4.07.2017 at 13:30
Public Lecture: “The Vulnerable Consensus: The Chinese Experiment with Ancient World History in the Twentieth Century”, Prof. Xin Fan
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During the twentieth century world historians in China experimented with ways in which to place China’s ancient past within a world-historical context. From Neo-Confucianism to cultural morphology, from text criticism to historical materialism, they combined local intellectual traditions with globally circulating ideas, and created a significant legacy of world-historical studies. Despite the diversity in research methodology, their mission was to establish a consensus of common humanity through historical studies to overcome the gap of cultural difference between China and the rest of the world. Yet this consensus became increasingly vulnerable in the context of twentieth-century China’s changing social, cultural and political environments. The separation of world history from national history in China today is a vivid example. Based on recently de-classified archival sources as well as published materials, this presentation contends that this separation is an unintended consequence of the massive social engineering projects in which the authoritarian state attempted to fully dominate knowledge production, rather than a reflection of the ethnic bias entrenched in Chinese intellectual culture. Thus, this study of world history in China tells us a complicated story about local identities and global aspirations in a non-Western society.
Xin Fan is a visiting global history fellow at Global and Transregional Studies Platform at the University of Göttingen.