"The Lost Books of Modern China: Moral Censorship and the Preservation of ‘Obscene Texts'” (A Digital Humanities and Modern Chinese Studies Series Talk)
On November 8, the Modern Chinese Culture Seminar welcomed Professor Michel Hockx of University of Notre Dame for two events at UBC. Prof. Hockx’s public lecture, “The Lost Books of Modern China: Moral Censorship and the Preservation of ‘Obscene’ Texts” drew attention to linkages between the craft of writing and its legal context, as well as to the sometimes long-lasting consequences of legal restrictions for the preservation of literary material. His talk illustrated similarities between the 1910s and the digital age in how limits are put on various publications in China. Taking the example of Meiyu 眉語 (Eyebrow Talk), China’s first literary magazine edited for and by women, which was founded in 1914, banned in 1916, reprinted in 2004, and subsequently digitized, Prof. Hockx’s talk focused on obscenity legislation as a relevant context for literary production and preservation throughout the world. He pointed out that while political censorship in China has been studied extensively, the effects of moral taboos and scholarly bias on the preservation of printed material are unknown. He cited evidence that taboos around nudity and sex continue to have a direct impact on decisions made by Chinese scholars, librarians, and digitizers to ignore certain historical source materials, or to treat them in biased ways.
In conjunction with the lecture, Prof. Hockx offered a graduate seminar on November 8 on “Digital Humanities and Modern Chinese Studies.” The seminar, attended by six graduate students, illustrated the potentials and possibilities of circulating and reading Chinese studies texts online. Prof. Hockx and UBC graduate students discussed examples such as the “Chinese Women’s Magazines in the Late Qing and Early Republican Period” (WoMag) digitization project at the University of Heidelberg, archive.org, the Wayback Machine, Google Books’ Ngram viewer, zotero.org, and various citation repositories. He then illustrated how such digital tools could help a research project by giving a brief case study focused on The forgotten poet Wu Xinghua 吳興華 (1921-1966).
Anxieties of Abundance: Sources and Methods for Qing Studies in a Digital Age Workshop
The workshop “Anxieties of Abundance: Sources and Methods for Qing Studies in a Digital Age” met at Johns Hopkins University on October 19-20, 2017. It was the third in a series workshops sponsored annually by the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, with additional support from the East Asian Studies Program at Johns Hopkins.
The workshop brought a diverse group of scholars and library specialists together in order to showcase new materials, media, methods, tools, and questions inspired by the digital age we currently inhabit. Participants came from the University of Leiden, Princeton, the University of Michigan, the University of Kentucky, California Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, William Paterson University, Yale, University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, among others. Program participants represented a range of approaches and disciplines and variety of levels of commitment to or engagement with technology. They presented a total of thirteen papers—plus a lively and thought-provoking closing round table. The panels were titled: “Digital Tools and Technologies for Qing Studies,” “Rethinking the Qing Archive in the 21st Century,” “Classroom and Library in the Digital Age,” “The Historical Body in the Body of Texts,” and “From the Corners to the World—New Perspectives on Familiar Sources.” In a sense, the workshop allowed for a celebration of the state of the field—an anticipation of new trends and directions. At the same time, it also asked participants to grapple with questions of pedagogy and digital access, and to ponder the limitations and advantages of new technological tools and methods. Approximately 35 people participated in all or part of the proceedings, a robust turnout relative to the size of Johns Hopkins’s Asian Studies program.