BA in History, SUNY Binghamton, 2017
Comparative Analysis of Education and Nationhood in Early Modern China and the West
I am a scholar of Chinese history who is interested in the theme of identity and mobility, education and statehood, globalization and nationalism. My research studies the connection between examination system of the Ming and Qing dynasty (1369-1911) and state legitimacy. I posit that Chinese nationalism of the twentieth century is not just a "modeling" of the West but actually derived from an early modern debate in late imperial China on what constitutes "China" (zhongguo) and what makes someone "Chinese" (zhongguo ren). I suspect that both scholars of nationalism and scholars of Chinese history have underrestimated the strange parallel between the two in their common path toward modernity. While I do not claim a direct equivalent of premodern Chinese "nationalism" and nineteenth century European "nationalism", I share the suspicion of Dr. Victor Lieberman that rather than seeing nationalism as distinctly modern and European phenomenon, newer research shows that nationalism's root can go back to a broader Eurasian phenomonon called "political ethnicity". Nationalism, in turn, is neither ancient and organic as nationalists often claim but also not entirely modern and European. It is often common to see "Europe" as unique and historically destined which prevents us from seeing changes from a global and comparative perspectives.
My philosophy is to look at how the "states", as an unnatural entity in the long human history tend to make active use of formal "education" (another unnatural entity in human history) to achieve legitimacy. I posit that since the rise of mass education in nineteenth century Europe has always been associated with nationalism, an equally vital study must be why China, which had one of the world's largest premodern education systems, did not lead to nationalism? If I find none, I hope my study will show that at least someone have tried and concluded that there was none. However, through intensive investigation of the Chinese examination records, I posit that late imperial Chinese states share the phenotype of their modern European counterparts in terms of a desire for social control which may, though I have yet to conclude, generated a national consciousness the same way education later did in modern Europe. My research will demand both an intensive archival research as well as a maintaining a broad historiographical and multidisciplinary perspectives. I hope any scholars and students interested in this topic will reach out to me so that I can continue to learn and improve from diverse perspectives.