New Publications by BICC Researchers

Modern Asian Studies image - Jon

Two BICC researchers have just published important new work.

Jon Howlett, University of York, has had an article published in Modern Asian Studies‘The British boss is gone and will never return’: Communist takeovers of British companies in Shanghai (1949–1954)


Sam Geall book front coverSam Geall, Departmental Lecturer in Human Geography of China at Oxford and BICC funded student, has edited China and the Environment: The Green Revolution

Blurb: Sixteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China. A serious water pollution incident occurs once every two to three days. China’s breakneck growth causes great concern about its global environmental impacts, as others look to China as a source for possible future solutions to climate change. But how are Chinese people really coming to grips with environmental problems? This book provides access to otherwise unknown stories of environmental activism and forms the first real-life account of China and its environmental tensions.

Introducing Dr Isabella Jackson

Isabella Jacson portraitIt is no exaggeration to say that I owe my career to the BICC. My BICC studentship enabled me to study Chinese from scratch to the point where I can use it for my research and in building networks with scholars in related fields in China. This commenced with a two-year MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at Oxford, which included six months’ study in Beijing and intensive language and area studies research training. I completed my MPhil dissertation under the supervision of Professor Rana Mitter on the evolving Chinese perspective on and representation of the Shanghai Municipal Council and the broader International Settlement from the Republican era to the present. This had a direct bearing on my doctoral research, for which I returned to Bristol (where I had completed my BA and MA) to work with Professor Robert Bickers, the leading expert on treaty-port Shanghai.

My PhD was entitled ‘Managing Shanghai: The International Settlement administration and the development of the city, 1900-1943’. It examined the nature and functions of the council which ran the International Settlement, the heart of Shanghai, in the decades of dramatic change in the first half of the twentieth century. I argued that the council functioned as a semi-colonial and transnational authority – concepts which I tested within the unique political environment of Republican China’s treaty ports. This provides a new, precise formulation of the nature of western colonialism in China that has broad ramifications for the fields of Chinese history and colonial history.

The BICC supported my research comprehensively, including the provision of tailored advanced Chinese reading classes in Bristol and attendance at Republican Chinese text reading classes in Oxford. It also paid for me to spend a year conducting research in the newly opened Shanghai Municipal Archives, where I found the bulk of my materials, and to continue my language study with private tuition while there. In addition, I was able to secure funds from the Worldwide Universities Network to attend a masterclass in Sydney and conduct research in the State Library of New South Wales, and I spent three months researching as a fellow of the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. My dissertation was awarded the University of Bristol’s annual Faculty Prize for the Best Dissertation in the Arts and I am currently adapting it for publication as a monograph.

During my PhD I revised my MA dissertation for publication, using my new Chinese language skills to include a broader range of sources. The resulting article, ‘The Raj on Nanjing Road: Sikh Policemen in Treaty-Port Shanghai’, appeared in Modern Asian Studies last year.

When in the final stages of writing up my dissertation, I began a one-year post as Departmental Lecturer in Modern Chinese Studies at Oxford’s Institute for Chinese Studies. It was an excellent, though demanding, first academic position, furnishing me with a broad range of teaching experience on modern China and experience of administration, including directing the MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies. I moved from Oxford to my current post as the Helen Bruce Lecturer in Modern East Asian History. Mine is one of a number of newly-created posts in Chinese and East Asian Studies as departments have responded to student demand to study modern China, and the BICC has been instrumental in ensuring the next generation of China scholars are available to meet this demand.

I direct the BICC Chinese Urban Studies Network, based in Aberdeen with partners at the University of Leicester’s Centre for Urban History, Lyon’s Institut d’Asie Orientale, and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. We held our first workshop in December 2012 and will be following up with a visit to Shanghai in August 2013 and a major conference in January 2014, bringing together scholars from different disciplines concerned with the study of Chinese cities. The BICC thus continues to be a major force in my life as a researcher, as I consider the role played by the Shanghai Municipal Council, and similar institutions in other treaty ports, in shaping urban China.

New book: Anna Lora-Wainwright, ‘Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village’

Congratulations to BICC researcher Dr Anna Lora-Wainwright, whose new book Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village, has just been published by the University of Hawai’i Press.ALW book cover

Numerous reports of “cancer villages” have appeared in the past decade in both Chinese and Western media, highlighting the downside of China’s economic development. Less generally known is how people experience and understand cancer in areas where there is no agreement on its cause. Who or what do they blame? How do they cope with its onset? Fighting for Breath is the first ethnography to offer a bottom-up account of how rural families strive to make sense of cancer and care for sufferers. It addresses crucial areas of concern such as health, development, morality, and social change in an effort to understand what is at stake in the contemporary Chinese countryside.

Encounters with cancer are instances in which social and moral fault lines may become visible. Anna Lora-Wainwright combines powerful narratives and critical engagement with an array of scholarly debates in sociocultural and medical anthropology and in the anthropology of China. The result is a moving exploration of the social inequities endemic to post-1949 China and the enduring rural-urban divide that continues to challenge social justice in the People’s Republic. In-depth case studies present villagers’ “fight for breath” as both a physical and social struggle to reclaim a moral life, ensure family and neighborly support, and critique the state for its uneven welfare provision. Lora-Wainwright depicts their suffering as lived experience, but also as embedded in domestic economies and in the commodification of care that has placed the burden on families and individuals.

Fighting for Breath will be of interest to students, teachers, and researchers in Chinese studies, sociocultural and medical anthropology, human geography, development studies, and the social study of medicine.

Introducing Dr Chris Courtney

In 2007 I was awarded a BICC studentship to study at the University of Manchester. The language based area studies scheme provided me with the opportunity to develop a number of key research skills. In addition to the extensive academic training I received in the UK, I also spent a year studying Chinese at Wuhan and Peking Universities. Whilst researching my PhD, I spent one and a half years conducting fieldwork in Central China. During this period I also benefitted from a postgraduate exchange with the National University of Singapore. My research to date has depended entirely upon the skills and contacts that I developed whilst on my BICC studentship.

Dr Chris Courtney, Leicester Workshop, 2012

Dr Chris Courtney, Leicester Workshop, 2012

My PhD thesis examines the social and environmental history of the 1931 Central China Flood. This disaster inundated an area the size of Britain, and caused over one million fatalities, making it probably the most catastrophic flood in world history. I draw upon a range of theoretical perspectives from anthropology, disasters studies and social and environmental history, in order to write the first comprehensive study of this event. I explore the experiences of ordinary Chinese people, describing how they died and survived during the disaster. I also examine the diverse narratives used by differing sections of the community to explain the genesis and outcome of the flood.

Having completed my BICC studentship, I was awarded a four year Junior Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. Whilst in this post I hope to develop my PhD research further, studying the impact of natural disasters upon Central China during the Republican and early Communist Periods. My broader research interests include the long-term interaction between human communities and the environment in the Middle Yangzi region, and the social history of the treaty port city of Hankou. I am currently conducting an oral history project into the 1954 Central China Flood.

Borders of Migration talk, Professor Antonia Chao, 22nd April

As part of the the Borders of Migration research network, Professor Antonia Chao (Tunghai University, Taiwan) will present a talk hosted by the Centre for Chinese Studies and Anthropology Department at the University of Manchester

‘Encountering Sexual Aliens: State Sovereignty and the Heteronormative Mechanism at Work on the Margins of Taiwan’

Monday 22 April 2012, 4. 15pm, 2.016/017, Second Floor Boardroom, Arthur Lewis Building

Abstract: As many scholars of migration studies have shown in their works, the increasingly complicated patterns of border-crossing activities in the contemporary age of globalization have posed a grave challenge to the feasibility of the nation-state model conventionally held by both the sending and receiving countries. Some have also highlighted the fact that gender politics plays a significant, while often hidden, role in shaping the phenomenon that is recognized generally as “the feminization of globalization”. Based on ethnographic research conducted on Taiwan’s three crucial sites of national borders, this talk mined the intersections between border control, state sovereignty, national belonging and “perverted sexualities”. The focus was on three forms of subjects, perceived as “sexual aliens”, whose trans-migratory acts violate the principle of biological and heterosexual reproduction that upholds the meanings, practices and institutions of border control. The normalizing regulations imposed upon these subjects, be they “lived” or “imaginary”, highlight three corresponding sites of bio-political governance at once outside of, within, and right along the borders of Taiwan’s geographical territories. While all are in keeping with the agenda of heteronormativity, these sites are situated in a distinct circuit of transnational traffic of sexualities and thus require different modes of governance. Intentionally or coincidentally, these modes of governance coordinate with each other in helping construct a nation whose sovereignty has been in perpetual crisis within the international political community.

Introducing Dr. Jonathan Howlett

Jonathan Howlett PortraitI received my BICC scholarship in 2006 and I was awarded my PhD from the University of Bristol in 2012. I now work as Lecturer in Modern Asian History at the University of York, a job which I came to in the autumn of 2012 after completing a one-year teaching fellowship at Newcastle University. In hindsight, being awarded a BICC scholarship was a crucial step in my development as an historian of modern China and in enhancing my career prospects because it allowed for two years of study at the University of Oxford before I commenced my PhD research in which I developed essential language skills.

My current research focuses on understanding the processes through
which the Chinese Communist Party attempted to transform Chinese
society following their seizure of power in 1949. In particular, my
forthcoming book focuses on the Communists’ policies towards British
businesses remaining in Shanghai after the revolution.  Rather than
treating the case of British business in isolation, I focus on
exploring the links between the Communists’ state-building efforts,
their political ideology, urban policy and their foreign policy in the
broader Cold War context.

My broader research and teaching interests include: the history of
Shanghai; China’s relationships with other powers; the history of
different forms of comparative socialisms and everyday life in
socialist societies; the role of ordinary (or unheralded) individuals
in history; urban transformations and decolonisation.

I am the co-ordinator for the British Inter-University China Centre
(Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded ‘Chinese 1950s‘ network.
The network was established to facilitate scholarly exchanges on this
subject and will be hosting an international workshop in July 2013.

China Dreams

Callahan_ChinaDreamsCoverBICC researcher and former co-Director Professor William A. Callahan has started getting reviews of his new book, China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future, which has just been published in the US, and is available in the UK from June.

An excerpt from the book and discussion by Geremie R. Barmé can be found on the The China Story blog, and the Wall Street Journal‘s ‘China Realtime Report’ has a new piece online about it, an interview by Tom Orlik:

The China dream has become a buzzword in Beijing, with new President Xi Jinping setting out a new vision of China as a muscular global power. But Mr. Xi is not the first person to have a China dream. The mainland’s foreign-policy experts, economists, dissidents and artists are already engaged in an active and public debate on the future of their country.

Bill Callahan, a professor of international politics at the University of Manchester who this year is researching China-India relations at the National University of Singapore, has been listening in on their conversations. His new book “China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future” lets the rest of us in on what he heard. Continue reading.

Introducing Dr. Astrid Nordin

Astrid Nordin

As a BICC student fellow I conducted my doctoral research at the University of Manchester, with difficult language training at Peking University. The thesis, titled ‘Time, Space and Multiplicity in China’s Harmonious World’, passed without corrections in November 2012 and has been nominated to the BISA Michael Nicholson thesis prize for best thesis in International Studies. It traces the foreign policy concept ‘harmonious world’ (hexie shijie) in Chinese policy and academic discourse, at the 2010 Shanghai Expo and in humorous online resistance, arguing that the concept has come to embody an irresolvable contradiction between sameness and difference. The access to expertise, the network and the training provided through BICC have been invaluable in making this project happen.

Beyond this thesis, my research interests fall in the intersection of contemporary Chinese politics and international relations, broadly conceived, and critical theories of global politics. I am particularly interested in the contemporary deployment of concepts drawn from Chinese history, such as harmony (hexie), civilisation (wenming), hegemony (baquan), or All-under-heaven (Tianxia), and their relation to contemporary continental philosophy, particularly the thought of Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Derrida. Within this scope I have written on alternative conceptions of time, space and world order; the politics of mega events (particularly Expo 2010 Shanghai China); Chinese censorship and resistance throughout history; Chinese discourses of online resistance and wordplay (egao); the ‘Chinese school’ of IR; the policy concepts of ‘harmonious world’ (hexie shijie) and ‘harmonious society’ (hexie shehui); soft power; East Asian regionalism and regionalisation; and spatial and temporal aspects of difference in the work of Derrida and Baudrillard.

Since September 2012 I work as Lecturer in China in the Modern World at Lancaster University.

Coming up… profiles of BICC researchers

Over the next few weeks we will be posting profiles of some of the BICC research community, starting today, with Dr Astrid Nordin, now at Lancaster University. BICC has to date involved over 40 core researchers at all stages of their careers — although we have not yet had any retirements — and scores, if not hundreds, more through our conferences and workshops. The largest body of BICC researchers came through the studentships funded by the 2006-12 award, and their work is now starting to reshape the resarch landscape in their fields, nationally and internationally.