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Modern China Lecture Series Featuring Joan Judge – China’s Mundane Revolution: Vernacularizing Science and Scientizing the Vernacular in the Long Republic, 1894-1955

November 30, 2021 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

Speaker: Joan Judge, Professor, Department of History, York University

What can we learn from intellectual detritus? Focusing on cheap print, vernacular daily-use knowledge, and common readers in the Long Republic (1895-1955), this talk argues that the books an age discards as slipshod and unscientific, and the readers it disparages as superstitious and ignorant, comprise the broad epistemic terrain from which historical change is actualized. Premised on the notion that what we currently know about China’s iconic 20th-century revolutions does not explain enough, it shifts our attention from innovation to ingenuity, from “knowledge what” to “knowledge how,” from the momentous to the mundane—without losing sight of the momentous. The talk first introduces a project on “China’s Mundane Revolution” that is based on some 500, largely unstudied, daily-use texts, together with material gathered from the interstices of various archives. It then zeros in on one of the “how to” topics in the study: “how to treat a cholera infection.” Examining the ways individual common readers might have approached “the most spectacular ‘new’ disease of the nineteenth century,” the example highlights the dynamic processes of scientizing vernacular and vernacularizing scientific forms of knowledge. It also raises questions about the ways these processes align—or misalign—with the various iterations of mass politics in this critical period.

Joan Judge is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, member of the Royal Society of Canada and a Professor in the Department of History at York University in Toronto, Canada.She is the author of Republican Lens: Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press (University of California Press, 2015), The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in China (Stanford University Press, 2008), Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China (Stanford University Press, 1996), and co-editor of Women Warriors and National Heroes: Global Histories (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), Women and the Periodical Press in China’s Global Twentieth Century: A Space of Their Own? (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and Beyond Exemplar Tales: Women’s Biography in Chinese History (University of California Press, 2011). She is currently engaged in an SSHRC-funded project, China’s Mundane Revolution: Cheap Print, Vernacular Knowledge, and Common Reading in the Long Republic, 1894–1955.

Presented via Zoom

Also streaming on YouTube


November 30, 2021
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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