‘Picturing China’ on film, and in Shanghai

As part of a series of events and films marking its tenth anniversary year, the AHRC, which funds the BICC though its LBAS scheme, has made a short film about the ‘Historical Photographs of China‘ project at the University of Bristol. The project has received a lot of support from BICC and the AHRC, and is also being showcased on 2-4 March at the government’s UK Trade & Investment’s ‘GREAT Festival of Creativity’ in Shanghai.

Crossover Videos: Westerners in China and Chinese in the UK

Three documentary videos and discussion

Time: June 16, 2014 from 3-6.30pm

Place: London School of Economics, St Clements Building, STCS.75


Sponsored by the British Inter-university China Centre (BICC). Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council



3.00-3:15       Introduction, Robert Bickers and William A. Callahan

3:15-5:30       Video screening

3:15-3:45      “Robert Hart: For China and the World”; Jeremy Routledge & Robert Bickers

3:50-4:15      “Uncle Chuck: The Shanghailander”; William A. Callahan

4:15-4:45      “BBC” (British Born Chinese); Elena Barabantseva, Andy Lawrence, Ben Cheetham, Tom Turner

4:45-6:30      Panel discussion: Video documentary in humanities and social science research

Chair: Jeffrey Wasserstrom (UC, Irvine)

Panelists: Bickers, Routledge, Callahan, Barabantseva, Cheetham, Turner

Any questions, please contact w.callahan@lse.ac.uk


Robert Hart: For China and the World (31 minutes)

Robert Bickers (Bristol University) and Jeremy Routledge (Calling the Shots films)

‘For China and the World’ explores the largely forgotten history of Britain in China from the 1850s to the early 1900s through the life of Irishman Sir Robert Hart. Hart was the inspector general of China’s Imperial Maritime Customs from 1863 to 1911. An employee of China’s ruling Qing dynasty, he played a crucial role in the economic development of the country and in its interaction with foreign powers. Filmed in Shanghai and Northern Ireland, the film outlines the personal and political conflicts that motivated one of the most important foreign figures in Chinese history, as well as his legacy today.

Trailer: www.roberthartfilm.org


“Uncle Chuck: The Shanghailander (22 minutes)

Bill Callahan (London School of Economics)

What was it like to be an American in Shanghai in the 1920s? ‘Uncle Chuck: The Shanghailander’ examines the life-style of an American businessman who went to Shanghai in 1924, and left just ahead of the Red Army in 1949. It chronicles Chuck’s journey from small-town America to cosmopolitan Shanghai, and shows how he pursued the American Dream in inter-war China. The film puts the details of his family history in the context of global imperial history, when Shanghai was controlled by Europeans, Americans and Japanese.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/47901393


BBC (British Born Chinese) (30 minutes)

Elena Barabantseva (University of Manchester), Andy Lawrence, Ben Cheetham, Tom Turner (All Rites Reversed Films)

Little is known about life in the British Chinese community, which remains invisible to the public eye.  Daniel (age 11) and Kevin (age 13) are Chinese boys born in England, and this film explores how they fuse their Britishness with a strong sense of Chinese identity.  We look at the boys’ experiences at school and how they relate to people in their neighbourhoods, how they formulate their belonging and to what extent they feel they are stigmatised for being different. This is a ‘coming of age’ story, not just of two boys but of a community.  What can we expect from the next generation of British born Chinese?

Trailer: http://www.allritesreversed.co.uk/british-born-chinese.html

Introducing Dr Tehyun Ma

IMG_4892As a BICC postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bristol’s history department this past year, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of fascinating projects that have expanded my research horizons and encouraged me to rethink the way I approach source material in my own work. The first of these has been the Historical Photographs of China – also known as the Visualising China – project. It introduced me to a rich visual record of the Chinese past, full of serendipitous interconnected personal histories and forgotten vistas.

The second, which is tied to the ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstruction over the Earth) endeavor at the MET Office, gave me a glimpse of how the travel writings and records of nineteenth-century adventurers and merchants could be put to use to measure historical patterns of climate change. Both projects have given me a sense of how history could be put to use both directly and indirectly: from heritage and educational work to thinking about perhaps the biggest challenge of our time.

My own research explores China and Taiwan. Over the past few years, with the help of a postdoctoral fellowship on the Leverhulme-funded China’s War with Japan project  that ran from 2009-2011, I’ve been looking at plans for rehabilitation and reconstruction in China during the war years. The first part of this research, which interrogates the transnational influence of reconstruction planning, recently appeared in the European Journal of East Asian Studies. This article analyses the influence of the Beveridge Report and the American Social Security Act on Chinese social policy planners, exploring what their interest in these designs can tell us about the contours of the Nationalist (Guomindang) state in an era of total war.

My interest in postwar planning developed from my Ph.D., which I undertook at Bristol under the supervision of Professor Robert Bickers. The thesis focused on the first decade of Guomindang rule on Taiwan from 1945-1955, considering how the problem of mobilising a disaffected (and terrorised) island population help shaped the way party leaders reformed what a decrepit party-state. Their state-building techniques, I argue, provide an insight into how party leaders and the rank-and-file conceived of how authority was earned and used. This work adds to the growing literature on the political culture of the early Cold War in East Asia. I will be giving a talk on this project next week, August 13, as part of Hoover Institute’s workshop series ‘Revisiting Modern China’.

The BICC postdoc this year afforded me some valuable time to advance my research and teaching as well as introduce me to realms of history and public engagement that I had not experienced before. It has proven a vital stepping stone in the development of career . As of September 2013, I will be taking up a permanent lectureship in Chinese History at Exeter University, but I am keen to keep up with the projects I’ve been involved with over the past few months.

‘Historical Photographs of China’ on new AHRC image gallery

The ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project, which has been supported over the past year by the BICC, has been chosen to provide materials for the second display on the new online Image Gallery on the website of the Arts & Humanities Research Council. A selection of images was made from a recently-digitised collection of photographs mainly taken by a young printing manager, Jack Ephgrave, who worked for the British American Tobacco Company in Shanghai from 1929 onwards. These have just gone live under the title Picturing China with commentary from Robert Bickers, with the assistance of BICC research associate Dr Tehyun Ma and Jamie Carstairs, Project Digitzation Officer.

Hello, Chongqing! 重庆您好!


Steps in Taiping Men, Chungking, 1920, Swire collection, Sw19-066.

BICC researcher Dr Tehyun Ma is representing the Centre at the launch today of a new exhibition, ‘Historical Photographs of China: Photographs from British Collections‘, ‘1870-1950:英国收藏的中国影像’. While the core of this exhibition was recently on display in Beijing, the Sichuan outing of the show contains many additional rare shots of the city of Chongqing, mainly from the G.W. Swire and Fu Bingchang collections held within the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ website.

The exhibiton at Chongqing Tiandi is being opened by Benedict Mann, British Deputy Consul-General in Chongqing, and is the resul of a collaboration between the Consul-General Press Team, RCUK China, and the British Inter-university China Centre. BICC is funded by the AHRC and the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ has been supported as an Academy Research Project since 2006 by the British Academy.

The project also runs the related ‘Visualising China‘ portal, and the Visualising China blog, and the latest post there explores Chongqing, the Yangzi, and its place in the British imagination.

Introducing Dr Mike Gow

Mike Gow ProfileI was fortunate enough to receive funding from BICC as part of the first cohort of scholarships awarded in 2006.  I undertook my academic training at Masters and Doctoral level at the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol, supervised by Professor Susan Robertson and Professor Jeffrey Henderson.  BICC has been the determining factor in shaping my career, affording me an opportunity for academic development that I otherwise would not have had.  In addition, I have made some lifelong friends through BICC who are already active as China scholars across a range of disciplines.

My research focuses on the strategic transformation of Chinese higher education, and aims to understand how national modernization projects are materialized within China’s political society and then mediated and institutionalized.  The thesis recognizes processes of negotiation, consent and coercion between China’s political society and civil society, discerning a tightly interwoven relationship between the state and Chinese HE and also proposes that HE is central to the negotiation of hegemony within the contemporary Chinese historic bloc.  However, it also aims to understand the complex social, cultural and institutional environment of Chinese HE through which overarching national projects must be processed.  The research utilizes Burawoy’s Extended Case Method and theoretical framework constructed around Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and Bourdieu’s concepts of capital, field and habitus.

I have taught a range of subjects over the last few years, including Contemporary Chinese Society, Chinese Political Systems, Contemporary Chinese Cultural Conventions and Chinese Business Context.  As of August 2013 I will be taking a post at NYU Shanghai as Global Postdoctoral Fellow in the inaugural year of this new campus of New York University.  My role will be research-focused, but I am also looking forward to contributing to a Freshman course “Global Perspectives on Society” led by NYU Shanghai Vice Chancellor Professor Jeffrey Lehman.  The course will introduce students to some of the greatest thinkers from both western and Chinese traditions.

Chinese HE continues to be the focus of my research and I blog on Chinese HE, internationalization of Chinese HE and Chinese HE policy at http://www.thedaxue.org