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Modern China Lecture Series Featuring Gina Anne Tam – Dialect and the Making of Modern China: From Republican Revolutionaries to Hong Kong Protesters

October 13, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Read the transcript for the event here.

Speaker: Gina Anne Tam, Assistant Professor of History, Trinity University

Taking aim at the conventional narrative that standard, national languages transform ‘peasants’ into citizens, this talk will trace the history of the Chinese nation and national identity on fangyan – languages like Shanghainese, Cantonese, and dozens of others that are categorically different from the Chinese national language, Mandarin. It shows how, on the one hand, linguists, policy-makers, bureaucrats and workaday educators framed fangyan as non-standard ‘variants’ of the Chinese language, subsidiary in symbolic importance to standard Mandarin. I simultaneously highlight, on the other hand, the 1920s folksong collectors, communist-period playwrights, contemporary hip-hop artists and popular protestors in Hong Kong who argued that fangyan were more authentic and representative of China’s national culture and its history. From the late Qing through the present, these intertwined visions of the Chinese nation – one spoken in one voice, one spoken in many – interacted and shaped one another, and in the process, shaped the basis for national identity itself.

Gina Anne Tam is an assistant professor of Chinese history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2016, and her research and teaching focus on the construction of collective identity– national belonging, ethnicity and race– in modern China. In addition to her book Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960, she has also published peer-reviewed work in Twentieth-Century China, and has written about the relevance of her work to current events in Foreign Affairs, The Nation, and Dissent. Her new project will be a global history of Chinese restauranteurs and the making of pan-Asian cuisine in the twentieth century.

Part of the Modern China Lecture Series

Presented via Zoom Webinar


October 13, 2020
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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