Modern Mobilities in Mainland China

A Review of the Academic Field

in Transfers
Author: Nanny Kim and Xu Tao
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Modern transport history in China is rooted in academic support of the modernization effort. Influential and creative historians of the Republican period (1911–1949) reformulated “mobility history” (交通史) as an academic discipline. Its approaches were inspired by Western historical method as well as sociology and ethnology, but retained the tradition of an erudite consideration of all written texts as potential sources. From the 1950s, however, the field became a rarely visited sideline of history. With the restoration and vigorous expansion of academic research since the 1980s, transport and mobility gradually reemerged as a key interest among historians. By the turn of the century, the number of scholars working in this subdiscipline approached critical mass. In 2009, a group of historians working on railroads founded the Association for the History of Modern Chinese Mobility and Society (中国近代交通社会史研究学会). Jiang Pei 江沛 of Nankai University, Tianjin, was the initiator of the association and organized the first meeting. The second meeting, in 2011, was organized by Ding Xianyong 丁贤勇 of Hangzhou Normal University. The third meeting in fall 2012 will be hosted by Fudan University, Shanghai. The following is a brief survey of the field of mobility studies in mainland China, aiming not for exhaustive completeness but for an introduction to non-Chinese-speaking colleagues.

Transfers

Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies

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