Taking China Out of Premodern Global History: Bodies, Threads, and Fabrics

Mar 9, 2021, 4:30 pm4:30 pm



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‘China’ is a problematical concept for the premodern period because the name unavoidably invokes the fixity of a modern nation-state that maps poorly onto the various and ever changing political formations of earlier centuries. Global history (in contrast to World History) may offer solutions for how to address the premodern era without reliance on anachronistic national frames. The concept of technologies, broadly understood, invites us to trace the use of practices and ideas regardless of political or ‘ethnic’ boundaries, which in turn necessitates reconfiguration of the region under consideration, in this case as Eastern Eurasia. This paper takes technologies of the body – viewed through various aspects of textiles – as cases through which to reframe our understanding of premodern Eastern Eurasia with interactions and relationships at the core of a non-sinocentric analysis. The goal is to give fuller recognition to the agency of a range of people in the region, which will allow us to better capture the fluidity in which they lived and the dynamics of what they created.

Anna Shields (EAS) will moderate the Q&A.

East Asian Studies Program
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