Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, History, California State University / San Diego State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2000
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Indiana University / Bloomington
Of Dry Bones and Railroads: Disparate Cultural Responses to Famine in North China, 1876-79

This dissertation will focus on Chinese cultural responses to trauma, particularly to the North China Famine that killed over nine million Chinese between 1876 and 1879. By first placing the narrative conventions displayed in Chinese writings about famine within the broader cultural context of late Qing China and then comparing these descriptive modes to nineteenth century Western depictions of famine, I will show how culture and language shape the manner in which a particular society responds to disaster. I will address questions such as what Chinese observers of famine considered to be effective responses to disaster, what culturally specific images Chinese writers used to describe famine, and how Chinese structured their memories of famine in order to draw meaning from such devastation. In my exploration of the ·communally shared repertoire of Chinese responses to and descriptions of famine as recorded in local gazetteers, family handbooks, folk songs, and imperial records, I plan to examine how famine accounts both upheld and challenged late Qing institutions and visions of a moral society.

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