The Harvard-Yenching Institute and Cultural Engineering

The Harvard-Yenching Institute and Cultural Engineering : Remaking the Humanities in China, 1924-1951

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Through an empirical, multi-archival study of a transnational foundation-the Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI) from the 1920s to the early 1950s-this book presents the story of transplanting Western/American humanities scholarship into Asia/China and addresses central questions in U.S.-China relations. This book focuses on the HYI's programs in teaching, research, and publication of Chinese humanities within China to the early 1950s and, to a lesser extent, its activities at Harvard that had close ties with its China side. Through the HYI story, the author examines in depth the cooperation, tensions, adaptation, and integration in the operation, management, and governance of the HYI's programs on both sides of the Pacific, and the complex multi-layered interactions between American educators and their Chinese partners, treating each side sympathetically but without losing sight of the big picture.
As the first comprehensive study on the subject, the book adopts a concept of "cultural engineering," which is defined as a conscious design to use cultural heritage to recreate culture in order to promote a society's development, to look at key issues in a way which accounts for interactions and initiatives on both sides and shows the difficult path toward developing common interests without neglecting tensions and conflicts, thus going beyond the various one-sided historiographies which pit Chinese against Americans or nativist rejection of modernity against cultural imperialism. The HYI experience in China from the 1920s to the early 1950s resonates down to the present day in American relations with the world. The United States faces many similar challenges in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America today as in revolutionary China of the 1920s to 1950s. Therefore, this study offers a window onto many issues relating to cross-cultural interactions today, especially between the United States and non-Western nations.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 322 pages
  • 160.02 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 521.63g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 11 Tables, unspecified; 5 Halftones, black and white
  • 0739168509
  • 9780739168509

Table of contents

Introduction: Understanding a Transnational Cultural Project Chapter 1: Creating a Transnational Institution (1924-1928) Chapter 2: The Project Successfully Launched (1928-1937) Chapter 3: Operating under Wartime Adversity (1937-1945) Chapter 4: Frustrated Dreams of Recovering Chinese humanities (1945-1949) Chapter 5: The End of an American Enterprise in China (1949-1951) Conclusion: The HYI's Cultural Engineering as a Bridge between East and West
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Review quote

This is the engaged and engaging story behind the Harvard-Yenching Institute's high achievements in reconstructing China's cultural heritage for the emerging Chinese nation. The story reveals American idealistic globalism and benevolent arrogance, Chinese intellectual creativity and political bickering in the face of war and revolution, and vivid personalities on both sides of the Pacific. -- Charles W. Hayford, visiting scholar, Department of History, Northwestern University; editor, Journal of American-East Asian Relations Based on extensive archival research, this first detailed analysis of the Harvard-Yenching Institute offers new insights into the complex processes involved in transplanting Western scientific methodologies in humanities scholarship into China and simultaneously introducing knowledge of China to American universities. The remaking of the humanities in China, however, included the idea of 'cultural engineering' that would create a liberal culture that incorporated the 'good elements' of traditional culture. In addition to its careful analysis of the changing domestic and international forces that undermined the appeal of humanistic liberalism, the book assigns greater agency to the Chinese side and reveals internal conflicts among constituent parties over priorities, allocation of resources, and goals. As such, the book offers valuable insights into questions of national identity and efforts to export exchanges of new bodies of knowledge. -- Arthur Lewis Rosenbaum, Claremont McKenna College
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About Shuhua Fan

Shuhua Fan is associate professor in history at the University of Scranton.
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