China’s Mundane Revolution: Cheap Print, Vernacular Knowledge and the Rise of the Common Reader, 1894‒1954
China’s Mundane Revolution is the story of common readers making themselves and becoming practical knowers in a period of monumental epistemic, technological and political change. It started before, endured after, and evolved in the interstices of the Republican, New Culture, Nationalist and Communist Revolutions which have become the major signposts in the history of modern China. It is the stubborn obverse of ongoing efforts on the part of successive regimes to remake ‘the people’ and make new, compliant, global and enlightened citizens. It unfolded at makeshift bookstalls in metropolitan centres and rural towns, between the covers of ‘coarse and slipshod’ daily-use works, and in the life world of factory workers and flower farmers, black smiths and housewives, shop apprentices and rickshaw pullers. It addressed immediate entailments, from curing opium addiction to managing disruptive imported technologies, from treating devastating new diseases to triangulating among Heaven, Nature and Man in grafting both plants and knowledge. While it was attentive to ways of systematically managing the human body, manipulating the natural world, and transforming matter in practically useful ways, it remained adjacent to the new discourse on science (kēxué 科學). Instead, it was governed by its own set of epistemic virtues: pragmatism, efficiency, and verifiability.

Joan Judge is a Professor in the Department of History, York University, Toronto.
Date: 22 February 2024, 17:00 (Thursday, 6th week, Hilary 2024)
Venue: Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Road OX2 6LU
Venue Details: Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre (lower ground floor)
Speaker: Professor Joan Judge (York University, Toronto)
Organising department: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Organisers: Dr Bo-jiun Jing (University of Oxford), Dr Evelyn Chan (University of Oxford), Dr Xiaojing Miao (University of Oxford), Professor Margaret Hillenbrand (University of Oxford), Professor Denise van der Kamp (University of Oxford), Professor Henrietta Harrison (University of Oxford), Dr Chigusa Yamaura (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Host: Professor Henrietta Harrison (University of Oxford)
Part of: China Studies Seminar series
Booking required?: Not required
Cost: Free
Audience: Public
Editor: Clare Orchard