Elite and Non-Elite Urban Cosmopolitanism in the Early Twentieth-Century China: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Elite and Non-Elite Urban Cosmopolitanism in the Early Twentieth-Century China: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Authors:
Qianhui Ma, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, United States (organizer, presenter)
Tsutomu Nagata, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, United States (presenter)
Min Wang, Washington University in St. Louis, United States (presenter)
Haochen Wang, Washington University in St. Louis, United States (presenter)
Jianguo Li, Central China Normal University, China (presenter)
Yan Wei, Lingnan University, Hong Kong (chair, discussant)

Abstract:

Cities in the early twentieth-century China took shape in a cauldron of vibrant transnational and transcultural encounters. This panel analyzes a wide range of individual participation in these encounters with a particular interest in how urban cosmopolitanism was generated, experienced, and responded to across socioeconomic spectra. Through both historical and literary lenses, we investigate how the agendas of diverse social strata in such cosmopolitanism transformed the urban political, cultural, and material landscapes. Our major historical theme is the contacts within and between indigenous population and expatriate groups in cities. How did people of various strata experience these contacts differently or similarly? How did these contacts shape the cities, especially the urban spatial planning and administrative mechanisms? Moving from historical to literary, this panel examines depictions of the foreign and analyzes how these literary imaginations contributed to the envisioning of cities. On the other hand, how was China depicted by foreigners, and how did these foreign opinions reverberate back home? Furthermore, we pay special attention to who wrote these literary works and who they wrote for. Contextualizing our literary sources, we intend to explore: what were the non-elite readers reading? How did they make sense of the foreign? To what extent did their views differ from or parallel those of elite intellectuals? By stimulating dialogues between literature and history, our panel will provide nuanced insights into the intriguing picture of urban cosmopolitanism across socioeconomic spectra in the early twentieth-century China.