A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of by Tong Lam

By Tong Lam

During this path-breaking booklet, Tong Lam examines the emergence of the "culture of truth" in smooth China, displaying how elites and intellectuals sought to remodel the dynastic empire right into a geographical region, thereby making sure its survival. Lam argues that an epistemological cut loose from conventional modes of figuring out the observable global started round the flip of the 20 th century. Tracing the Neo-Confucian institution of evidentiary examine and the fashionable departure from it, Lam indicates how, throughout the upward push of the social survey, "the truth" turned a easy conceptual medium and resource of fact. In targeting China's social survey circulation, a fondness for proof analyzes how info generated by means of a number of examine practices--census, sociological research, and ethnography--was mobilized by way of competing political factions to visualize, deal with, and remake the country.

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Additional resources for A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900-1949 (Asia Pacific Modern)

Example text

In the same fashion, statistics also enabled the colonial powers to overcome their sense of fear and alienation vis-à-vis the native populations whom they neither understood nor were able to conquer by sheer military force. These colonial powers, needless to say, did not use statistics to actually attempt to understand cultural differences in local terms or to confront the incommensurability question. 18 Moreover, as the building blocks for embedded narratives and arguments, statistical facts are far from neutral.

Indeed, during this period of social and political experiments, what arguably mattered most were not the findings of those surveys or the social facts themselves. Rather, it was how this process contributed to the training of cultural agents for the state’s civilizing and modernizing initiatives, the forging of those being surveyed and enumerated into the collective national subject, the legitimatization of social scientific investigative modalities, and, above all, the honing of the arts of governance of the emerging nation-state.

Precisely for this reason, if we seek to unmask how they produced these empirical facts and truth claims, we need to look into the laboratory process of these social surveys. 48 Lam, A Passion for Facts 16 / 8/18/11 12:58 PM Page 16 Introduction Ironically, since practitioners of social surveys sought not only to describe and document the social world but also to prescribe and construct that social world according to their own visions, the truth claims they made were anything but transcendent, impartial, and universal.

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