(Princeton University Press, 2019)
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In Pirates and Publishers, Fei-Hsien Wang reveals the unknown social and cultural history of copyright in China from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Wang draws on a vast range of previously underutilized archival sources to show how copyright was received, appropriated, and practiced in China, within and beyond the legal institutions of the state. Contrary to common belief, copyright was not a problematic doctrine simply imposed on China by foreign powers with little regard for Chinese cultural and social traditions. Shifting the focus from the state legislation of copyright to the daily, on-the-ground negotiations among Chinese authors, publishers, and state agents, Wang presents a more dynamic, nuanced picture of the encounter between Chinese and foreign ideas and customs. Exploring how copyright was transplanted, adopted, and practiced, Pirates and Publishers demonstrates the pivotal roles of those who produce and circulate knowledge.
“Offering an inspired look through the archives and back rooms of the publishing worlds of Shanghai and Beijing, Pirates and Publishers is a wonderfully wise introduction to the complexities of China’s adoption of copyright. Wang not only lucidly unravels the twists and turns of this idea’s fate in a country afflicted with chronic disorder, but also uses her findings to retell with considerable wit and flair much of modern China’s intellectual and cultural history. A tour de force and a pleasure to read.”
– Joseph McDermott, University of Cambridge
Fei-Hsien Wang is an assistant professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is also a research associate at the Centre for History and Economics at the University of Cambridge.