Papermaking and the Politics of Skill in Modern China

Jacob Eyferth
"Papermaking and the Politics of Skill in Modern China"
Technology and Society in Pre-Modern China Series
November 10
6:00-7:30 PM
MacMillan Reading Room
John Carter Brown Library

Until the 1950s, most industrial goods in China originated in small urban workshops or farm households. Production related knowledge was passed on orally or tacitly and circulated in close-knit communities, held together by neighborhood and kinship ties. Written descriptions of technologies exist for many crafts, but writing played at best a supporting role in the transmission of knowledge. From the late nineteenth century on, new modes of visualizing and transmitting knowledge appeared in China: improved scientific vocabularies, new measurement techniques, more precise graphical representations, etc. These changes made it possible for literate elites to represent, discuss, and direct the labor of farmers and artisans, leading to a redistribution of technical control and social power from from primary producers in the countryside to technocratic managers in the cities.  Prof. Eyferth's lecture described this process in the case of manual paper making in Jiajiang, Sichuan, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.  Prof. Eyferth is an Associate Professor in Chinese History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Co-sponsored by the History Department and the Watts History of the Book Program.  The Watts History of the Book Program supports lectures, events, seminars, workshops, field trips, and presentations to Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design undergraduates at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University and other venues in Providence to further the study and appreciation of the codex book as a crafted, practical, historical object.  For more informatin please see The Watts History of the Book Program or the Watts JCB blog.

To see a full recording of Prof. Eyferth's lecture, please visit Brown University on YouTube.