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By Charlotte Furth

At the March annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, held in Toronto, the association recognized Charlotte Furth with the AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies. Furth is Professor Emerita of history at the University of Southern California and has written and edited five books, including A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China’s Medical History, 960-1665 (UC Press, 1999). Below is an expanded version of remarks that Furth gave at the AAS award ceremony, in which she reflects on the changes to Asian Studies that have taken place since she entered the field in 1959, particularly regarding the presence of women in the academy.

I feel like a poster child for what the second wave of feminism has done for Asian Studies. We just saw six woman scholars receive book prizes for their scholarship in the field; we are about to hear Gail Hershatter speak as retiring president of our association. This is a moment to celebrate, not only for me, but for a whole generation of women scholars. Thinking about the road we have travelled suggests a trip down memory lane to my own beginnings on our collective journey. What was it like in 1959, when I started graduate work in history at Stanford University?

The few women graduate students in the history department were welcome to fill out seminars, but we were not expected to get jobs. I fit a typical profile: a faculty wife presumably keeping herself occupied. To underscore this situation, Mary Wright, wife of my Chinese history professor Arthur Wright, worked as a librarian at the Hoover Institution. In spite of the fact that her brilliant monograph The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism was on my graduate seminar reading list, she was not invited to teach in the department. Jobs in all fields of history were not publicly advertised: they were filled via an old boy’s network of phone conversations pretty much controlled by a student’s dissertation advisor. I got a job at California State University Long Beach in 1966 mostly because there was a national candidate shortage. I was hired sight unseen: the history department was tired of the merry-go-round of young men who taught at Long Beach only until something better came along. They figured that as a faculty wife at a nearby institution (my husband had moved to UCLA), I would probably stay around for a while. They must have been satisfied; I was their first female tenure-track hire, but they added three more women between 1966 and 1970.

We women scholars who found a foothold because of the post-Sputnik higher education market were the ones available to respond to the affirmative action movement that gathered steam in the 1970s. Today, most women in the AAS have never even heard of a “Committee for the Status of Women in Asian Studies” Joyce Kallgren, Carolyn Elliott, Hanna Papanek, and Barbara Ramusack had a lot to do with getting this committee going in the early 1970s. For a number of years we would comb the AAS program for evidence of female participation on panels and membership on committees. I recall driving with fellow member and friend Karen Leonard from Los Angeles to Arizona to meet with Richard Park, AAS President at the time, to get him to commit to the national campaign for an Equal Rights amendment to the US constitution. The feminist goal was to get professional associations to boycott holding conventions in states that refused to ratify the amendment. This is America; we never did get an Equal Rights amendment, but the AAS board did withhold commitment to a convention venue in New Orleans for a time.

In fact, the movement of women into the academy was unstoppable, and by the early 1990s so few came to its meetings that the “committee on the status of women in Asian Studies” quietly went out of business. Barbara Ramusack was the last chair.

Along with women scholars came research on women and gender. Sometime in the early 1970s, John Fairbank called a meeting of the contributors who were writing for the late Qing and Republican volumes of the Cambridge History of China. There were two women in room, Susan Mann and me. Her topic was late Qing merchants and dynastic decline; mine was reform intellectuals. Toward the end of the meeting, I suggested that maybe the Cambridge History should add an essay on women. Fairbank was a classy guy: he said he would look into it. But the truth was that at that time there was no research. Susan and I did not begin to do feminist scholarship until the early 1980s. I recall Joyce Kallgren, then editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, telling me quietly that since I had tenure and a book out, going in this direction was now “safe.”

As the saying goes, “everything changed” in the following twenty years. It was fun to troll AAS meetings for papers on feminist and cultural studies topics that I could recruit for the new journal, Late Imperial China, that I edited with James Lee. And I particularly remember a series of wonderful conferences. There was the “Engendering China: Women, Culture and the State” conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts in February 1992, organized by Merle Goldman, Gail Hershatter, Christine Gilmartin, Lisa Rofel, and Tyrene White. It became a volume of the same name in Harvard’s Contemporary China Series in 1994. In June 1993, Ellen Widmer and Kang-I Sun Chang organized “Women and Literature in Ming Qing China” held at Yale, which led to the book Writing Women in Late Imperial China (Stanford 1992). Dorothy Ko gathered a group of us who were working on pre-modern women in Japan and Korea as well as China in La Jolla, California in the summer of 1996, and this became the volume Women and Confucian Cultures in Pre-modern China, Japan, and Korea edited by Ko, JaHuyn Kim Haboosh, and Joan Piggott (UC Press 2003).

These group efforts bring me to the subject of collaboration in general. It is certainly not the case that conferences and edited volumes are exclusively “women’s work” in Asian Studies or other fields. People trained, like me, in the early 1960s recall the wonderful series Confucianism in Action, and The Confucian Persuasion, edited by David Nivison and Arthur Wright, that set the standard for intellectual history of East Asia for our generation. But I do think that collaboration is often given less respect than it deserves as scholarship, and not just “service.” It accelerated the development of feminist scholarship on China, and I believe that the intellectual contribution made by my collaborative work is an important reason why my achievements are being honored tonight. So please take away a commitment that we continue to support and encourage it.

For the past several years, we’ve organized an informal meet-and-greet at the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting, the “China Beat Breakfast.” That won’t be taking place this year, unfortunately, though consulting editors Jeff Wasserstrom and Ken Pomeranz will be at the meeting in Toronto this weekend—so say hi if you see them. We do, however, want to share highlights from the conference with our readers (as we’ve done in previous years) and would appreciate some help from you in making this possible.

Tell us about the panels you go to, the China Beatniks you meet, and the cool publications you see in the book exhibit. Send us an email (thechinabeat[at]gmail[dot]com) or tweet at us (@chinabeat) and we’ll put together a crowdsourced post to run next Tuesday. If you’re going to the meeting, have a great time in Toronto!

By Denise Ho

My Thursday afternoon flight from Shanghai to Chicago exhibited a curious phenomenon. United Airlines Flight 836, which went from China to Midwestern America on August 19, 2010, had the most homogenous set of passengers I had ever seen. They were all in their late teens and early twenties, Chinese youth dressed in the trendiest fashions and carrying the latest electronics. I was so impressed that I broke my rule about photographing people, popped up in my seat in the corner of economy class, and took their picture:

Whether United knew it or not, my flight was a modern school bus, ferrying Chinese students to (or back to) school at American colleges and universities, in search of what Vanessa Fong has called “flexible citizenship.”1 Arriving in Chicago, the Chinese students scattered, many boarding transfers elsewhere and a few following me on my flight back to Lexington, Kentucky, where I am an assistant professor. Their photo I kept with me, and used it in my orientation lecture for new M.A. candidates in the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of International Commerce and Diplomacy. These students, I argued, were (or would be) totally bilingual, globally educated, and locally connected. And they would be the wave of the future.

One year later, the topic of Chinese students at American universities has become both popular and contentious. Universities like the University of Kentucky, a public land-grant university, are aggressively recruiting Chinese nationals both to internationalize the campus and to seek much-needed tuition dollars in an era of stagnant state funding. According to UK’s Office of International Affairs, active recruitment in China began in 2008, and since then the number of new Chinese undergraduates has grown from 19 in fall term 2007 to 191 in the fall of 2011. Recruitment is facilitated through agreements with Chinese universities that allow students to transfer, and through a program of conditional acceptance; in the latter students enroll in English as a Second Language in a series of 8-week sessions, and may matriculate as regular students upon testing out via the TOEFL exam. As of 2010, the University of Kentucky had a total of 685 Chinese students, of whom 45 were ESL students. As a percentage, Chinese students make up 2.44% of total UK enrollment, 41.6% of international students, and 23.2% of the ESL students.2 Though these numbers are impressive and reflect national trends, an article published jointly in November by The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education sounded a note of caution: many students struggle with language and daily life when they arrive at American universities, and teachers and administrators alike report that they also have yet to adapt their classrooms and programs to the influx.3

As part of the University of Kentucky’s “Year of China,” the College of Arts and Sciences invited Vanessa Fong to speak to our students, and a summary and link to a podcast with undergraduate Jared Flanery are below. To learn about Chinese students at UK, I observed two ESL classes and talked with both instructors and students. The motivations of the students I met mirrored the experiences of the students in Fong’s study. The students gave a variety of reasons for going abroad: parental ambitions, a desire to learn a new culture and expand one’s horizons, a wish to learn independence, and a perception that American education is better. They are well-networked; they keep in touch with family and friends through Skype and cell phones, and have an idea of what to expect from friends who had come before them. Lu Mingyue, 22, from Hebei Province, explained that her experience was as she had expected, “because I knew more customs from my friends who study abroad.” Most of the students I met plan to return to China eventually, citing both their responsibility to take care of their parents and a belief that studying abroad would help them find a better job in China.

While the Chinese students spoke of their individual aspirations, their ESL teachers gave me sense of the students as a group. Lina Crocker, an ESL teacher for over thirty years, was hesitant to generalize. Crocker, who has also travelled to China to recruit for UK, was positive about many of her students, and in particular about one Chinese student whose leadership provided an example for his peers. At the same time, however, she expressed many concerns that reflected the Times/Chronicle study; some students have little interaction with non-Chinese students, some struggle in the absence of parental pressure, and many are ill-prepared for the style and content of the American classroom. Tina Durbin, who has been teaching ESL at UK for two years, warns her students that passing the TOEFL is only the beginning, with the real challenge being actual matriculation in UK classes. Both Crocker and Durbin suggested that some of the challenges of these students are generational, and not unique to students from China. For example, American students also have difficulty adapting to college, and American students studying abroad may only socialize with American students or eat at McDonald’s.

Asked whether UK has tracked Chinese students who have graduated out of ESL, Durbin commented that data gathering has only just begun, so it is still too soon to assess their trajectories. When asked whether it was worth it to study abroad, a 23-year-old from Shanxi admitted that he gave up time with his family but concluded it was worth it, “because I could learn and improve myself here, and that is my parents’ desire.” His classmate Claire, a 22-year-old from Beijing, was less sanguine. Having given up the chance of job to come to UK, she replied, “Now I cannot judge whether it was worth it or not.”

By Jared Flanery

Neoliberalism may be viewed as the latest form of capitalism, with a shift in emphasis from physical to cultural capital. Neoliberal individuals expect to garner enough education, credentials, and social contacts ultimately transferrable as elite status and increased freedoms. As Dr. Vanessa Fong has documented, the problem is that the imagined global neoliberal community is more Janus-headed than its discourses suggest.

Since 1997, Dr. Fong, currently teaching in the Harvard School of Education, has followed nearly 3,000 members of a generational Chinese cohort. Readers may recall Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One-Child Policy, her 2004 book tracing the early lives of children born immediately after the imposition of the 1979 One Child Policy. Her research initially arose from the question of whether female singletons (by definition) without brothers competing for the family’s resources experienced increased gender equality. Her hypothesis—yes—was quickly confirmed, and her longitudinal study broadened to include male members of the cohort born between 1979 and 1986. Clearly the members of this cohort are no longer children. Yet as her survey participants approached the horizon of adulthood, she found that an unexpected portion of that group ended up extending its youth by studying abroad.

Dr. Fong visited the University of Kentucky under the banner of the China Initiative, a year-long thematic focus featuring lecture and art series, all as part of the “Passport to the World Program.” Her new book employs Aihwua Ong’s concept of flexible citizenship. Paradise Redefined defines the primary motivation of Chinese students studying abroad as the achievement of social and cultural (if not legal) citizenship in the developed world. This sort of cultural capital transcends the boundaries of the nation-state, while staying safely within the de-territorialized space of the global neoliberal order.

Not every country, though, can be paradise. Just as UK has yet to inaugurate a “Year of Haiti” or “Year of Belarus,” Chinese students seeking to study abroad rarely venture outside the developed world. In fact, Dr. Fong found that 42% of the Chinese students traveled to Japan, a further 15% to Ireland and the remaining relevant destinations split up into around 8% each (Australia, Great Britain, the United States). Rarely did Chinese students even consider countries outside the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development). As Financial Times writer Richard McGregor stated in a previous China Beat interview, “They [Chinese people in general] have a chip on their shoulder about the developed world.” Several of these newly neoliberalized individuals set off for abroad with about enough money to pay for room and board, maybe a semester of tuition and the plane ticket.

As Dr. Fong learned, however, many Chinese transnationals began to reconsider their decision once they arrived at their destinations. She continued her participant observation in the “paradise” countries, boarding Oneworld Alliance flights across the world and reflecting the travel freedoms embedded in developed world citizenship. Chinese students, many of whom ended up in state universities like Kentucky, expressed various reactions one might expect: financial difficulty in language and college education, cultural obstacles and exclusion, and an exigent desire to provide for their parents and even grandparents. She also outlines a phenomenon perhaps unique to Chinese transnationals: filial nationalism. Although they did not view themselves as “China” writ large, many students were essentially expected to represent their country to foreigners (waiguoren). Filial nationalism refers to a reflexive reaction toward defending their country as they would their parents, despite any imperfections. Still, Dr. Fong’s work details the unavoidable ambivalence Chinese transnational students feel, their subjectivity transformed. As one Chinese transnational confessed, “I’m not used to anywhere anymore.”

1 Vanessa L. Fong, Paradise Redefined: Transnational Chinese Students and the Quest for Flexible Citizenship in the Developed World (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011).

2 Data provided by Audra Cryder and Ann Livingstone, University of Kentucky Office of International Affairs.

3 Tom Bartlett and Karin Fischer, “The China Conundrum: American Colleges Find the Chinese-Student Boom a Tricky Fit,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 3, 2011.

Denise Ho is assistant professor of history at the University of Kentucky. Jared Flanery is a junior at the University of Kentucky. This article is the second of a four-part series on teaching and learning about China at the University of Kentucky, a public land-grant institution founded in 1865. More information about the “Year of China,” including Jared’s podcast with Vanessa Fong, can be found here.

By Nicole Elizabeth Barnes

The First Cross-Straits History and Culture Summer Research Institute: The Culture of Ba and Shu (第一屆兩岸歷史文化研習營:巴蜀文化), August 18-27, 2011 at Sichuan University, Chengdu

Another UCI graduate student and past China Beat contributor, Chris Heselton, and I recently attended the first ever Cross-Straits History and Culture Summer Institute, co-facilitated by the Sichuan University History Department and the Institute of History and Philology at Taipei’s Academia Sinica, and co-sponsored by the Chiang Ching-kuo and Song Qingling Foundations. Over 50 Taiwanese and mainland Chinese scholars of the up-and-coming generation attended. By virtue of our relationship with Wang Guo, a Beida student of Luo Zhitian who spent a year studying with Ken Pomeranz at UC Irvine and served as an institute TA, Chris and I were able to attend despite the fact that the original plan did not account for the participation of foreign scholars.

Participants in the Cross-Straits History and Culture Summer Research Institute

My overall impressions from this institute are of awe and hope: awe at the brilliant young scholars who, I think we can all attest, will be at the forefront of China studies in the decades to come as the center of scholarship moves to China itself, and hope that this process will lead to greater scholarly dialogue and openness on all sides.

The institute aimed to achieve two goals: first, to give Taiwanese graduate students the opportunity to visit and personally experience places in China—focusing on Sichuan province in this first meeting—that may figure in their research; second, to incite academic dialogue across the straits. Although these two tasks were fulfilled to differing degrees, the overall institute was a tremendous success. The places we visited included the museums of the Sanxingdui and Jinsha relics of the ancient Shu kingdom, the tomb of the founding king of Shu Wang Jian (王建), the site of the old market village where William Skinner did his first field research, the famed Qin state waterworks Du Jiang Yan, an old Hakka neighborhood of Chengdu dotted with neighborhood associations, Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, the memorial tomb of Liu Bei (Wuhou Ci), Mt. Emei, Mt. Changshan, and of course a local theater for a Sichuan opera performance. Judging by this list alone, one can easily see that the first goal was more than achieved, and not only the Taiwanese scholars, but also Chinese scholars and we two Americans gained a lot of insight by visiting these long-celebrated sites. Although I’ve been living in Chongqing for about a year now, and have spent lots of time in Chengdu, during this institute I was able to go to places I’d never been before, and “old” places felt new when experienced alongside intelligent and inspiring friends.

The second goal, to spark a cross-straits academic dialogue, is off to a good start but will take a lot more time and mutual effort to achieve. The nine-day institute included eleven different lectures on everything from Babylonian archaeology to Daoist medical exorcism to the ages-old battle between textual exegesis and historical research (經學於史學). The latter topic, subject of the very last lecture, summed up the tensions that institute planners and attendees came across in reaching for this second goal.

People immediately noticed and commented on differences in scholarly approach, application of theory, educational methods and attitudes in classroom discussion between Taiwanese and Chinese scholars. Some comments and behaviors were interpreted as hurtful on both sides, and on the last “free activity” day most students stuck with their own band of friends rather than reach across the cold and frothy straits. Ultimately, I came away with the feeling that Taiwanese and Chinese scholars do not only have a different character script (traditional and simplified), but speak an entirely different scholarly language. Coming from the American academy, Taiwanese analytical and critical scholarship is more familiar and comfortable to me than is the frequently cumulative and cataloging style of much mainland scholarship, but I am loath to call it better for that reason alone. Rather than take sides or stake out a territory in this debate, I wish merely to point out that their grandparents’ political fight and the decades of separate development that it brought have driven a rather large froe between a once unified log, and it will take decades to match up the wood fibers. The first step is for those fibers to long for their old neighbors, and I am not sure if all fibers are on the same page there.

Future such institutes may be held, potentially on a Taiwanese site next time. The irony is that Chiang Ching-kuo’s aunt Song Qingling did not speak to her sister or nephew for decades; would the two be rolling in their graves if they knew how their money was being spent? I would rather hope that the afterlife has given them some wisdom that transcends this dusty world, and that they are smiling at their grandchildren who dare to befriend each other and speak one another’s language.

Nicole Elizabeth Barnes is a PhD candidate in Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine.

By Peter Zarrow

By sheer chance I came across the August 1964 issue of the Journal of Asian Studies (23.4), which features a “Symposium on Chinese Studies and the Disciplines.” Reading those essays, I felt a shock of recognition. They raise the question of what has changed in the field and what has not changed in nearly 50 years. The symposium was based on a panel from the 1964 Association of Asian Studies annual meeting. AAS members can read all the back issues of JAS for themselves, but here are a few comments from one jaundiced perspective.

The symposium consists of articles by Joseph R. Levenson, Mary C. Wright, G. William Skinner, Maurice Freedman, and Frederick W. Mote, with a note from Benjamin Schwartz—all of whom had written, or were writing, monographs that even today are not past their due date (Ed. note: see the end of this essay for more on each of the above figures and their major publications). I would like to return to a few of their concerns.

Wright’s essay began, “I think the study of China requires the study of its history,” and “I think the proper practice of the historical profession in general requires some awareness of the history of China.” To my ears at least, this sounds so bleeding obvious that the only question is what kind of world made it necessary to say it out loud. True, today we are in an era when “history” is disappearing from at least American secondary schools, and university history departments are being downsized (along with the rest of the humanities), but historical literacy is probably as high as it has ever been. And although “the West is best” school is thoroughly entrenched in academia, I doubt there is any way back from the continued incorporation of China into historical thinking and the new world history. Wright was attacking two enemies, both of which have largely disappeared: the Hegelian historian (my term) who simply did not believe that China (and India and so forth) possessed history; and the Sinologist, who did not believe historical methodologies had anything of interest to say about China. Those masters of timeless textual studies who so annoyed Wright are today nearly invisible. I will come back to “Sinology.”

For his part, Levenson began with an attack on “Sinology” defined as “control of texts”—which is a “wonderful means but a weak end.” Again, from today’s point of view, it seems entirely reasonable for Levenson to proclaim that we need to be in control: we come to the texts with our questions, we don’t let the texts tell us what our intellectual problems are. There does seem to be an odor of mid-century masculinity in this way of posing the issue (as in Freedman’s insistence that anthropological initiation-by-fieldwork turns the adolescent into a man). Be that as it may, today we take for granted who gets to ask the questions. That does not solve the epistemological issues of where our questions come from, and how we treat the data in order to answer them, etc., etc. (questions that Levenson was certainly aware of), but reflects a certain confidence largely maintained even in today’s world of intellectual crisis and uncertainty.

The symposium-writers were polite to their Sinological ancestors. Levenson suggested that Sinology had been a corrective to “free-floating literary chinoiserie” of a previous age, but was now outdated by the professionalization of the “Chinese field.” The real problem for Levenson seems to have been that Sinology represented a grand ghetto-ization of a pseudo-field that was thereby kept away from the real fields where the action was: the disciplines of art, philosophy, literature, history, and so on. How can we explain the irony that more than almost any scholar today, Levenson was as comfortable talking about the grand swathes of Chinese art and philosophy and literature as his own field of modern history? In debunking Sinology, Levenson did not want to deny China’s unique qualities but to claim that “China belongs now in a universal world of discourse.” Levenson’s was a warning that China should not be—and could not be—objectified any longer.

In response (I take it), Mote attempted a defense of Sinology. He did so by changing the definition somewhat. “Sinology means the study of Chinese civilization as a coherent whole.” Obviously one cannot know everything, but the scholarly “ideal” should be to remain always aware of the “larger whole.” Mote’s target here was the kind of academic disciplinization that led to fragmentation. We know something about that today as well.

It may seem that as long as everybody is allowed like Humpty Dumpty to define words as they see fit, all we get are unobjectionable slogans. Who does not want to keep the whole in mind, to the degree possible? And who does not want historians or sociologists of China to be able to speak professionally with their disciplinary counterparts? Whether China belongs to a universal world of discourse may seem tricky if we reject the premise that there is any such thing, but I know very few scholars today who do not act as if they accept the premise.

The point is not that these makers of modern China studies were uttering truisms but that they were responding to what they saw as the threats of the day. One of these was gatekeepers of the Altar of History, today long vanquished. But the specters of Sinology, not least via the later movement of “area studies,” are still with us today. Perhaps they are built in to the very structure of “our” (Westerners’) need to learn about “them” (Chinese). On the one hand, surely Levenson and Wright could claim victory in the academic war against Sinology-as-textual-studies. On the other, Mote’s call for an “integral” approach to China—later phrased as multi-disciplinary scholarship and perhaps, even later, in cultural studies when it deals with China—can hardly be ignored.

Schwartz’s warning against “The Fetish of the ‘Disciplines’” was in this spirit. Something in the “New Sinology” also seems in this spirit—see Geremie R. Barmé, “On New Sinology,” first published in the Chinese Studies Association of Australia Newsletter no. 3 (May 2005). Barmé emphasizes engagement with contemporary China—indeed, the whole Sinophone world—which is precisely where traditional Sinology was generally seen as missing in action. But he also emphasizes the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to a range of texts (and images), premodern as well as contemporary. In my reading, Barmé is trying to counter the ‘presentism’ of so much academic, journalistic, and popular work on China. He remarks that “those who are unlettered in the basic histories, languages and ideas of the last few centuries will be only ever semi-literate in the culture, thought and even language of China today.”

Presentism in this sense (it seems to me) includes the imperialistic claims of the social sciences to perfect knowledge based on one flavor or another of rational choice and decision theory. As Mary Wright suggested so long ago, the China studies field should welcome illiterate social scientists (illiterate in Chinese) to use our data. Some of them will even, as Mote graciously allowed, become Sinologists. Neither Wright nor Mote could foresee the day when serious analysis would ignore historical culture altogether.

Nor did the social scientists writing in the 1964 symposium foresee the day of their triumph. In their twinned pieces “What the Study of China Can Do for Social Science” and “What Social Science Can Do for Chinese Studies,” Skinner and Freedman, like the pioneers they were, foresaw the day when a significant number of social scientists would study China and change both their disciplines and Chinese studies. Without knowledge of China, the social sciences could hardly claim to be universal, Skinner pointed out. This point is today widely accepted, at least among my small circle of friends. Freedman was a little more challenging: he not only stated that the contribution social sciences might make to Sinology lay in the social scientists’ ability to make explicit comparisons, produce systematic generalizations, and make new models of social reality, but he also warned that the social sciences had their own agendas (my word).

Wright foresaw an interaction of historical work and social science analysis that I think in many ways was born out by the great strides made in the social history of China in the late twentieth century. I do not know if Chinese studies have changed the social sciences in anything like the way the social sciences changed the writing of history in the field. Obviously we live in a very different scholarly world than 1964, when area studies was but a toddler. But we can still ask, does an economist studying the Chinese banking system need to know Tang poetry? The (new) Sinologist may say, yes. But does a Tang historian need to keep up with the latest social networking system in the Sinophone world? The (old) Sinologist may have denied it, but it seems doubtful that scholarship divorced from present-day concerns will mean much.

I do not know if the early Sixties should be seen as a particular moment of self-reflection and a new phase of professionalization. If so, it might be compared to the critique of the field that emerged out of the New Left movement circa 1970 (spearheaded by the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars) and the critique of the postcolonial school in the early 1990s (spearheaded by positions). The 1964 essays in JAS seem politically naïve after all the extra-academic and intra-academic wars of more recent generations, but their professional concerns seem quite fresh. For all that has changed, the battles between the social sciences and the more humanistic disciplines seem never to have ceased, and the tension between disciplinary specialization and general understanding (cultural and linguistic immersion to the extent possible) is probably unresolvable. Of course, all this navel-gazing tells us more about the West than China, though with luck it better equips Westerners to understand China—and perhaps has helped the most recent generation of Western scholars to interact and work with Chinese scholars around the world. In China itself recent years have seen a revival (if that is the right word) of “national studies” (国学 guoxue), a culturalist approach to texts not entirely unlike Sinology. It is too soon to say whether “national studies” will degenerate into nationalist essentialism or produce stimulating cross-disciplinary work. One day it might contribute to the dream of universal social science. Who knows?

Dramatis Personae & Selected Bibliography

Joseph R. Levenson (1920-1969), taught at the University of California-Berkeley: Liang Ch’i-ch’ao and the Mind of Modern China, 1953; Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: A Trilogy, 1958-1965; and (with Franz Schurmann) China: An Interpretive History, from the Beginnings to the Fall of Han, 1969.

Mary C. Wright (1917-1970), taught at Yale University: The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T’ung-chih Restoration, 1862-1874, 1957; and (ed.) China in Revolution: The First Phase, 1900-1913, 1968.

G. William Skinner (1925-2008), taught at Cornell and Stanford Universities: Leadership and Power in the Chinese Community of Thailand, 1958; Marketing and Social Structure in Rural China, 1965; and (co-ed.) The Chinese City between Two Worlds, 1974, and The City in Late Imperial China, 1977.

Maurice Freedman (1920-1975), taught at the London School of Economics: Chinese Family and Marriage in Singapore, 1957; Lineage Organization in Southeastern China, 1958; Chinese Lineage and Society: Fukien and Kwangtung, 1966; and (collected essays) The Study of Chinese Society, 1979.

Frederick W. Mote (1922-2005), taught at Princeton University: The Poet Kao Ch’i, 1336-1374, 1962; Intellectual Foundations of China, 1971; and Imperial China 900-1800, 1999.

Benjamin I. Schwartz (1916-1999), taught at Harvard University: Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, 1951; In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West, 1964; and The World of Thought in Ancient China, 1985.

Peter Zarrow is a historian at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica. His work focuses on modern China and he is the author of China in War and Revolution, 1895-1949 (Routledge, 2005).

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