University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Knowledge across Borders: The Early Communication of Evolutionism in China

Knowledge across Borders: The Early Communication of Evolutionism in China

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  • UserDr. Yang Haiyan, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Humanities at Peking University, Visiting Scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.
  • ClockWednesday 18 May 2011, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseCombination Room, Wolfson College.

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New communication technologies and material forms of knowledge-exchange, particularly mass-circulation periodicals, played a huge part in the active introduction, appropriation and discussion of Darwin and evolutionism in China, from the turn of the twentieth century to the first decades of Republican China. This talk will first consider the Chinese encounter with Darwin and evolutionism at the turn of the twentieth century, and show how overwhelming concerns with the problems of human physical and social evolution shaped the earliest translation and interpretation of evolutionary texts, and how new ways of communication conveyed those concerns through evolutionary slogans. Second, it will illustrate how discussions and debates about evolutionism were carried on during the first decades of Republican China, through a flourishing and modernized journalism. In this period the transmission of knowledge and opinion was characteristically prompt (e.g., the coverage of the Scopes Trial in 1925) and diversified (e.g., the discussions of alternative mechanisms to Darwin’s selection theory), and reflected the position and judgment of Chinese themselves. An effort is made to portray the Chinese experience as one of active discussion and creative debate within the fabric of global communications about Darwin and evolutionism. This experience not only demonstrates the inadequacy of the view that China was a static, passive recipient of impact from a dynamic West; it also reminds us that Chinese agencies of change must be located and understood within a global context.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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