Conceptualizing the Chinese world : Jinan University, Nanyang migrants, and trans-regionalism, 1900-1941 / Leander Seah.

Seah, Leander.
xi, 261 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- History.
History -- Penn dissertations.
This dissertation builds on interdisciplinary transnational approaches through a fresh historical case study on a school and calls for a balanced, trans-regional perspective on China's place in the Chinese world. In recent decades, research on modern Chinese history has taken a continental China-centred turn following the "Western impact- Chinese response" approach of pioneering scholarship in North America. At the same time, historians of Chinese migration have adopted Sino-centric theories like "Chinese diaspora" but neglected developments in China in focusing on destination countries. The two fields thus lack connections between them. This dissertation firstly links both modern Chinese history and the history of Chinese migration through the under-examined theme of education. It analyzes the experiences of students, alumni and researchers associated with Jinan University, the first school in China for Chinese migrants and their offspring in the Nanyang (Southeast Asia) who wished to return to the mainland for their studies. They traversed China and the Nanyang, and were influenced by non-Chinese ideas. Their experiences reflect the multi-faceted nature of the Chinese world, which comprises both China and Chinese communities worldwide, neither of which should be privileged. Second, this dissertation applies a new perspective on transnationalism in order to describe such complex activities. It uses "trans-regionalism," a concept which considers the historical reality that some territories like China are not nation-states. Instead, these territories should be understood as non-monolithic regions due to their great diversity in geography and non-geographical aspects like ethnicity and language. Furthermore, defining such places as regions acknowledges the historical agency of their inhabitants because people are historical actors and not mere puppets of states. "Trans-regionalism" additionally connects History with other disciplines since transnational approaches are increasingly popular in the social sciences and humanities. Thirdly, by providing fresh insight into the Chinese world, this dissertation makes a significant contribution to our understanding of contemporary issues like the rise of China in recent decades and Chinese identity. Jinan's history shows that the rhetoric of quintessential Chinese culture being disseminated from China to Chinese communities worldwide is an inadequate framework for studying the lives of Chinese citizens and ethnic Chinese worldwide.
Adviser: Arthur Waldron.
Thesis (Ph.D. in History) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Waldron, Arthur, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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