Lecture by Fei-Hsien Wang (Indiana University Bloomington) ’A Posterchild Lost: Historians at the Margins, the “Modernization in China” Project, and the Changing Cold War Politics of Theory

17 woe
17 mei 2023

17 May 2023, 15:30-17:00 (CEST, Amsterdam/Brussels time)
Online (Microsoft Teams)
Registration is not needed. Please click here to attend the meeting


In 1973, the Institute of Modernization History at Academia Sinica in Taiwan embarked on an ambitious project aiming to examine China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through the lens of modernization theory. In the next sixteen years, a total of seventeen historians contributed to this “Modernization in China: A Regional Study” project; each assigned a province to study. However, more than half of their research outcomes were never published. Is this project a failure? Why did these historians at the margins of American knowledge hegemony enthusiastically initiate this project in the first place but later decided to abandon most of what they’ve found? By exploring the making and the anguish of this seemingly unsuccessful project, this talk illuminates the complex interplays of local and international politics, social sciences theory, and historical research in the Cold War knowledge production nexus in East Asia.


Fei-Hsien Wang is Associate Professor at the Department of History, Indiana University Bloomington. She works on the history of modern China, exploring aspects of how information, ideas and practices were produced, transmitted, and consumed across societies in East Asia. Her research focuses on the changing relations between knowledge, commerce, and political authority after 1800. Wang is the author of Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton, 2019). Her next book project – tentatively entitled Phantoms of Empire: China’s Post-Imperial Fantasies – places themes of cultural production, consumerism and information regulation in the context of revolution and national building, examining the motif of ’empire’ (diguo) in Chinese popular culture from the late Qing empire to the present.

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Please visit our website here. This seminar series is organized by Lukas M. Verburgt and Sjang ten Hagen.

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