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Global China Research Centre Graduate and Early-Career Research Seminar Series

ExGCRC Seminar

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'Women Interwove a Trans-local History of Hwa Nan College in the Early Twentieth Century'

This paper focuses on Christian women's contribution to the early 20th-century history of Chinese education. It aims to explore how women from Iowa, a Midwestern state in America, and Fujian, a coastal province in China, became collaboratively dedicated to the development of Hwa Nan College.

As one of the most famous women's colleges in early 20th century China, Hwa Nan College is not an unfamiliar subject to educational historians of China. However, most academic literature regarding this college is prone to view it as an outcome of the modernization of Chinese education by American missionaries, and scholars situate it in the framework of transnational history. However, the history of Hwa Nan College primarily involves two provinces/states instead of two nations: its founders and first two superintendents were all Methodist missionaries from Iowa; its students mainly came from Christian families in Fujian; when studying abroad, its graduates predominantly were enrolled in colleges in Iowa. Beyond the limitation of the transnational narrative of Hwa Nan College, this essay intends to cast light on the significance of local-to-local relations for understanding women's higher education in China in the following three sections.

The first section begins with Iowa missionaries' journey in Fujian province. As one coastal city in East China, Fuzhou was the bridgehead of the Methodist missionaries' works in Asia since its first presence in 1842. In the late 19th century, Iowa-original Methodist missionaries played an important role in the modernization of local society, to which women's education was no exception. A set of Iowa women missionaries served in Fuzhou and founded the college for Chinese Christians in Fujian.

After examining Iowan women missionaries' engagements with higher education in Fuzhou, the second part shifts to Hwa Nan College graduates' studies and campus life in Iowa. Through the lens of three prominent figures, Lucy Wang, Cindy Chen, and Sandy Ho's enrollment at Morningside College (in Sioux City, IA) and Cornell College (Mount Vernon, IA), this section sheds light on their distinguished academic achievements and engagement with the local society of Iowa. They successfully promoted Chinese culture in the heartland of the United States and elicited their interest in the current events in China.

After graduating from colleges in Iowa, those Chinese exchange students predominantly chose to return to serve the local society in Fuzhou, especially joining the faculty at Hwa Nan College. They maintained a strong connection with Iowa, which enabled the local society and colleges in Iowa to keep providing financial and personnel support for the development of Hwa Nan College. In return, those young women coming from Fujian and studying in Iowa continued to contribute news from and knowledge about China to local audiences in Iowa.

Drawing on a great number of materials from rarely used archives, this essay aims to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between Methodist churches and missionaries, women college students and teachers, and local society in Fujian and Iowa. The outcome of this research renews scholars' comprehension of the history of Chinese higher education in a trans-local framework.

'Understanding disability in China through the life course: A case study of people with a visual impairment'

According to the Second National Sample Survey of Disabilities in China in 2006, there are 82.96 million people with disabilities across the country, accounting for 6.34% of the national population. However, although there is a large population of disabled people in China, their social, physical, and psychological needs are often ignored, and vocational stereotypes still exist for people with different types of disabilities. From education to work, people with visual impairments are strongly connected with and drawn into 'massage' as the most ‘suitable’ occupation. But we know very little about how their life courses, trajectories, and transitions, lead them there. The ‘life course’ is used to describe age-related and/or developmental life stages and the dynamic trajectories of a person's life (Elder, 1994). Taking people with visual impairments aged 18 to 40 years old with working experience in China as a case study, this paper explores their life course from their education-to-work transition and the factors affecting their transitions. By analysing 26 narratives of participants, it identifies typical and atypical pathways, pointing out the key factors that either keep the participants on an educational track that inevitably leads to massage, or that enable them to have more agency to make other decisions, or that even means they are denied education altogether. Finally, by comparing the similarity and differences across their life courses, it discusses all these factors and other interesting issues emerging from the participants’ narratives as we try to understand disabled people across their life courses in China.

'From Information to Metaphor: Tracking Photographic Editing in Chinese Wartime Magazines Using Computer Vision'

Leveraging the mature capabilities of computer vision as an auxiliary tool for image analysis, this study combines traditional media research methodologies, such as contextualization, with cutting-edge technology, enabling a resituating of photographs within their original publishing contexts. The study introduces a computer vision pipeline, designed for the examination of visual editorial strategies employed in the Jinchaji Pictorial, a significant WWII-era photographic publication of the Chinese Communist Party. The plethora of photographs disseminated in the 20th-century print media presents a formidable challenge to humanities scholars tracing image circulation. Nevertheless, this study demonstrates how computer vision can illuminate the intricate intertextuality between images and accompanying textual captions, thereby providing deeper insights into the evolution of editorial strategies. The study traces the transformative journey of photographs from informational news to metaphorical propaganda, with abstract meanings gradually emerging from a diversity of concrete, realistic images. Close scrutiny of multiple photographs in different contexts reveals a predilection for images accentuating human subjects and textual elements, suggestive of an adherence to socialist realism with its inherent aim to visualize social relationships and create visual evidence. Ultimately, this research elucidates the strategic shift in the Jinchaji Pictorial's editorial approach, moving from pure information dissemination to crafting a compelling visual narrative that served propagandistic purposes amidst the contingencies of war.

Shu Wan, University at Buffalo. 'Women Interwove a Trans-local History of Hwa Nan College in the Early Twentieth Century'

Minjie Chen (University of Nottingham), 'Understanding disability in China through the life course: A case study of people with a visual impairment'

Lin Du, University of California, Los Angeles, 'From Information to Metaphor: Tracking Photographic Editing in Chinese Wartime Magazines Using Computer Vision'


Queens Building D