Current Research Networks

BICC, in its third phase continues to deepen its exisiting networks, while also opening up new avenues and partnerships with other institutions and stakeholders. All networks are located in a BICC partner HEI, and have been designed to include scholars and institutions from other universities. These research networks address key research and policy issues, and the programmes of workshops and publications explore new research questions, and encourage those involved to pool expertise on China related matters.

1. ‘Models’, Co-ordinating partner, University of Manchester

Manchester is focusing on the  awareness of the self, zooming in on the various ways China develops and uses ‘models’ & connects its history and arts to form its modern image.Models function within an increasingly globalized world in which borders and frontiers are virtual rather than territorial to help distinguish what is Chinese and at the same time enabling to blend in with a globalizing community of “Chineseness”.

Initiatives at Manchester aim at growing expertise within BICC, LBAS centres and UK ROs. Networks work cross-disciplinary, involving language, religion, material culture, economy, cultural and historical studies.

1a Models of distinction: British-Born-Chinese (BBC). Co-ordinator: Dr Elena Barabantseva;

Partner: Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, Manchester Chinese Centre, University of Bristol, LSE

This project involves an audio-visual investigation into the sense of being and becoming a British Born Chinese UK Citizen. Methodological approaches include Anthropology, Art, History and Political Science. The project documents the integrative process of a British born Chinese (BBC) into a Mancunian Chinese community; bullying; civic awareness, involvement, gender issues and roles in parenting BBC are all integral to the project.

1b Models and Meanings: China in Ten Words.  Co-ordinators, Dr William Schroeder, Dr James St Andre;

Partner: Tsinghua University.

Here we explore the tendency to use a few key concepts, often translated or adapted from Chinese such as xiao (filial piety), or guanxi (networking) to understand Chinese culture. An historical approach to the use of key terms in the past is combined with an anthropological analysis of current UK/China key terms. Two exchange visits, and a workshop are designed in order to build partnerships between academics in the UK, Taiwan, China, and the US. Outputs will include journal articles and the preparation of a large grant from the AHRC under the ‘Translating Cultures’ scheme.

 1c Disaster History Network. Co-ordinator, Dr. Pierre Fuller

Partner: People’s University, Beijing.

This network explores multiple aspects of natural and man-made disaster in Chinese history: causation, experience/mortality, and relief/reconstruction. Interest in the history of disaster and related subjects like environment and humanitarianism in Qing, Republican and Communist China is growing with acute contemporary policy relevance. Partnership with Renmin (People’s) University‘s (Beijing)’s leading research centre for disaster history is enhancing dialogue and collaboration between China/UK-Western scholars. International workshops will lead to the creation of, an online database of academic studies and sources on Chinese disaster for academic and public use. This network will benefit policy-makers and provide historical depth for an existing network created after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake of scholars and relief practitioners from Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute and Chengdu University.

2. ‘Alternative dimensions of communication’, Co-ordinating partner, University of Oxford

The two networks based in Oxford examine two dimensions of information exchange in which texts are not dominant. The verbal contents of the accusation are unimportant as the aim is to break down someone’s social and political support networks. Visual culture communicates through images and creating mental impressions that do not necessarily depend on words. Research links with ROs with leading academic institutions in the UK, Sweden and the USA will be further strengthened through the expansion of earlier ties within the framework of research and exchange activities co-ordinated by BICC.

2.1 The use of accusations in social and political conflicts: Co-ordinator: Barend J. ter Haar.

Collaborating partners: SOAS, Bristol, Lund (Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies).

This network will explore the use of accusations in traditional China and modern China in order to fight out political and social conflicts.We usually study this topic under more narrow rubrics, such as accusations of witchcraft, corruption or political conflicts. As it turns out after initial comparative work, there is a large category of false or biased accusations of certain culturally determined crimes in order to fight out broader conflicts with one’s neighbours, close kin or political enemies. The witchcraft accusation is present in traditional China, but not nearly as important as accusations around property, geomancy or (after 1949) corruption and ideological purity. By taking a broader comparative perspective we can answers questions about the underlying dynamics and the cultural translation of this phenomenon in different periods and under different political regimes. Outputs: two workshops and exchange visits. Collaborators will be drawn from other UK ROs, LBAS Centres (CASAW), and from overseas.

2.2 Digital Culture in China: Past and Future Co-ordinator: Margaret Hillenbrand

This network grows out of a successful 2012 conference on ‘Photography and the Making of historyin Modern China’, supported by BICC’s additional funding award. The event revealed a critical mass of international interest in the history of the photographic image in China, and in the relationship between photography and the making of the nation’s past. This network will both build on this interest and take it in new directions. In particular, it explore photography’s history in China within the context of a broader investigation into the emergence of digital media and practices in China and in the study of the Chinese humanities. To this end, the network will forge partnerships with the Bristol’s Digital China network, MIT’s New Media Action Lab, and with the Literary Networks Project (University of Chicago), all of which are established projects exploring China’s digital past and future from an array of disciplinary perspectives. This network of scholars will explore the genealogy of digital culture in China, focusing on visual, textual, and practice-based forms – ranging from photography and video art to social activism and computational methods for the study of literary networks. Network activities will include the exchange of visits, a small scale workshop, and a larger international conference.

3 ‘Asian Connections’, Co-ordinating partner: University of Bristol

Understanding China requires understanding its place in Asia more widely, historically, and today, as well as engaging with other Asian scholars. The networks co-ordinated from Bristol all involve interaction between scholars in the UK and China, and especially with Chinese studies scholars in Japan.

• 3a The Chinese Reception of Indian Religious and Intellectual Practices.

Co-ordinator: Eric Greene;

Partners: University of Oxford, Faculty of Oriental Studies; Kyoto University, Institute for Research in theHumanities; University of California at Berkeley, Group in Buddhist Studies.

This network will explore the varying responses of early-medieval (2nd to 8th century) Chinese translators, missionaries, and intellectuals to the Indian cultural practices introduced through the spread of Buddhism. We will explore the ways that novel forms of practice were variously accepted, rejected, or ignored in China, both within Chinese Buddhism and in other areas of Chinese religion and culture. Through exchange visits, a workshop, and larger-scale conference, this network will assess why and how certain Indian practices were accepted by the medieval Chinese while others were not, and will, thereby, consider more broadly the pre-modern Chinese response to foreign cultural influence.

3b Kyoto Bridge

Co-ordinator: Robert Bickers, Bristol

Partners: Kyoto University, Humanities Research Institute, Research Centre for Modern and Contemporary China

European and US engagement with Japanese scholarship on modern China remains under-developed. BICC is building on its critical mass of excellence in this area, to mainstream that engagement, and to build structures to facilitate ECR interaction. It will build on the developing strong bilateral relationship between Bristol University and Kyoto. KU’s Research Centre for Modern and Contemporary China is part of the Japanese National Institutes for the Humanities programme in Contemporary Chinese Studies, and therefore also  provides access into that wider network.

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