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The Science of Social Order and Human Experience in Modern China

This organized panel session will take place at the 2015 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference in Chicago and will feature the presentation of research articles forthcoming in the History of Science 53.1 special issue on "Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China" (March 2015).


Time: 10:45am to 12:45pm, Saturday, 28 March 2015
Location: Chicago Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Level 2, Ohio

Main Contact: Howard Chiang (


Panel Abstract

Critics have debated about the ongoing tensions within the perceptions of China in Western mainstream discourses: e.g., China as a rising economic superpower versus China as the antithesis of human rights. However, this recent wave of interest in investigating the mutually generative relationship between China and the human has often focused too narrowly on the contemporary period, and thus overlooked those areas of empirical knowledge production that have taken up the question of human organization for centuries. In bringing to light a rich set of perspectives from the history of science, this organized panel constitutes part of a much larger global research network on “China and the Human Sciences: 1600 to the Present” funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom. Specifically, the papers focus on developments in the areas of political science, palaeoanthropology, psychology, family planning, and medical science in twentieth-century China in order to provide a sorely needed historical grounding for current debates on the meaning of being human in Chinese culture. Early career researchers from the U.S., Canada, UK, and Taiwan examine the origins of China’s international relations and interest in human affairs with respect to (1) Republican-era state building and the founding of the Chinese Social and Political Science Association; (2) the indigenization of an internationally-oriented paleoanthropological science; (3) the uneven politics and legacy of Soviet Pavlovianism across different scientific disciplines; and (4) the making of “early love” as a social problem through marriage, family planning, and education reforms.

Session Organizer, Chair, and Discussant: Howard Chiang, University of Warwick

Presentation 1: Changing China with the Western Study of International Relations—Lu Zhengxiang and the Chinese Social and Political Science Association - John Hsien-Hsiang Feng, University of Cambridge

Presentation 2: From Paleoanthropology in China to Chinese Paleoanthropology: Science, Imperialism, and Nationalism in North China, 1920-39 - Hsiao-pei Yen, Academia Sinica

Presentation 3: Pavlovianism in China: Politics and Differentiation across Scientific Disciplines in the Maoist Era - Zhipeng Gao, York University

Presentation 4: Too Young to Date: The Making of Zaolian (Early Love) As a Social Problem in Twentieth Century China - Yubin Shen, Georgetown University


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