundings by extending the norms and values of kinship to strangers.

The Taihang Mountains lay on the border between Shansi and Hopei in China and originally published in 1972, this edited anthology collates family histories as told by the people who lived there. These accounts are a small sample of the family histories that made up the Taihang community taken from poor or lower-middle peasants to discuss the hardships they faced in the early twentieth century and to provide insight into a rural life to a new generation of Chinese youths. This title will be of interest to students of Asian studies and Anthropology.

Routledge Revivals

Are there elusive titles that you need and have been trying to source for years but thought that you would never be able to find?

Well this may be the end of your quest – here is a fantastic opportunity for you to discover past brilliance and purchase previously out of print and unavailable titles by some of the world’s most eminent academic scholars.

Drawing from over 100 years of innovative, cutting-edge, publishing Routledge Revivals is an exciting new programme whereby key titles from the distinguished and extensive backlist of the many acclaimed imprints associated with Routledge will be re-issued.

The programme draws upon the illustrious backlists of Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Methuen, Allen & Unwin and Routledge itself.

Routledge Revivals spans the whole of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and includes works by some of the world’s greatest thinkers.   For more information on this programme, please click here.   

Featured Title

  • The People of Taihang

    An Anthology of Family Histories

    Edited by Sidney Greenblatt

    The Taihang Mountains lay on the border between Shansi and Hopei in China and originally published in 1972, this edited anthology collates family histories as told by the people who lived there. These accounts are a small sample of the family histories that made up the Taihang community taken from…

    Hardback – 2016-01-25
    Routledge
    Routledge Revivals

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