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Modern China Lecture featuring Uluğ Kuzuoğlu – Codes of Modernity: Chinese Scripts in the Global Information Age

April 3 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

Speaker: Uluğ Kuzuoğlu, Assistant Professor of History, Washington University in St. Louis

In the late nineteenth century, Chinese reformers and revolutionaries believed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Chinese writing system. The Chinese characters, they argued, were too cumbersome to learn, blocking the channels of communication, obstructing mass literacy, and impeding scientific progress. What had sustained a civilization for more than three millennia was suddenly recast as the root cause of an ongoing cultural suicide. In this talk, Uluğ Kuzuoğlu draws on his book to rethink the historical origins of Chinese script reforms––efforts to alphabetize or simplify the writing system—from the 1890s to the 1980s. Examining the material conditions and political economy underlying attempts to modernize scripts, Kuzuoğlu demonstrates that these reforms were at the forefront of an emergent information age, precipitated by new communications technologies and infrastructures as well as industrial, educational, and bureaucratic pressures for information management. Situating China within a global context, this talk describes how scripts became instruments to increase labor efficiency and create alternate political futures in China and the world.” 


April 3
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


CGIS South, Room S050

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 United States

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