China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of May Fourth, we propose a panel that revisits the place of science as a humanistic practice in modern and contemporary China. In the spirit of May Fourth iconoclasm, we discard western enlightenment-based notions of science as the pursuit of observable truth and a knowledge system that ensures the progress of humanity. Instead, we explore the stakes of science as a global discourse compatible with Chinese nativism, as experimental writing practice, as an exercise in apocalyptic uncertainties, and as a set of parameters through which to imagine alternative worlds.
Our panel begins by revisiting “Mr. Science” in the early twentieth-century New Culture Movement. Yizhi Xiao challenges New Youth intellectuals’ subscription to a science-supernatural binary by demonstrating how native Chinese imaginations of the supernatural-as-science finds global resonance. Bo An explores the legacy of science in Lu Xun’s pre-1918 writings by reevaluating his style in the context of his encounter with modern geology. Following, Jingling Chen and Casey Lee trace ways that science and scientific imagination shape Chinese realities in contemporary fiction. Chen argues that new realism in the works of Dung Kai-cheung and Wang Anyi functions as a suppositional science that breaks from earlier evolution-based modes of narrative. Lee considers how Chinese media fans use speculative worldbuilding to re-configure gendered experiences of biological determinism.
Drawing on literature, intellectual history, gender theory, and internet archives, we show how Chinese writings over the last hundred years productively blur the line between science and the humanities.