By Tong Lam
During this path-breaking booklet, Tong Lam examines the emergence of the "culture of truth" in glossy China, exhibiting how elites and intellectuals sought to remodel the dynastic empire right into a countryside, thereby making sure its survival. Lam argues that an epistemological cut loose from conventional modes of figuring out the observable global begun round the flip of the 20 th century. Tracing the Neo-Confucian tuition of evidentiary study and the fashionable departure from it, Lam exhibits how, during the upward thrust of the social survey, "the truth" grew to become a uncomplicated conceptual medium and resource of fact. In concentrating on China's social survey circulation, a fondness for proof analyzes how details generated by way of more than a few study practices--census, sociological research, and ethnography--was mobilized by way of competing political factions to visualize, deal with, and remake the state.
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Extra resources for A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900-1949 (Asia Pacific Modern)
The passion for collecting facts about China eventually led to a social survey movement that peaked in the 1920s and 1930s, when competing political factions and intellectual parties used surveys to assemble the empirical contents of the social world that they were striving to construct and govern. evidential practices in early modern china and europe For those who are familiar with imperial Chinese history, Euro-American assertions that the Chinese possessed little empirical knowledge about themselves and their empire certainly sound preposterous.
48 Lam, A Passion for Facts 16 / 8/18/11 12:58 PM Page 16 Introduction Ironically, since practitioners of social surveys sought not only to describe and document the social world but also to prescribe and construct that social world according to their own visions, the truth claims they made were anything but transcendent, impartial, and universal. What these competing survey projects ended up producing was therefore not a shared and unified new vision of China but a Babel of facts, a cultural scene that was no less bewildering than the political and ideological atmosphere of the period.
21 In no uncertain terms, Farr used the desire for conquest as a metaphor to articulate the desire to use statistical facts to establish a global order. His critique of the Chinese census, or the lack of thereof, far more so than Samuel Wells Williams’s similar observation made a few decades earlier, ominously Lam, A Passion for Facts 8/18/11 12:58 PM Page 27 The Rise of the Fact / 27 spelled out the underlying logic of statistics as a discursive intervention in the age of colonialism and industrial capitalism.