Empire of Hygiene and the Popularization Movement of Science: From the Late Qing to the Republic of China (1873-1945)
Issue 2: Empire of Hygiene and the Popularization Movement of Science: From the Late Qing to the Republic of China (1873-1945)
Proposed by Yuehtsen Juliette Chung at the Institute of History, National Tsing-Hua University, this project analyzes the Chinese craft of governance from the late Qing to the Republic era from the perspectives of the history of public hygiene and the popularization movement of science. It examines the ways in which such a craft of governance intervenes in the lives of the people through knowledge production and material techniques.
Two objects of study are included in this project: (1) The archives of customs related to the history of public hygiene and local histories of hygiene; and (2) journals including Kexue huabao (Journal of Science) and Kexue de zhongguo (Scientific China), as well as collections of letters and memoirs. The former addresses two kinds of epistemology respectively in the history of late Qing public hygiene and the history of national/international geopolitics, and the latter the movement about the popularization of science during the Republic era. During the late Qing, the China gradually transformed itself from a tianchao (the heavenly state) mentality to a nation-state consciousness that regarded itself as one nation among many others. China learned to get along with foreign countries through the establishment of customs, so did China, similar to other modern nation-states, learn to confirm its authority of governance through “number management” and controlling the mobility of its population. Such a process enables the government of the nation-state to establish a platform of exercising power, through which the nation-state would be able to manage health, fertility, economy, and social security of the entire society. These materialized techniques of governance of the nation-state, in turn, rationalizes the means of execution of the state apparatus. The government thereby selects, identifies, and controls the governable and the ungovernable, the fit and the misfit, and the welcomed and the unwelcomed.
The quarantine measures recorded in the archives of customs and local histories of hygiene reveals that the unwanted individuals or diseases were prevented from passing the borders into the country. Means of monitoring, excluding, or enforcing punishment on targets of suspicion were utilized alongside the borders. Eugenics, at the same time, selects superior individuals who would be trained into qualified citizens through internal surveillance on the other side of the borders. These two means, externally and internally, constitute the bio-technology of modern governance. In the Chinese context, the concept of “internal borders” helps us understand the reasons why and the process in which the quarantine system at the customs insisted on sovereignty and self-identified with the nation-state. As for the popularization movement of science in the 1930s, this project examines journals such as Kexue huabao and Kexue de zhongguo that demonstrate how the common people, especially women, were able to obtain easily some scientific knowledge through self-teaching, casual reading, and household experiments, as well as acquire the ordinary technology of consumption, all without entering research institutions to be professionally trained as an academic.