China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Political histories of the late Qing and early Republican periods have often featured the chaotic decline of the Manchu and Beijing governments while the country headed towards inevitable revolution and authoritarianism. This comparative transregional panel instead takes a bottom-up approach, highlighting communities that often created alternative, idiosyncratic forms of governance, based on local norms.
The first paper by Joohee Suh discusses disputes over collective cemeteries in late Qing Shanghai as a way to respond to the newly emerging discourse of self-governance and local autonomy. Turning to the rural society of the Yangzi delta, Ruochen Chen shows how the story of Nanxun as a commercial center tells us about the continuous interaction and mutual reinforcement between local agency and state institutions in the last half-century of Qing rule. Sarah Yu’s paper demonstrates that the regional autonomy of Shanxi, away from influence from Beijing, facilitated the province’s ability not only to deal with epidemic disease crises, but also create a functioning and effective public health infrastructure. Focusing on private gun ownership in early Republican Guangdong, Lei Duan studies how the flow of modern firearms from the late nineteenth century transformed power structures in local society, accelerated local militarization, and eventually facilitated local autonomy.
Collectively, these papers reappraise the effectiveness and significance of local, community-focused autonomy, and devote much-needed attention to these initiatives.
Paper Presenter: Joohee Suh – Xavier University
Paper Presenter: Ruochen Chen – Washington University in St. Louis
Paper Presenter: Sarah X. Yu – University of Pennsylvania
Paper Presenter: Lei Duan – Arizona State University