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Author ORCID Identifier
Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Elena Suet-Ying Chiu
Asian History | Chinese Studies | Comparative Literature | Cultural History
My dissertation traces the lives of books beyond the domains of authors, publishers, and printers in late imperial China. In other words, my project maps the other half of a book’s life cycle, the half during which it travelled among dealers, collectors, and user-readers, acquiring textual and material traces of each encounter, assuming different meanings, values, status, and functions as it was put to different uses in different social and cultural contexts. I argue that books, instead of being fixed, self-contained entities, are living and changing creations constantly transformed in both form and meaning as they move through a relational field constituted of the people they encounter, the events they are enrolled in, and the places and times they traverse. To borrow Tim Ingold’s concept of “continuous birth”, books are always in the process of becoming. Drawing upon Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and meshwork theory, my project charts the entangled itineraries, the dynamic movements between people and books in late imperial China. I explore how books bring people together, connecting dealers with collectors, creating bonds between readers across generations, geographical areas, and social classes; and how people in turn bring books together, either through curated collections, meticulously compiled library catalogues, or collectanea that set texts in dialogue with one another. Books do not exist on their own, but are defined and constituted by the company they keep and the relationships they form, whether with humans or other books. And it is the intermeshed routes along which they migrate that make them the enlivened things they are.
Wang, Fan, "AGENCY IN THE MARGINS: READERS AND COLLECTORS IN LATE IMPERIAL CHINA" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations. 1884.