Arunabh Ghosh is a historian of modern China, with research and teaching interests in social and economic history, history of science and statecraft, transnational history, and China-India history.
Ghosh’s first book, entitled “Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the early People’s Republic of China, 1949-1959,” is under contract with Princeton University Press. In addition to working on Trans-Himalayan Science, he has also begun a project on the history of Chinese dam-building in the twentieth century. Articles and essays have appeared (or are forthcoming) in the Journal of Asian Studies, BJHS-Themes, Osiris and the PRC History Review. Trained at Haverford College and at Tsinghua and Columbia universities, Ghosh joined the Harvard History Department in 2015 from the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, where he was an Academy Scholar for the 2014-15 AY.
This project is a study of statistics, demography, and state-society relations in the first decade of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). For China, the 1950s was characterized by an increasingly post-colonial and post-revolutionary world order, where the imperative to create accurate and scientific statistical systems as constituent parts of a technology of governance jostled with the political and ideological divides of capitalism and communism, and where relations between people and the state were being remolded, re-articulated, or fashioned entirely anew. Three sets of inter-related questions drive this project: the first set investigates the nature and extent to which the revolution re-shaped statistical sciences in the 1950s; the second set expands demography’s traditional concerns and examines how new systems and methods of statistical data collection affected the relationship between state and society; and the third set, by focusing on links between Chinese and Indian statisticians during the 1950s, explores regional networks of scientific exchange that potentially provided alternatives to Cold War choices. This project contributes to our understanding of the history of statistical science and of statecraft in 1950s China, and also expands our understanding of regional connections of the era. It examines the heretofore neglected process of the collection of demographic data, an initiative that was critical to the success of key projects of the early PRC. It demands that we look beyond the year 1949 as a key boundary-marker in the 20th century historiography of China, and appraise lines of continuity in the history of social science research in China. It allows us to read beyond a Cold War logic of China's revolutionary experiment, which pits China and the Soviet Union on one side and the West on the other, and to recognize the importance of the circulation of ideas and technologies not circumscribed by such logic.