Digitization facilitates censorship in Chinese archives, but it also gives us new tools to study censorship and to renew the historian's craft. This talk explores the opportunities and challenges of studying twentieth-century Chinese history in the digital age. Drawing on archival statistics and metadata from several provincial collections, it begins by taking stock of the archival landscape in contemporary China: What has been made available (and not?). It then applies the latest digital methods to query the genre of "nianpu" (chronicles) in the Chinese Communist Party historiography. Using techniques such as named entity recognition and network analysis, it reveals internal connections and textual discrepancies to raise new questions about elite politics and political communication in Mao's China. The talk will end with ideas for digital study of modern Chinese history and practical suggestions for research data management in the age of information overload and official surveillance.
Speaker: LU Yi, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, is a historian of modern China, with particular interests in the history of information, material culture, and digital humanities. He graduated from Harvard in 2021 and is currently a Newton International Fellow at the School of Global and Area Studies.
Discussant: Uluğ Kuzuoğlu works and teaches on modern Chinese and global history. He is particularly interested in the history of non-Western information and communication technologies––from printing devices to artificial intelligence––as they relate to social and political imaginations. He teaches in the Department of History at Washington University in St Louis, and received his PhD from Columbia University.
Moderated by JM Chris Chang, Asia in Action / Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
This event is the third in a four-part Asia in Action workshop series, "Remapping the Archives: New Histories of the PRC" at WEAI.
In the present moment, intensifying historical censorship in China–compounded by the lasting impacts of the pandemic–has severed access to the archive as we once knew it. The Modern China field has been forced to reckon with the possibility that access to PRC sources may soon become exceptional, and that its foreclosure portends a post-archival future. What is history without archive, or archive without history? The purpose of this four-part series is to explore promising responses by several scholars to this crisis in the archive, both as a means of illuminating new methodological directions in PRC history as well as reexamining perennial historical questions from a new aspect.