Callahan shows ‘China Shadows’ film at UQ

This seminar offers a film screening followed by a discussion with the film’s director – Prof. William A Callahan (University of Manchester).

After decades of Cold War hostility, in the late 1970s people from the US and its allies started going to China – again. ‘China Shadows(28 min.) presents memories of these first encounters, raising questions of where is China, what is China, and who is Chinese.

These interviews with people from Thailand, the US, Taiwan, Belarus, England and India form the basis of a growing archive of first encounters with Otherness – or more to the point, they record diverse experiences of what it means to be the Other in China.

Borders of Knowledge network update

In March 2012, William A. Callahan went to China to set up the research network. He met with the network partner Prof. ZHANG Xiaojin (Tsinghua) to organise the logistics for the research network.

Dr WU Qiang (Tsinghua) came to Manchester for a one month (June-July 2012) research visit; he met with researchers and PhD students who are studying civil society and social movements in China and Europe.

Callahan went on fieldwork visits to India (3-18 February 2013) and China (5-15 March 2013). He met with academics and public intellectuals in both countries, and in India is  gave talks at network partner Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, as well as at the Institute for Chinese Studies and the Observer Research Foundation think tank.

The network workshop will be held in Shanghai in June 2013.

‘Borders of Migration’ research network progress update

As part of the AHRC-funded research network `Borders of migration’, Elena Barabantseva spent ten days (16-27 June 2012) in Nanning, Guangxi. During this period she established contacts with the external partners, conducted preliminary research, discussed and made arrangements for future fieldwork and research workshop. In particular, Elena met with the colleagues at the Guangxi University for Nationalities and at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences. The meetings were dedicated to the discussion of anticipated fieldwork, as well as to the planning of the research workshop. In addition to the meetings with the researchers, Elena met with the representatives of the following non-governmental organisations working in the border area of Guangxi: All-China Women’s Federation, World Vision, and Action Aid. During this visit Elena conducted library-based research, and collected Chinese academic materials on the relevant research issues.


On 22 April 2013 Antonia Chao gave a research seminar at Manchester (co-hosted by the Centre for Chinese Studies and Anthropology Department) entitled ‘Encountering Sexual Aliens: State Sovereignty and the Heteronormative Mechanism at Work on the Margins of Taiwan’. Elena and Antonia also met for a research network’s workshop planning meeting. The research network’s bi-lingual workshop entitled ‘Marriage Migration and Citizenship Issues: Perspectives from Mainland China and Taiwan’ will take place at Tunghai University (Taiwan) on 2-4 January 2014.


In March-April 2013 Wu Guofu and Yang Jinghua (Guangxi University for Nationalities) conducted a fieldwork study into cross-border migration issues between China and Vietnam in two Yao villages in Ningming county on Sino-Vietnamese border, and the first findings of this research will be presented by Wu Guofu and Elena Barabanseva at the ICAS 8 conference in Macao in June 2013. Elena will also talk about this research at the workshop on ‘Southeast Asia and Regional Security: New Forms of Chinese Geopolitics and the US Asian Pivot’ at SOAS on 7 June 2013.


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.