Call For Papers: The Cultural Lives of Science and Technology in the Sinosphere: From the Late Qing to the Present

Date: February 24-25, 2024
Location: Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Washington University in St. Louis
Paper Proposal Submission Deadline: October 31, 2023
Keynote Speaker: Silvia Lindtner (University of Michigan)

How has the global diffusion of science and technology changed the stories of China, a nation that has been striving to join the modern global order by achieving wealth and power since the late 19th century? How do scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations afford varying modes of cultural production and aesthetic expressions that remodel affective politics, incite revolution and war, negotiate national, racial, ethnic, and gender boundaries within and beyond China’s national borders, and subsequently remap China’s encounter with the world? How have Chinese literature, theater, film, animation, television, and various digital media forms helped to shape our imagination and perception of science and technology both historically and today that enrich, shift, or destabilize the accepted dual narrative of Chinese scientific development and promised national revival? 

Taking up these questions as a provocation, this conference aims to reexamine the representation and utilization of scientific thinking and technological practices in aesthetic and cultural productions, highlighting these cultural products’ power in shaping statecraft, industrial transition, political mobilization, and pursuit of social justice across the Chinese-speaking world. We recognize the changing scope of “China” and “Sinosphere” and seek a more capacious view of China to understand the transcultural and global flows that condition Chinese accounts and practices of science and technology. Instead of celebrating science and technology as symbols of modernity and progress, we seek new historical and critical engagements that help to think through the generative relations and raptures between different historical periods, from late Qing to the contemporary moment. We are interested in papers that explore the intersection of scientific and technological development, cultural production in specific case studies, and archival research that present their own detailed analysis while responding to larger questions, such as  fantasy narratives in provoking nationalism with a futuristic vision, the experiments of environmental art for or against resource extraction, and the crafting and exploitation of the self-image in the digital economy. By investigating the cultural imaginaries of science and technology and the backstage technologies that enable the cultural interventions, we reconsider the Chinese-speaking societies as active players continually orienting and modifying existing ideas and apparatuses for their own political agendas and cultural needs. 

We welcome papers in literature, history, film and media studies, art history to examine the use and imagination of scientific ideas and technological apparatus in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities. We also encourage innovative and interdisciplinary research that studies cultural productions with approaches drawn from other disciplines, some recent and some already foundational, such as, infrastructure studies and environmental studies, etc. We especially welcome submissions from early-career researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and PhD candidates. The conference will be held on February 24 and February 25, 2024, on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. Local accommodation including meals and lodging will be covered by the conference. We regret that we will not be able to cover faculty participants’ travel expenses. PhD candidates will be reimbursed up to $300 to cover travel and other related costs and will be paired with a Washington University graduate student as their host for lodging. Please send your abstract (no more than 300 words) and your CV (no more than two pages) by October 31, 2023, to We will notify you about the result by December 31, 2023. Successful candidates are expected to send in their draft paper (no more than 10 pages) by January 31, 2024.

 Some potential topics:

  • Encountering modern knowledge of science and technology
  • Technological revolution and rural life
  • Media Infrastructure and industrialization
  • Temporality and the cult of productivity 
  • Ecological thinking and environmental activism
  • Translation and politicization of scientific theory
  • Technological upgrade for social control
  • Media culture and  historical memory
  • Information transmission and mass mobilization
  • Affective work and technology of care

Organizers: Graduate students: Yuan Kevin Gao, Zihan Feng; Professor Jianqing Chen

Supported by a gift from Leung Tung Peter & Lin Young.