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LRCCS Noon Lecture Series | Digital Perspectives on Middle-Period Chinese Political History

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
12:00 AM
Room 1636 School of Social Work Building

In twelfth-century Song China governmental control over current information circulated orally, in manuscript, and print became stricter. At the same time, the private and commercial publication of state documents, court news, and recent history grew exponentially. The former aspect, censorship, has received much attention in Chinese Studies. Professor de Weerdt  proposes that both aspects, secrecy and publicity, need to be understood together, and she  will reflect on the causes for central and local governments’ ambivalent stance towards the circulation of archival materials and current affairs and their longer-term consequences on imperial Chinese political culture.

She argues, in part on the basis of digital analyses of notebooks and letters, that the paradigmatic shift towards localism amongst political elites in the twelfth century was accompanied by a structural transformation in political communication between court and provincial elites. This transformation was characterized by the dissemination of shared political imaginaries based on territorial claims and the consolidation of the position of the literati or cultural elites as the main producers and consumers of history and current affairs texts. Special consideration will be given to the question of how we can trace and analyze communication networks and political networking and their role in the history of Chinese polities.

Hilde De Weerdt is Professor of Chinese History at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. Prior to this she taught at King’s College London (Reader in Chinese History, 2012-13), Oxford University (University Lecturer/Associate Professor in Chinese History, 2007-2012) and Pembroke College (Fellow, 2007-2012), and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (Assistant Professor of Chinese History, 2002-2007). She wrote an intellectual history of the civil service examinations, titled, Competition over Content: Negotiating Standards for the Civil Service Examinations in Imperial China (1127-1276) (Harvard University Asia Center, 2007). Her research focuses on the question of how social networks shaped Chinese politics. Her interests in intellectual and political history, information technologies, social networks, and digital research methods have also led to her involvement in several comparative and digital humanities projects including “Communication and Empire: Chinese Empires in Comparative Perspective” (funded by the European Research Council, 2012-17) and “DID-ACTE: Digging into Data: Automating Chinese Text Extraction” (funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Joint Information Systems Committee, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2014-2016). She is the co-editor of Knowledge and Text Production in an Age of Print--China, Tenth-Fourteenth Centuries (Brill, 2011). Her most recent book, Information, Territory, and Networks: The Crisis and Maintenance of Empire in Song China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2015), takes a fresh look at the question of how the ideal of the unified territorial state took hold in Chinese society.

Professor de Weerdt will also be giving a public presentation in the gallery space of the U-M Hatcher Library at 10am Monday, April 4, 2016.