Organized Panel Session
This innovative panel investigates how historical actors coped with difficult or unfamiliar situations through calibrating their knowledge, changing their identities, or navigating between different social connections. The panelists, specialists in intellectual history, religion, art, cultural criticism, and philosophy, aim to conceptualize the inventive and seemingly unrepeatable coping methods used by agents under constraints across Chinese history.
Drawing from Chinese philosophy, Mercedes Valmisa will open the discussion with a theoretical analysis of contrasting strategies for dealing with agency-limiting circumstances. The case studies presented next will flesh out the initial discussion on philosophy of agency, providing different illustrations of innovative and successful methods of action. Zhao Lu explores how a 19th century Taiwanese literatus, Cai Tinglan, changed identities in his travel back from Vietnam to China after surviving a shipwreck. Hu Xiaobai demonstrates that Mu Chieftains created a new form of hybrid culture that defined the Sino-Tibetan borderland as a convergence zone in the 16th century. In turn, Huang Wen-Yi looks at food as an identity marker and at dieting as a survival strategy during the in the Northern Wei (386-534 CE).
The ten-minute presentations allow most of the time for discussion among panelists and substantial interactions with the audience, as well as a more active role of discussant and chair. As chair, Michelle McCoy will draw from her research on artisans’ stylistic choices under Tangut rule to enrich the debate. The discussant, Fei Siyen, will also contribute insights on how Ming captives in border territories prevailed by disseminating their specialized knowledge.