As part of the Joint Center for Advanced Studies “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective”, the project “Epochal Life Worlds” promotes academic exchange and dialogue between Chinese and German researchers through a fellowship program. Outstanding Chinese academics are given the opportunity to participate in the project during a Visiting Fellowship of up to several months at Heidelberg University. Scholars from various disciplines in Germany can receive Research Fellowships for field or archival research in China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan as well as research stays at Heidelberg. The fellowship program is aimed at academics whose research can contribute to the project.
Call for applications:
The Center is currently looking for applications for the Fellowship Program 2022. (Application deadline: October 10, 2021) For further information and questions, please visit the website of the Joint Center for Advanced Studies or contact Xiaojie Chang: xiaojie.chang[at]zo.uni-heidelberg.de
PD Dr. habil. Phillip Grimberg (Long-Term Fellow)
Phillip Grimberg is a cultural historian specializing in the material cultures of late Imperial and contemporary China. He studied Chinese Studies and International Law at Universities in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and China (Beijing, Hangzhou). After receiving his PhD in 2014 he held several research and teaching positions at different institutions (Bonn, Frankfurt, Erlangen, Naples, Heidelberg). In 2021 he completed his Habilitation in Chinese Studies at the University of Erlangen where he serves as an Adjunct Professor. Currently, he is a Permanent Fellow at the Joint Center for Advanced Studies "Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China".
Guwantu - The "Illustrated Inventory of Ancient Playthings" of the Yongzheng Emperor (1723-1735). A Study of Courtly Collecting Practices and Documentation during the Qing Period
The subject of the study is the pictorial scroll B/C-8 from 1729 held in London's Victoria and Albert Museum, one of two extant inventories worldwide illustrating part of the Yongzheng Emperor's art collections. The Guwantu, which were probably commissioned as a series and may have consisted of at least eight, possibly as many as 24 individual scrolls, are illustrated inventories of ancient as well as contemporary works of art, curios and other objects from the emperor's possession. The picture scroll B/C-8 presents itself as a mounted hand scroll (64 cm x 2648 cm) with 255 listed objects, cabinets and cupboards depicted in ink and colour. The aim of the project is to identify the inventory of the scroll, to collect statements about the function of the Guwantu and to present the emperor's associated collecting and ruling practices. The project, located at the interface of China-related art and cultural history, is guided by three hypotheses. Dr Grimberg assumes that, in contrast to earlier catalogue works, the Guwantu primarily served not to inventory but rather to visually document the collected artefacts as a representative expression of the collector's "care" for his objects. He sees the ontological side of the objects and their performative, constructive and constitutive power as the guiding idea here. Dr Grimberg then assumes that the objects depicted in the scrolls are material representations of the concept of "tianxia", i.e. the universal concept of empire and rule of the Chinese imperial state. The material aspect of rule, such as the possession and use of sacred or mystically connoted objects that were reserved for the ruler alone, also had a long tradition in China. Thus it seems only logical that the Yongzheng emperor sought to identify himself as the supreme scholar, preserver and guardian of the culture of his empire through the possession of extraordinary objects (including porcelains with dragon decoration or antique bronze vessels from prominent previous possessions) and to legitimise his rule through these objects, among other things. On the basis of a detailed analysis of the scroll B/C-8 and the objects listed there, the emperor's collecting is presented as an expression of political action. According to the third hypothesis, the Guwantu are not illustrated inventories for object management, but individual, detailed and naturalistic portraits of the objects depicted there, which were intended to interact with the viewer as "action carriers" and thus form "networks".
In the first step of the study, both the role of B/C-8 and the objects depicted are described and analysed in detail, using the tried and tested tools. The text-critical evaluation of relevant passages of the memorandum and edict collections, which are available in modern editions, is aimed, among other things, at defining more precisely the genesis of the Guwantu and the role of Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), the Jesuit priest from Milan, who was even to rise to the position of court painter under the Qianlong emperor, as "object portraitist". Subsequently, documents from the archives of the imperial workshops, which are available in digital form, are evaluated with a view to the artists involved from Castiglione's circle and the provenance of the role is discussed anew. In particular, the period before the purchase by Captain Rivett-Carnac in the first decade of the 20th century is examined and - on the basis of the archival material of the Imperial Court Office - it is clarified whether the Guwantu were originally kept in the Yuanmingyuan Summer Palace and stolen in the course of the burning of the palace by British and French troops in October 1860. It can be assumed that the remaining scrolls were lost in the flames.
Funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung (https://www.fritz-thyssen-stiftung.de/fundings/guwantu).
Prof. Yiman Wang (June – August, 2023)
Yiman Wang is Professor of Film & Digital Media and Kenneth R. Corday Family Presidential Chair in Writing for Television & Film (2022-2025) at University of California, Santa Cruz. She is author of Remaking Chinese Cinema: Through the Prism of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Hollywood (2013). Her NEH-supported monograph on Anna May Wong, the pioneer Chinese American screen-stage-television performer, is forthcoming.
She is co-editor of the Global East Asian Screen Cultures book series published by Bloomsbury, and has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes on topics of Chinese cinema, independent documentary, ethnic border-crossing stardom, ecocinema, film remakes and adaptation.
Mediating Climate Change in P. R. China
This project looks at looks at how China’s climate policies and practices have been depicted and narrated, and how a future environment has been envisioned in Chinese-language live action and animated media works from the socialist era to the present day. The climate discourses produced by these media works cover a wide spectrum, from resource utilization (e.g., maximizing the affordances of different agricultural climate regions), terra-engineering strategies (e.g. the tree-planting campaigns to remedy local environmental degradations), to global environmentalism (e.g. planetary collaboration on sustainable growth), and apocalypse (e.g. speculative presentation of mass species extinction and environmental devastation). This project examines how these diverse climate imaginaries have been presented and constructed with film and media technologies since the socialist era. By juxtaposing archival footage and historical science education films with the present-day media works, I aim to address four sets of questions. First, I delineate what the media works tell us about the shifting understandings of human-environment relationships across space and history, and how such understandings both give rise to specific policies and practices and might also come to be questioned as a result of such practices. Second, I ask how different media technologies, modes of production, and audience interactions facilitate the construction of certain climate discourses while obstructing others. Third, I consider the ways in which photochemical media technologies have been adapted to local weather conditions (such as lighting and humidity), suggesting that mediamaking itself constitutes micro-scale yet consequential environmental practices. Fourth, I study how these Chinese-language audiovisual media works interact with similar films produced in other countries so as to place China’s climate imaginaries in an interconnected and comparative framework that governs not only the well-recognized age of globalization but also the supposedly divided Cold War era. My project conjoins environmental humanities, film and media studies (especially ecocinema studies), and China studies to illuminate the mutual constitution between audiovisual media and climate imaginaries. I suggest that mediamaking and climate practices are intertwined and analogous. They both rely on time unfolding at variant speeds to produce continuity, change, crisis, and responses. Pairing media and climate practices can, therefore, offer us a new framework for grappling with the history and future of our escalating climate change, and the roles humanist scholars could play by innovating ways of mediating climate change and worldmaking.
Dr. Jamie Wang (July 2023)
Jamie Wang is an Environmental Humanities researcher, writer and poet. She is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong. Jamie’s current research and writing are at the intersections of environmental humanities, cultural studies, urban geography and more-than-human studies in the context of urban imaginary, climate change and environmental injustice. Her book project ‘Reimagining the more-than-human City’ (under contract with the MIT Press) explores the making of the urban environment from a more-than-human perspective – from green spaces and housing development projects, to transportation, water infrastructure, and urban agriculture, with a geographical focus on Singapore. For more information, please visit https://jamiewang.org/.
Cities of Many worlds—Narratives of futures
We are living in a period characterised by escalating effects of climate change, intense urbanisation and environmental degradation. Amidst these growing uncertainties, there is a growing desire to build eco-futuristic and sustainable urban environments through technological advances. From the mushrooming of eco-cities, smart cities to the circulation of high-tech urban solutions, the kind of sustainable narratives dominated (and fuelled) by technocratic and capital-intensive approaches without sacrificing economic development has been visualised as the way to move forward.
This new project seeks to respond directly to these challenging contexts, exploring the way in which a broader interdisciplinary Environmental Humanities approach may offer new, better insights into the complex human-environment-urban relations. The project seeks to draw material, cultural and technological narratives into conversations as a way to understand, and to expand the perceptions of worlds and world-making practices. Specifically, the project will examine diverse material-semiotic imaginings of the urban worlds that emerges from, and/or responds to epochal catastrophes. How might these narratives intra-act and co-shape the futures of cities? What kind of possibilities of world-making might open up if we foreground a more-than-human perspective to rethink the shared responsibilities and futures in a climate-changed world?
Dr. Hao Chen (June 14 - July 15, 2023)
I was educated at Peking University (B.H., 2005. Ph.D., 2011), and a faculty member at Department of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine of Peking University now. For research, I seek to put categories like medical identities, diseases and illnesses, body and environment to the linguistical and historical context of East Asia with trans-linguistical and historical analysis. In recent five years, I focus on the fluidity and non-lineage connections between the human body and animal body, society and environment, the local and the global in our current age of uncertainty and crisis.
Non-human Animals in a Human Pandemic: Entangled Histories
This project will use COVID-19 to demonstrate the fluid, non-linear, and interactive associations intertwining human and non-human animals, body and landscape, local and global ecology in the process of the pandemic. Recognizing the associations, hopefully, will make us to go through this pandemic in a different way, in which non-human animals and the ecological system can recover along with us.
Dr. Hailian Chen (May – June, 2023)
Hailian Chen is an engineer-sinologist trained at the Universities of Tsinghua and Tübingen. Her research has explored the early modern history of mining practices and the Confucian governance of resources (zinc, coal, and human resources). She is the author of Zinc for Coin and Brass: Bureaucrats, Merchants, Artisans, and Mining Laborers in Qing China, ca. 1680s–1830s (Leiden: Brill, 2019), and several peer-reviewed articles on the conceptual and institutional history of technology/art in China. She has taught various courses on modern China at the University of Trier and worked as a research fellow on a DFG-Project, “Monies, Markets and Finance in China and East Asia” at the University of Tübingen. She is currently working at the University of Leipzig as the principal investigator of a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) that examines the history of technical education in China.
Technology for Re-engineering Modern China: A Conceptual and Institutional History of Arts in the Long Nineteenth Century
Technology mattered. Driven by Western imperialism, the late Qing reformers embarked on a new path towards institutionalizing technology-related matters for attaining China’s technological independence. For developing manufacturing and educational enterprises, the learning of arts with hands-on practice and their (re)placement in society posed fundamental challenges to the deep-seated Confucian values and traditions in ordering the world. My worldmaking project examines the hitherto ignored non-static concept of technology in the making of modern China. This project addresses how technology—in its traditional term, art—entered Chinese intellectual discourses and became a legitimate field in the educational system, and how Confucian scholars, missionaries, official-industrialists, and overseas-trained Chinese and foreign engineers at the global intellectual frontier articulated their thoughts toward arts and practiced their ideas for re-ordering Chinese society. It makes a paradigm shift in our narratives towards Chinese intellectual transformation by focusing on practical and specialized actors (versus conventional humanist intellectuals). Also, by unearthing previously overlooked conceptual revolution of yi (art) in late nineteenth century China, my project illuminates a crucial shift from art to technology (as well as science and politics), rather than merely the one-sided narrative from art to fine arts in modern China. It adds a new dimension to our understanding of China’s modernization processes, revolutions, and renaissance before and beyond the New Culture Movement (1915–1925).
Dr. Maxime Cedric Decaudin (May 15 – July 15, 2023)
Dr Maxime Decaudin is a Senior Lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Situated at the intersection of landscape studies and environmental history, his research examines the historical agency of nature in Asian contexts. In 2021, he completed a PhD in Art History at Sorbonne Université titled ‘A Barren Rock’: An Environmental History of Hong Kong Landscapes under British Colonization, 1794-1898. Prior to joining NUS, Maxime taught at the University of Hong Kong for ten years.
Inventing the ‚Barren Rock‘: The Environmental Origin of Hong Kong’s Colonial Myths
The history of Hong Kong is often captured by the tale of a miraculous transformation of an island once considered a 'barren rock' into a flourishing port and an international financial hub. Hard work, audacious business perspicacity, technological progress, and infrastructural development supposedly enabled to overcome a naturally inhospitable and unpromising environment. This project proposes to investigate the historical intersections between Hong Kong's drastic environmental transformations and the production of narratives of change, improvement, and progress during the colonial era. It will explore the interplay between world-making and world-narration, how the apparent inhospitality of the island, and in particular the absence of forest, generated tales of economic success and colonial benevolence, and the role of cultural productions in linking the bareness of the landscape with political legitimacy. The taking of Hong Kong in 1841 was an epoch-making moment in terms of international relations and European supremacy over the Chinese empire, but also had environmental consequences. The topography, heat, rice paddy fields, and diseases threatened to end the British military and commercial enterprise, but the rapid influx of inhabitants almost immediately exceeded the ecological carrying capacity of the island. The goal is to identify the numerous intersections between the series of drastic material transformations of the indigenous environment (world-making) such as reclamation, drainage, and afforestation, and the discursive consolidation of colonial legitimacy around narratives of technological and economic progress conveyed through political propaganda and cultural productions.
Dr. Yan Gao (June 1 – 30, 2023)
Yan Gao is a historian of late imperial and modern China. Growing up in Wuhan, China, she has been fascinated by the water issues of her native place and the world. She specializes in social and environmental history of central Yangzi region, water history, and Asian environmental humanities. Her first book Yangzi Waters, published by Brill, examines water management and environmental changes in late imperial central China. She continues to write about the Yangzi River, and expands her research interest to human-animal relations and climate humanities. Her current project explores the interactions of social and climate systems in the central Yangzi valley from the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. She obtained her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University. She was a Carson fellow at the Rachel Carson Center and conducted research at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and Duke University. She is teaching at the University of Memphis.
Yangzi Worlds: Crisis and the Making of an Age of Uncertainty
This project studies the 1870 Yangzi flood and its world-making effects from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Tentatively titled as “Yangzi Worlds,” I look into the climate events in the 1870s and how local communities responded to climatic anomalies and their aftermath. Through researching on extensive writings on the Yangzi River and its valley, including official anthologies, local archives and travel logs, this project reveals an age of exploration on the Yangzi and its valley from the 1870s onwards. It draws on the theoretical discussion of “worldmaking” and examines the linguistic representations of the environments of the Yangzi region in those writings. In so doing, it analyzes the different worlds of the Yangzi that were construed by various agencies, ranging from human groups, to water, sediments, plants and animals. This project provides a multi-faceted history of the Yangzi River and its valley, understood through intertwined makings of social, natural and climate systems.
Prof. Ziqiang Han (Juni 1 – 30, 2023)
Ziqiang Han is a full professor at the School of Political Science and Public Administration Shandong University. His research primarily focuses on disaster and emergency management from the social and behavioral science perspective. Dr.Han graduated from the Disaster Science and Management Program at the Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, United States. His current research covers the public opinion and narratives of public policy related to emergency management, urban and community resilience building, and the professional development of the emergency management workforce and first responders.
Narratives of Extreme Weather and Floods in EU, China, and the United States
How do the media and social media frame the extreme weather and floods in the EU (Germany), China, and the United States (New York) that occurred in the summer of 2021? This is the main research question I will investigate. I collect news reports and social media posts regarding these extreme weather events and disasters that occurred in 2021 in multiple countries. The accountability attributions and crisis learnings in the public discourse will be mainly investigated.
Prof. Dr. Shen Hou (mid-June – August, 2023)
Dr. Shen Hou is professor of environmental history in History Department, Peking University, Beijing. She was a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in 2011 and 2013. She is the author of The City Natural: Garden and Forest Magazine and the Rise of American Environmentalism (English, 2013), and Cities without Walls: Nature and Urban Places in American History (Chinese, 2021). She is currently finishing a book on Boston’s environmental history and working on a book project about coastal cities.
From Fishing Village to Modern City: Contrasting Narratives about the Making of Qingdao, China
Qingdao was the first and only German colony in the Far East, established in 1898 when China was undergoing a profound change from a self-sufficient, ethnocentric, agrarian empire into a globally connected modern state. Historians have offered political, economic, cultural, and military analysis of it, but they have not paid enough attention to the human relationship with nature and the environment. Qingdao is a good place to investigate the upheaval that colonization brought to the old ecological order. Germany’s invasion became a huge challenge to the people living on that sandy peninsula, who were driven toward modernization and urbanization. Many gave up their fisherman’s identity, their old connection to the sea. This project aims to explore the German and Chinese narratives of transformation before and after a city rose there—narratives focused on local livelihood and ancient ecological relations versus new relations the Germans introduced.
For more than two thousand years, the peninsula had been regarded as marginal land, uninteresting to a distant state as a source of tribute because of its poor soil condition, low-level agriculture, and shortage of big rivers linking it to inland cities. The descriptions offered by both Chinese and Germans visiting the place echoed one another: “sterile,” “bleak,” “desolate”. Yet the Germans imagined a glowing future for the place based on their technological confidence, overseas trade ambition, and appealing temperate, sunny seacoast. For them, this desolate site could become a modern city by the sea, a powerful aesthetic resource.
A crisis ensued for many locals-- a sense of loss as the natural environment they had relied on was reshaped and reinterpreted by the invaders. The Germans came to this old land to build a modern world and life at the expense of a scattering of fishing villages. That ambition was not completely resisted by the locals, but their adjustment over time could be called traumatic.
Dr. Shaw-Yu Pan (May – July, 2023)
Shaw-Yu Pan is an associate professor of Chinese literature at National Taiwan University (NTU). She received both her MA and PhD degrees from the Department of Chinese Literature, NTU, during which time she obtained another MA in Comparative Literature from University College London and a Fulbright Visiting Fellowship for her research at the EALC, Harvard University (2005-2006). She worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica (2009-2010).
Her research field centers around translation studies, literature and popular culture from late Qing and early Republican periods. She began with the studying of representative Chinese translators in early twentieth century, such as Lin Shu and Zhou Shoujuan, and expanded to the modern discourses and practices of romantic love in China, for example, the writing and distributing of love letters. She has also examined cases of the complex relationship between Victorian popular literature and Chinese literature.
Her recent research project focuses on the writings and translations of late-Qing science fiction, especially their interactions with Western astronomy, imperialism, and/or other disciplines.
Colonizing the Stars: Malthusian Theory of Population and Imperial Imagination in Late Qing Science Fiction
It is acknowledged that Western science fiction, as a genre that embodies imperial ideology and accordingly strengthen its power, combines scientific discourse and imagination of empire. A similar literary phenomenon occurred in late Qing period, while Chinese writers appropriated Western ideas and literature to create their fantasies. In their works, one can also witness the complex dialogues among science, empire, and imperialism. For example, the late Qing science fiction such as Xu Zhiyan’s 許指嚴 (1875-1923) Dian shijie 電世界 (Electrical world, 1909) and Lu Shi’e’s 陸士諤 (1878-1944) Xin yesou puyan 新野叟曝言 (New humble words of a rustic elder, 1909) not only depicted the future China as a technologically advanced utopia, but also indicated that the dramatic increase of population would lead to intense competitions for survival. Apparently inspired by the British economist Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) among others, Xu and Lu considered the problem of overpopulation as one of the major causes of imperial expansion. In order to solve the crisis, colonization must be introduced. Comparing to the historical context of European imperialism and the fact that late Qing China was intimidated by foreign powers, these works had represented rather intriguing parallel universes. Xu and Lu parodied the birth of an empire and its colonies in the ocean or planets and reversed the tragic fate of China. This project will take Malthus’ demography as the starting point to investigate the representation of the problem of overpopulation and imagination of empire in late Qing science fiction. By contrasting Xu’s and Lu’s works with translated texts during late Qing period, I will explore the relationship between the 19th century scientific/imperial discourse and Chinese literature.
Dr. Xiaohong Tan (May – June, 2023)
My research interests focus on urban regeneration, urban governance, artistic intervention, heritage conservation, social learning and informal housing in China. To date I have published about 16 papers in English and Chinese. I have also received the Outstanding Thesis Award from Sun Yat-sen University, the Jin Jingchang Award for Excellent Paper in Urban and Rural Planning Postgraduate Thesis Competition in China and nomination for the best conference paper award from AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning). I graduated from the University of Kassel in 2018. My dissertation titled “Maturing Governance of Urban Regeneration: Experimenting and Learning--Case Study of Guangzhou and Shenzhen in South China,” examines the interplay of institutions, actors’ practices and knowledge dynamics in the spatial restructuring and social innovation processes of urban regeneration.
Urban Farming and Gardening during Pandemic in China
During the corona pandemic, many cities in China experienced lock downs and posed severe restrictions on mobility. The pandemic prompted many Chinese to reflect on where their food comes from and made many people aware of the fragility of social life and the close relationship between food security and personal life.
Urban gardening and farming has become increasingly active in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in recent years, especially during pandemic period, but not much research attention has been paid by urban planners or sociologist yet. It could become a window to observe social spaces and interactions during the pandemic, because it is closely related to urban land ownership and access, public space and public life, personal spirituality and emotions, and family relationships. It helps us to examine the boundary conflicts between public and private land use rights in community spaces during the pandemic, the reshaping of neighborhood and family relationships, and the changes in individual and collective perceptions of values, personal emotions, and patterns of behavior in daily life. In addition, the practice that can provide more opportunities for in-depth observation and research to understand the social behavioral, social media and spatial changes brought about by the pandemic. In China, community regeneration and spatial upgrading are mostly top-down interventions, and conflicts and resistance are rather common. Urban gardening and farming is often a bottom-up self-organized and initiated action, reflecting the real social needs and self-governance dynamics. In addition, I am interested in exploring how the pandemic reshapes the spatial connections and interactions of people at their homes and neighborhoods from the perspective of food self-production. Through this project, I seek to understand more about how urban gardening during the pandemic reshaped family relationships, neighborhood and community interpersonal relationships, how urban gardening affected people's perceptions of food security and self-sufficiency, and how it affected people's emotional well-being.
Dr. Shengyu Wang (May – July, 2023)
Shengyu Wang is a scholar of pre-modern Chinese literature and comparative literature, with particular interest in the Chinese anecdotal tradition, popular religions, print culture, and translation studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and has taught in both China and North America. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Comparative Literature, T’oung Pao, Folklore, and Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies. He is the recipient of the 2022 Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Award.
Narratives of Steam Navigation and Epochal Change in Early Chinese Periodicals
During the late Qing era, modern means of transportation not only significantly altered Chinese life but also accelerated the disintegration of the traditional Sinocentric view of the world. Steam-powered vessels—especially gigantic seafaring steamers arriving in large numbers after 1870—struck late-Qing Chinese intellectuals as potent indicators of newfound mobility, epochal change, scientific advancement, and Western military-industrial superiority. Together with the postal service, telegraph, and railway, steam-powered vessels shortened spatial-temporal distances and fostered a strong sense of the world as an interconnected totality. In this project, I treat late-Qing periodicals as a rich and vital source for exploring the discursive and epistemological shifts catalyzed by the advent of steam navigation in China. My investigation will cover a wide variety of visual and verbal narratives featuring steamship, with special attention to those that bear upon the issues of global circumnavigation, maritime disasters, and naval warfare. My main purpose is to gain a better understanding of how worldmaking technologies engendered conceptual changes in the realm of culture. Furthermore, I will probe into the crucial role that early Chinese periodicals played in mediating the public imagination of epochal changes.
Meng Xia (May 30 – August 30, 2023)
Meng Xia completed her doctoral studies and teaches in Chinese Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, on the topic of history, memory and narrative in overseas Chinese migrant fiction. She has lectured at the Communication University of Zhejiang, Hangzhou, China. She conducted an empirical research project on theatre reception at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, US as visiting researcher in 2015. She published journal articles, editorials, book reviews and translations, and presented her research at international conferences on China studies, world literature and comparative literature. Her research interests include Chinese contemporary literature and cultural studies, memory culture studies, diaspora, narratological theories, trauma and affect, and reception theories.
The Narrative of Transcultural Pandemic Memory - Communities of Memory in and around China
The Narrative of Transcultural Pandemic Memory - Communities of Memory in and around China In this project, I pinpoint transcultural memory as the essential approach to globally shared experiences, in this case, the pandemic. “Transcultural memory” means connecting local memories with the loci of its transposition and translation, including memories triggered from transnational experiences as well as shared memories of global context and significance. Specific to pandemic memory, the disruption of routes and routines, the suffering of the disadvantaged and the marginal, and the trauma from loss and fear, accumulate into common memories relatable to people regardless of their origin and residency. In this case, transcultural memory binds people in the sense of mutual impact and entangled relations; yet it also widens the gaps: disputes and splits emerge from divergent reactions to this pandemic with values confronting between cultures and regimes. In this context, my research investigates how narratives of pandemic memory, particularly from literature, expose the “communities of memory”—within which people recount and interpret their memory with potential common ground and empathy. I will argue that communities of memory are forged in the narrative of transcultural memory and provide spaces of communication beyond politics and nationalism. I propose that transcultural memory located in literature, though drawn from disparate points of departure, demonstrate possibilities to reimagine worldmaking in the post-Covid era through fictive or nonfictive writing. The narrative of pandemic memory is examined in its formulation and response to shared experiences from a transcultural lens, particularly in works contributed by Chinese writers along with their counterparts from the globe. I argue that the construction of memory does not only reminisce and commemorate crisis and casualties but envisions choices of worldmaking. That is, narratives of memory build non-fictional or fictional accounts and descriptions counteracting those narratives alleged as factual, rational, and realistic. Literature potentially illuminates the “suspending actuality” on dimensions beyond the material world or virtual cyberspace, to tap into the depth of feelings, emotions, and sensations echoing a past that will never elapse. From this viewpoint, I probe the making of possible worlds in literature in terms of the creative and prospective recollection of pandemic memory, within which local memory from China and other localities resonate with each other, which is enabled through the translatability of memory and trauma.
Philipp Weiss (June 1 – 30, 2023)
Philipp Weiss, born in 1982 in Vienna, is a novelist and playwright. Until 2009 he studied German Literature and Philosophy. His critically acclaimed debut novel At the Edge of the World Man Sits and Laughs, was published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2018. It was honored as the best German-language debut of 2018 with the Jürgen Ponto Foundation Literature Prize, the Klaus-Michael Kühne Prize, and the 2019 Rauriser Literature Prize, and it was number one on the ORF bestseller list for over two months. Katja Gasser called the novel in the Austrian evening news ZIB1 a “literary gem of tremendous intellectual, poetic and formal power.” The French translation (2021) was nominated for the Prix Femina. The novel will be published in Chinese translation this year and in Japanese translation in 2026.
Literary Worldmaking - Thinking and Narrating the Global
I am currently working on a new novel project that I call a "world novel" (“Die Unruhe der Planetenhaut”/”The Disquiet of the Planet’s Skin”, Suhrkamp Verlag 2026). In this new book, I am following flows of people, information, capital, raw materials, products, energy, and ecological interconnections around the planet, linking dozens of places, stories, people an other-than-human beings within a narrative network, an interplay of subjective first-person perspectives. Each one can be considered an act of worldmaking, namely the creation of a context of meaning through language. I have now been working on literary representations of the global for over ten years. It is my belief that we can only change what we can imagine and therefore tell. During my stay in Heidelberg I would like to present my literary and poetological positions and put them up for discussion. In addition, I aim to engage in conversations and exchanges with students, fellows and faculty members developing the Chinese characters of my novel and their distinctive and complex perspectives on the world.
Joana van de Löcht
After a Bachelor's degree in Near Eastern Archaeology and Assyriology and a Master's degree in Edition Studies and Textual Criticism, Joana van de Löcht wrote a dissertation on Ernst Jünger's diaries of the Second World War at the University of Heidelberg, which was published in 2018. She collaborated in various edition projects and has been a research assistant at the Institute of German Studies at WWU Münster since April 2021. Her work focuses on literature of the early modern period and the 20th century, and on the field of edition philology. Currently, she is particularly interested in the historical dimensions of the Environmental Humanities.
Traces of the Little Ice Age in Early Modern German Literature
The aim of the project is to examine the different effects of the Little Ice Age on the literature of the early modern period. The research subject 'Little Ice Age' has been a topic of historical climate research since the second half of the 20th century and among historians since the end of the 1980s. The written tradition is primarily considered to have a source value for determining concrete historical weather events. Literary studies has so far only rudimentarily fulfilled its task of describing these sources in their poetic texture and locating them in contemporary literary discourse. The linking of environmental issues with concepts of time and order in early modern literature is guided by the basic assumption that, although we cannot expect knowledge of climate change in the texts of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, changing environmental conditions were perceived as a threat to the established order and as such found their way into literature. Concepts of time such as the cyclical course of the harvest year and the near expectation of the end times are just as affected by this as concepts of rule and orders of knowledge. This leads, on the one hand, to the prosperity of order-giving forms of publication such as the calendar and its associated prognostics or the literature of house fathers, and, on the other hand, to the attempt to reorganise knowledge (for example in René Descartes' writing "Les Météores"). The individual events such as floods, hailstorms, crop failures and extreme winters are initially reflected in the establishing news systems of pamphlets and (towards the end of the period under study) journal literature. Occasional poetry also reacts to the specific event and links this to established narratives of God's judgement and the idea of a natura lapsa, in which man's sinfulness is linked to the state of the world around him.
Yizhou Wang received her MLitt. in Arts of China from the University of Glasgow and in 2015 started her Ph.D. in Chinese Art History at the University of Heidelberg. Her dissertation focuses on the visual (self-)representations of courtesans (mingji名妓) in the Ming dynasty through the lens of gender. She worked at the Calligraphy and Painting Department of the Palace Museum Beijing in 2014. She also studied at SOAS University of London, Kyoto University, and Tokyo University. She developed an initial research interest in the artistic representations of plants since 2013 and published an article on the Chinese double lotus. In recent years, she has been working on human-nature interactions in arts and literature during the Ming-Qing transition. Her professional research interests include Chinese paintings (pre-modern), Ming-Qing visual and material culture, gender studies in art history, Sino-Japanese art interactions, (self-)portraiture, women artists, and early East Asian photography.
Voices of Nature and Landscape in Artful Spaces of Transitions: From Ming-Qing to Contemporary China
My research project focuses on the visual and literary representations of plants, e.g., willows, pine trees, and the natural landscape during the seventeenth-century Ming-Qing transition, an age when China experienced severe climate changes and deterioration in the “Little Ice Age” which led to the great famine, social unrest, and the governance vulnerability to the nomadic invasions. To survive in the severe natural and social disturbance, “moving” and “hiding” became two major interwoven themes in the Ming-Qing period. When the actual words or communications were difficult to come out for varied reasons during crises, creating imageries of nature, plants, and the landscape became a pathway for either personal or collective expressions as a means of relief and therapy. The human defense and confrontation in the Ming-Qing crises were transplanted to the pictorial and literary representations of plants and natural landscape. This project investigates the following questions: How might have the transitional epochs of constant changes, natural calamities, and social crises stimulated artistic innovations and creative cultural practices? How did artists or poets in China react to changes, represent human-nature relations in arts, and interact with nature in lived experiences and changing spaces? How could the representations of plants and natural landscape create “voices” for the human state of mind? How did the changing environment and landscape with its own agency alter our understanding and mind imagery of the world? Additionally, this research takes the artistic practices involving human-nature interactions in the 1950s-early 1960s and the post-1980s contemporary period (including the most recent pandemic era) into consideration. It attempts to discuss how the artistic and cultural practices of the past, particularly in the Ming-Qing transition, could have played a role in contemporary China and how the reflected ecological concepts of the past could dialogue with the present epoch experiencing transitions.
I graduated with an MA in Transcultural Studies from the University of Heidelberg with a thesis on the first establishment of psychology as a scientific discipline at Peking University during the late 1910s. Starting from 2020, I am doctoral candidate and member of the Freigeist-Fellowship research project "Radical Utopian Communities: Global Histories from the Margins, 1900-1950" led by Dr. Robert Kramm at LMU, Munich. I have wide research interests in the history of scientific and political thought in modern East Asia. My current research project investigates anarchism and its biological fascinations in early twentieth-century China and Japan.
Making Sense of Plants and Animals: Evolutionary Imaginations in Late Qing and Republican China
Where is, and what is nature? What sort of conceptions of nature can be the basis of a new politics adequate to the environmental crisis? Questions as such are not only trendy ones that stir up ongoing debates in contemporary politics. In my research, they have long been central ones when China (and Japan), at the turn of the twentieth century, witnessed a new regime of the “western, rational, and scientific” law of nature, that asserted to stand outside the pantheistic Heaven (tian 天) and Heaven-body totality, and are able to manipulate a material nature following knowable laws. In what forms does the separation of man and nature represent civilizational modernity, and following this, can human’s re-discovery of nature sort out the “unpredictable, the random, and the formidable” elements from nature itself?
My research project analyzes anarchism and its biological fascinations in early twentieth-century China and Japan. Anarchism is used here to deliberately transcend narratives of mere political movements; rather, it emphasizes some of the most provocative explorations of the nature-man possibilities. For example, it centralizes Peter Kropotkin’s observation from the centerless organism to the centerless cosmos; it also explores the Sino-Japanese refractions of the anarchist geographer Élisée Reclus’s theory of interdependence of human inhabitants and their living environment. One of the questions I am asking in this research is how political activists and biologists in China developed concrete ideals of evolutionary Nature (tian yan 天演) and its relationship with the human world through modern scientific language—by means of studying plants and animals—at conceptual, cultural, and societal levels. Moreover, I also ask how anarchists envisioned evolutionary mutual aid as a globally synchronic endeavor of cooperation to facilitate institutional transformation and challenge imperial and state-centered science of control.
Renée Krusche is a historian of modern China with a special interest in medical history. She is a PostDoc at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), where in 2020 she finished her PhD on the topic of health practices and civilization diseases in Mao era China. Currently she is researching Chinese veterinary history, historical human-animal relations in Asia, Chinese gendered health practices and the tradition of Yoga in Republican China.
One Health in the Chinese Republican Period – Veterinary sciences as a tool on the path to a brighter future
The entwined worlds of humans and animals develop complex relations not only in our modern life, but also in history. This project embarks on a journey towards understanding the exegesis of biomedical veterinary practices in the Republican era, a time when the Chinese state was modernized, strengthened and improved through the use of science. It highlights the links between human health and animal health at a time of great ideological, social and institutional changes, and understands veterinary science as a tool to bring order to the intermingling realms of reality. The introduction of veterinary science as part of the modernization process and renunciation of old Chinese medical culture poses an example of global knowledge transfer, crisis management and inter-species engagement to make a safer and healthier world.
Dr. Johannes Kaminski
Johannes D. Kaminski’s research interests are German literature, Chinese classic novels and contemporary global science fiction. He received his PhD in German Studies at the University of Oxford in 2011 with a thesis on Goethe. He was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2012-2015) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Academia Sinica (2015-2017) in Taipei, Taiwan. From 2018 to 2020 he held a Marie Curie Fellowship at the University of Vienna. He is currently based at the Institute of World Literature, Slovak Academy of Sciences. Recent articles include ‘The Neo-Frontier in Contemporary Preparedness Novels’ (Journal of American Studies 55.1, 2020) and ‘Leaving Gaia Behind: The Ethics of Space Migration in Cixin Liu’s and Neil Stephenson’s Science Fiction’ (World Literature Studies 13.2, 2021).
Leaving Earth Behind: The Ecological Imaginary of Contemporary Chinese Fiction / Vom Aufbruch von der Erde: Ökologische Imaginationen in zeitgenössischer chinesischer Literatur
My project inquires into Chinese-language novels that advance new Grand Narratives in the wake of environmental crises. In these texts, the aim is not to reconnect to a state of nature, but to embrace technocratic visions that hold the promise of a golden future—or to regard human activity as pointless as such. During a time in which the West is discussing the compatibility of environmental goals with the individual freedoms of liberalism, the People’s Republic of China is increasingly advancing its own narrative of Progress. Under the guidance of authoritarian leadership, the country has announced ambitious environmental aims and appears much less alarmed by the prospect of natural degradation.
In contemporary Chinese literature, the rise of the anti-alarmist discourse is evinced by three different text genres: 1) The environmental melancholia seen in documentary texts dating from the 2000s has been replaced by more optimistic scenarios. 2) Science-fiction texts reiterate the can-do-optimism of American postwar optimism, presenting humanity’s escape into space as a desirable future. 3) As magical realism mixes with speculative fiction, depleted landscapes become an emblem of metaphysical emptiness, as Buddhist teachings are invoked to cope with an increasingly uninhabitable world.
Dr. Jiajun Dale Wen
Dr. Jiajun Dale Wen has been working on sustainable development issues for more than a decade, with topics including sustainable agriculture, climate change, energy security etc. She is currently a visiting fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, as well as a special guest researcher in the Environment and Development Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She was a co-author for the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) – which some call the IPCC of agriculture. Over the last decade she has followed the international climate negotiations closely and has substantial insights on the Chinese government’s reasoning and policy making as well as to what is happening on the ground in China – both in terms of climate action as well as the effects of the current development trajectory. She holds a PhD from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Corona and Climate: what can the various pandemic narratives and responses teach us about climate action?: A cross cultural study
There has been ample comparison between the twin crisis of corona pandemic and climate change. In March 2020, Barack Obama tweeted, “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”
The corona virus has put all national governments to test, and the responses vary widely. One universal lesson is that the corona virus does not respect any kind of political correctness or human dogma. Whether it is Chinese obsession about social stability, or western insistence on personal freedom , the virus does not care. Almost any disregard of the latest science would create some loophole for the virus to further its spread. Yet “respecting the science” is easy to be said, but hard to practice, especially when the truth is inconvenient. Now more than 18 months into the pandemic, lots of basic facts are still disputed, for example, whether masks work, whether lockdowns work, whether the virus is airborne. When people cannot agree with facts, of course they cannot agree what would be a science based policy. The cultural and institutional factors driving such divide are worth exploring. Needless to say, similar issue exists in climate realm.
What are the differences and similarities of the responses of different cultures and nations in the face of the crisis outbreak? What are the underlying cultural and structural factors? What can different nations learn from each other? What are the enabling conditions to encourage all of us to face the inconvenient truth, to really respect the science, thus hopefully put into the necessary actions to handle the crisis? How can we create such enabling conditions, both domestically and internationally? What constructive role international exchange and dialogue can play? These are the questions I would like to further explore with this project.
Dr. Phillip Grimberg
Phillip is a cultural historian specializing in the material cultures of late Imperial and contemporary China. He studied Chinese studies and International law at Universities in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and China (Beijing, Hangzhou). After receiving his PhD in 2014 he held a number of research and teaching positions at different institutions (Bonn, Frankfurt, Erlangen, Naples, Trento) and is currently fellow at the Joint Center for Advanced Studies “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China”.
In this World of Ours – Making Sense of Crisis and Disaster in Contemporary Taiwanese Art
In this World of Ours – Making Sense of Crisis and Disaster in Contemporary Taiwanese Art When a massive earthquake hit Taiwan on September 21, 1999, more than 2.500 people died within the first few minutes of the disaster. Over twenty years later, avant-garde artists Beidiaibo 倍帝愛波 (Betty Apple), Qiu Linyao 邱琳窈and Peng Yixuan 彭奕軒collaborated in an exhibition called “Code Blue” (藍色警報) that was held at the Taibei Contemporary Art Centre (台北當代藝術中心) in March 2020. Although originally planned to commemorate the ‘99 earthquake, under the impression of the emerging Covid-19 pandemic all three artists adapted their concepts to accommodate for the unfolding global health crisis, exploring “human strategies of coping with natural disaster and trauma.” Together with other members of Taiwan’s thriving art scene – and due to the strict safety restrictions put in place by Taiwanese authorities to prevent the disease from spreading – they developed concepts for remote and/or virtual enjoyment of their art. Performances, installations, video viewings, and readings were relegated to online, Covid-safe events that mirrored the lockdown situations the world has faced time and again over the course of the last year. While the pandemic altered the realities and perceptions of world and life beyond recognition for many people – albeit, hopefully, temporarily – Taiwan’s exceptionally successful containment strategies kept the virus at bay and the island nation safe from the tolls we see in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the pandemic and its global impact on the artscapes of the Taiwanese capital informs the way artists engage with the world through mediated public and social discourse.
In this project I wish to conduct one month of fieldwork within Taibei’s art community using both structured interviews and participant observation as the main data collection methods to gain insight into how the current pandemic has altered and/or influenced the sense of world and self among artists. In this I follow Nelson Goodman´s concepts of world and worldmaking as highly ductile constructs that allow for the invention, appropriation, and proliferation of different symbolic systems that constitute different worlds. This ontological concomitance provides a frame within which the artists construct and perceive their pre- and post-crisis “Worlds”. The main question that interests me in this context is how the artists understand the relationship between different kinds of worlds – natural, political, cultural, fictional, literary, linguistic, and virtual, and their susceptibility to crisis, change, and disaster.
Dr. Habil. Thomas Wozniak
Thomas Wozniak was born in Quedlinburg and grew up as an active Catholic under the communist regime of the GDR. When the Wall came down he did his civil service instead of joining the army and worked with disabled people in Tabgha/Israel. After returning overland by bike tracing the crusaders he studied history. For the analysis of three late medieval taxation lists, which came to light during renovation work in his father’s house, an old half-timbered building, he earned his M.S. After he completed his dissertation “Quedlinburg in the 14th and 16th Century” at the University of Cologne in 2009 he worked at the University Marburg until 2015 and finished his habilitation (second book) about “Natural events in Early Middle Ages” in 2017 in Tübingen. This was followed by professorships (Professurvertretung) in Tuebingen and Munich and a guest lectureship at Weber State University in Ogden/USA.
Interpreting Signs of Nature
All living beings are subject to the global framework conditions. In earlier epochs, when dependencies were even greater, rulers in Europe, as in China, tried to interpret the signs of nature in order to dominate it. Since ancient times, celestial signs have been observed and interpreted as prodigies. Based on some of the 25 categories I developed in my habilitation thesis, I will establish a list of globally observable events as synchronizing markers between Europe and China. In particular, the list of specific observations compiled in the process offers many potential insights for interpreting global events. Some questions are how the rulers in Europe and China remembered previous catastrophes, crises and transformations, how their scholars interpreted such events and what consequences were drawn from them.
Katrin Heilmann is a historian of modern China with a particular interest in writing military history back into broader histories of the People’s Republic of China. She defended her PhD thesis in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London funded by the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP). Katrin worked as a research assistant for the AHRC-funded project the Mao-era in Objects. She completed a master’s degree as a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, where she co-organised the inaugural Yenching Global Symposium. She holds a MA (hons) Chinese and History from the University of Edinburgh.
Visions of World in Moments of Crisis: Narrating Disaster in the People’s Republic of China
Evolving narratives of disaster are at the centre of this fellowship project. It explores how different actors framed and explained catastrophes ranging from man-made to natural calamities for different audiences. In this context, civil defence offers important insights into the underlying visions of the world informing these narratives, including the role of the Anthropocene in shaping these visions and how they accommodated technological change. As a form of world-making, changing narratives of disaster underline the importance of the everyday in shaping the societal experience of crisis.