Asia Lecture Series Spring 2022
Thinking about Modern China through the Soybean
The UTC Department of History cordially invites you to a public lecture by Dr. Jia-chen Wendy Fu of Emory University.
This event is made possible with support from Dr. Richard Rice, Professor Emeritus of the UTC History Department.
Check out the library digital display here.
Thursday, February 24, 2022, 5:00-6:00 pm EST
UTC — Grote Hall 131
Zoom: Contact Dr. Fang Yu Hu at Fangyu-Hu@utc.edu for Zoom link & password
About the Event
This lecture explores the making of modern China through the shifting semantic cadences of the soybean as global economic conditions re-shaped Chinese scientific and medical enthusiasm for the soybean. Older associations joined newer techno-scientific visions of the soybean as a global industrial commodity and modern foodstuff. Intensified imperialist competition between Japan and Russia transformed the agricultural and industrial landscape of northeastern China, and one byproduct of this competition was the transformation of the soybean into a global cash crop whose economic value lay well beyond its agricultural origins.
The soybean, in this globalized context, captivated the attention of late Qing, early Republican intellectuals, because it portended a brave, new world driven by technological innovation, yet still organically tied to a notion of Chineseness. The Chinese anarchist Li Shizeng especially sought to enlighten his fellow countrymen about the soybean’s technological potential to revitalize and transform Chinese industry in a manner that also embraced its agricultural and culinary heritage. His efforts to raise the soybean’s profile by extolling its many industrial and gastronomic uses articulated a Chinese path of modernization and gestured toward a more intimate and scientific re-appraisal of the meaning of food for an aspiring nation.
About the Speaker
Jia-Chen “Wendy” Fu is an Associate Professor at the Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Emory University. After receiving her M.Phil and Ph.D. in History from Yale University, Wendy was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley (2009-2010) and then Assistant Professor in the History Department of Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH). Her primary research is the history of science and medicine in modern China. She focuses on how new scientific disciplines and practices shaped conceptions of the Chinese physical body and diet. Her book, The Other Milk: Reinventing Soy in Republican China (University of Washington 2018), explores the curious paths through the conception of the Chinese diet as a deficient one led to the reinterpretation, rediscovery, and reassignment of social and scientific meanings of a local foodstuff, the soybean, in twentieth century China. Her teaching interests include science, technology and medicine in modern China, history of the body, food and culture, war and society, and East Asian martial arts.