Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/228478
Title: DOWNSTREAM KNOWLEDGE ‘REFRACTIONS’: THE EPISTEMIC AGENCY OF ZOU TAOFEN AND THE SHENGHUO READERS IN REPUBLICAN SHANGHAI (1925–1931)
Authors: CALVIN HENG KEE HANG
Keywords: Zou Taofen, Epistemic Agency, Refractions, Downstream Intellectuals, Democracy
Education
Progressive Family-Gender Ideas
Republican Shanghai
Modern Chinese Intellectual History
Social History of Ideas
Qing-Republican Knowledge Circulations
Epistémè Shift
Issue Date: 30-Mar-2022
Citation: CALVIN HENG KEE HANG (2022-03-30). DOWNSTREAM KNOWLEDGE ‘REFRACTIONS’: THE EPISTEMIC AGENCY OF ZOU TAOFEN AND THE SHENGHUO READERS IN REPUBLICAN SHANGHAI (1925–1931). ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This thesis is situated within the wider literature of modern Chinese intellectual history, a field animated by an interest in the Qing-Republican épistémè shift, during which China underwent fundamental socio-political changes following gradual exposure to Western modernity. Most scholars have undertaken one of three approaches (intellectual, agentive, socio-political) to examine how upstream elite intellectuals, hailing from the Self-Strengthening (1861–95) up to the May Fourth Movement (1915–25), exercised epistemic agency vis-à-vis Western ideas. A smaller but growing body of scholarship instead tracked knowledge circulations further downstream to the grassroots, with a focus on post-May Fourth public sphere responses to cause célèbres, corporate diffusion of ideas, and new-style textbook publishing. This thesis contributes to these rich downstream investigations by examining broader socio-political ideas, namely democracy. Applying a “social history of ideas” methodology, this thesis undertakes a case study of Shanghai-based journalist-editor Zou Taofen (1895–1944) and the primarily working-class readers of his newspaper, Shenghuo (Life Weekly) from 1925–31. Applying the metaphor of refractions, I argue that just as a ray would change directions twice as it enters and exits a medium, Zou exercised a twofold epistemic agency: first, by localising received knowledge through interpretation and/or synthesis with other systems of knowledge; and second, by curating the inflected knowledge with specific target audiences in mind. Similarly, his readers exercised second-order epistemic agency by critically evaluating Zou’s inflected ideas. Inquiring into their treatment of political democracy alongside the cognate themes of democratised education and progressive family-gender ideas (through the editorials, paratext, and Reader’s Mailbox correspondence column respectively), this thesis concludes that both Zou and his readers independently internalised said ideas on their own terms. More generally, it makes a substantiated case for analysing two-stage ‘refractions’, expanding the scope of Chinese intellectual history, and investigating further into downstream social histories of ideas.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/228478
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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