This special issue is dedicated to the history of knowledge circulation in Russia / Soviet Union and China in the 20th century. Focusing on scientific knowledge production in biology, medicine, and natural sciences in both empires we argue that their translation, reception, transfer, and dissemination can only be described properly when taking into account that development and diffusion of science and knowledge are shaped by local circumstances. The papers in this special issue discuss the role of brokers in movement of knowledge across linguistic, ideological, and cultural borders. Educated in transnational contexts, having multilingual competence, and integrated in global communication networks these brokers faced considerable challenges in their work resulting from two big fields of tension: the tension between “Western” input and national adaptation, and between “bourgeois” knowledge production and socialist ideas of science and knowledge. It is these tension that are at the core of the different papers.
Moving Knowledge - The Soviet Union and China in the Twentieth Century
Vol 29 No 1 (2019)
Ed. by Marc A. Matten and Julia Obertreis
When, in the early twentieth century, zoology as an academic subject was established in China, its first agents did all they could to distance themselves from earlier Chinese forms of researching animals. Instead, Chinese zoologists – many of whom had studied abroad – emphasized the complete novelty of their discipline and how it, like many other new branches of science, would contribute to making the Chinese nation “rich and strong” again. Yet by taking a closer look at China’s first scholarly journals devoted to zoology, this article demonstrates how in various ways, the new field was in fact also characterized by continuities and by references to “traditional” ways of studying animals in China. I suggest that such continuities should be read as conscious if understated attempts at self-assertion within an increasingly global scientific community. Thus, Chinese zoology doubtless was a hybrid undertaking far from having severed all connections to the country’s past. From the 1900s to the 1930s, however, both a cursory look as well as the rhetoric of Chinese zoologists suggested otherwise. This contradiction is explained by referring to the global political context as well as the role of nationalism.
Interdisciplinary child research emerged in the late nineteenth century with the pioneering work of the American social-Darwinist psychologist G. Stanley Hall. It soon became a transnational scientic movement, pedology, which gained particular traction in Bolshevik Russia in the 1920s. The present essay oers an insight into pedological practice in the Soviet Udmurt Republic and highlights the engagement of local elites, who were concerned with both the theoretical implications and practical consequences of pedology for the indigenous population. Udmurt intellectuals regarded social-biological theories as discriminatory and formulated alternative approaches to school the next generation. This article presents their hitherto little documented educational projects, which evolved in the context of the new programme of child studies conducted in the region. The intellectual and scientic transfer that took place in Udmurtia was not a one-way street, but reects a reciprocal process of communication and exchange. For about a decade, local elites enjoyed a modicum of freedom and attempted to inuence Soviet scientic policy. Pedology proved to be an important but short-lived chapter in the history of Russian science.
In the rst two decades of the People’s Republic of China transnational science circulation played a signicant role in the country’s socialist reconstruction. In this context, modernization was pursued via translation and transfer of Soviet knowledge, most prominently in the form of the journal Knowledge is Power (Zhishi jiushi liliang). Following the style and ideas of its Soviet namesake Znanie – sila it presented the vision of “tomorrow” – the near future – for young workers and students. Starting its publication in 1956, it supported the state’s call for “marching towards science,” a slogan behind which was China’s awareness of its backwardness in science and technology. Earlier research has shown how ideological campaigns in 1950s China tried
When and where does “stress” – a psychological and bodily condition associated with the pressure to perform – become a social concern? Previous historical research has situated the topic in the West, linking it to what is understood to be a Western type of capitalism and / or neoliberalism. This article departs from this line of research by demonstrating the broad dissemination of the topic of stress in the Soviet public sphere since the mid-1960s. Based on an examination of three of the most widely read Soviet state newspapers, the article shows how the notion of stress was conveyed to the Soviet public and thereby sheds light on the circulation of knowledge related to health in the period of late socialism. Stress, although the concept originally came to the Soviet context through a process of knowledge transfer from the West, had a life of its own in the Soviet Union. By analyzing how the concept of stress was adapted to a state socialist
context, the article points to previously underexplored cross-bloc similarities with regard to perceptions of emotions and the body.