China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

(119) Disasters and the Reimagining of Modern China

3/23/2018
12:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: Madison B, Mezzanine Level

Far from externalities disrupting normal life, disasters and disaster planning became constitutive elements of modern China’s social organization and historical imagination. Yet studies have only begun to grapple with this fact. Depending on the particular circumstances in which disasters occurred or were expected to occur, Chinese leaders, scientists, and bureaucrats used different frames to mediate the meanings of disaster and in the process produced new subjectivities and ways of knowing and organizing society and the world. Using insights from cultural history, environmental history, and science and technology studies, this panel examines three understudied disasters (earthquakes, wartime bombing, and typhoons) at extraordinary junctures in Chinese history (late Qing national humiliation, the threat of China’s demise in WWII, and mass mobilization under Mao) to examine how they were appropriated to refashion notions of history, nation, and community, and effect social change. 

Daniel Hausmann looks at how the introduction of the earthquake table fissured dynastic notions of time and buttressed a national history of suffering in the early Republic. John B. Thompson examines how unpredictable destruction by Japanese bombs in World War II Chongqing led planners to a new technocratic view of Chinese society as a network of crucial industrial and social functions arranged in physical space. As Clark Alejandrino shows, modern meteorology and mass mobilization in 1950s Guangdong transformed local organizations and understandings against typhoons while legitimizing Communist rule.  Judith Shapiro and Grace Shen, who have worked on the history of Chinese disasters and science, are discussant and chair respectively.

Presentations:

Clark L. Alejandrino

Georgetown University, District of Columbia

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Grace Y. Shen

Fordham University, New York

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    Clark L. Alejandrino

    Georgetown University, District of Columbia

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    John B. Thompson

    Columbia University, Ohio

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    Daniel Hausmann

    University of Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany

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    Judith Shapiro

    American University, District of Columbia

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