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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mapping the Intellectual Public Sphere in China

This is the first step in our mapping of intellectual life in China today to help us see the moving parts of the intellectual public sphere in which the scholars and intellectuals we select operate. In order to know who they read and who might read them, we need to know the major media outlets and the structure and operation of the Chinese public sphere, which I insist on calling a "directed public sphere".

Our goals are: first to help us "see the playing field" in order to pick significant and relevant intellectuals. Second, we will publish some versions of this "map" as part of our findings--to be helpful to other scholars.

I. Base Line Survey We build on the initial survey Yu Zhansui 于展绥 did for me in 2005 when he was a graduate student at UBC. His work provides a 2005 "base line" for our mapping effort. His lists are annotated and all but #2 are have both Chinese and English--a style I think we should maintain on our blog. I am putting four documents he produced into our shared Dropbox under the sub-folder "Institutions of Contemporary Chinese Thought" (this folder will also contain other relevant docs to do with this topic):

1. Yu Zhansui--Fifty Most Influential Intellectuals in Contemporary China

2. Yu Zhansui--中国有重要影响的思想文化网站简介 (on websites; Chinese annotations only)

3. Yu Zhansui--Some Influential Academic Presses & Media in China

4. Yu Zhansui--Some Most Influential Journals in Contemporary China

We will want to develop a 2015 version of these. Two initial observations from the 2005 lists.  First, we are dealing with many of the same names ten years later--Wang Hui, Gang Yan, Ge Zhaoguang (though Zhansui's gloss of Kang Xiaoguang--4th on his list--interestingly makes no mention of New Confucianism). Second, Zhansui's shortest list is likely to be our longest--websites and electronic media. As he notes, in 2005 web presence was largely electronic archives of print journals and a limited number of electronic bulletin boards. The Internet world is massively different today.

II. DACHS and "50 Public Intellectuals" from 2004  Also from 2005 is Nicholas Volland's annotated web archive of the 50 public intellectuals profiles in 南方人物周刊 on Sept. 8, 2004. The PDF of the web page is in Dropbox, but to use the many handy hotlinks use the url:
Many DACHS archive links require you to register, but this one does not.

Nick's annotated web archive is a fine example of the broader DACHS project: The Digital Archive for Chinese Studies run by the China Seminar at University of Heidelberg. We should familiarize ourselves with it and consider if we want to do anything similar or (as in the case of CIW's "Thinking China") if it would be better simply to arrange to contribute. Hanno Lecher appears to be in charge; Barbara Mitller is active on the site. Find out about DACHS at:

III. Background Reading: The World According to Tim For a narrative orientation of at least major themes, people, and institutions in China's intellectual world 1975-2015, I am putting two chapters from my The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History in the Dropbox folder: Ch. 5 "Reviving Reform: Correcting Revolutionary Errors (1976-1995)" and Ch. 6 "Rejuvenation: Securing the Chinese Dream (1996-2014)". If I have succeeded, this should be a relatively painless way to get what reading a dozen monographs and articles will. If not, at least it warns the team of how I am approaching our topic. There's plenty more to read and we've begun a bibliography of relevant secondary studies in the major languages.

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