Conference note: Anxieties of abundance: Sources and methods for qing studies in the digital age

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-156
Number of pages4
JournalLate Imperial China
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The fifth panel juxtaposed our own research inclinations and epistemic methods with those of historical subjects and institutions. He Bian’s paper on the literatus Yang Fuji’s work as historical editor and gatekeeper, “Fact-Making in the Margins: Minor Authors and the Collector in Yang Fuji’s Zhaodai Congshu,” raised questions of the influences that shape the historical corpus and the omissions that are possible and impossible to trace. Ting Zhang’s paper on commercial editions of the Qing Code, “The Great Qing Code as Text: Commercial Legal Imprints and the Multiple-Register-Per-Page Printing Format in Late Imperial China,” reminded us of ways to use textual traces to question the assumed dominance of the central state in shaping legal knowledge in the Qing Dynasty. Melissa Macauley’s paper, “Translocal Families and the South China Sea, 1880-1927: Multiscopic Approaches to Global History,” probed the importance of “translocal” experience in Chinese relationships with Southeast Asia, and her presentation reminded the audience that in moving between research projects and theoretical orientations, previously marginal sources (such as, say, colonial archives) can reemerge as revealing vantages. A final closing discussion returned to the problems and possibilities of the “digital age” for Qing history. We asked questions about the relevance of contemporary anxieties about source proliferation and obsolescence for understanding history in general and Qing history in particular. We found productive convergences in speaking of genres and knowledge representation, the politics of abundance and dearth, and the problems of exclusion from knowledge and archives in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Participants freely acknowledged that our individual efforts and collective conversations could not claim to speak comprehensively for the prevalence of new methods and perspectives in the field, eliciting both anxiety and excitement from the group. Perhaps most importantly, from the first panel through the closing discussion, the group agreed that collaboration — from anonymous “crowd-sourcing” to more intimate partnerships — is a necessary and often unrecognized tool when we encounter anxiety, overabundance, and erasure. Participants pledged to share tools and to seek opportunities for collaboration. Anxieties of Abundance was the culminating third iteration of a generous grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation’s InterUniversity Center for Sinology to hold scholarly workshops in Qing studies at Johns Hopkins University. This grant enabled a three-year conversation about framing perspectives, themes, and methods in Qing history, from the early modern (or late imperial?) world through the material and digital turns in historical scholarship and teaching. The workshop additionally received support from the East Asian Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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