Since the 1990s, inspired by Foucault’s theorization of the Euro-centric capitalism and nation-building from the early modern period onwards, historians and anthropologists in Asian studies have attempted to apply same methodology to the studies over the relation between power and knowledge in Asia. That path has led to mixed results and is now increasingly subject to revisionist criticism. Among the problems arisen therefrom, history features prominently. Indeed, Asia and Europe experienced very different history latest since the early modern period. Many key concepts in Foucauldian studies must be realigned and re-examined in Asian context. This panel focus on the invention of a specific kind of knowledge in China from the early modern onward. This kind of knowledge, the expertise, is invented and monopolized by self-assumed specialists who aim to stabilize their authority over a certain field of knowledge via association with political power.
The three presenters will explore (1) how the knowledge of proper taste became an expertise by a group of self-assumed gourmets in early modern China; (2) how lawfulness was invented and mobilized by law-experts to legitimize business transaction as part of their modernity discourse since the modern period; (3) how newness is being branded in present day to proclaim the future of China. These three papers pinpoint three critical periods in Chinese history from around 1600 onward. That history differs fundamental from the European in several key themes, such as the absence of the rise of nation states in early modern China, the underdevelopment of capitalism in modern China, and the hyper-combination of nation-state and capitalism in contemporary China. These differences, in our opinions, do matter in rethinking the invention of expertise in China from the early modern onwards, in a way essentially different from European experience.