Call for papers: Special Feature on the “Chinese Social Sciences” versus “Western Social Sciences” debate: an epistemological account
|Deadline for proposals: 1 June 2017
Guest edited by Chloé Froissart, Researcher in political sciences, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (Hong Kong), Director of the Tsinghua University Sino-French Center in Social Sciences, Assistant Professor, University of Rennes 2. More information: http://www.cefc.com.hk/staff/chloe-froissart/.
Can we speak of a “Chinese model” – or conversely a “Western model” – of the humanities and social sciences? If so, what are its underlying principles, as well as its methodological and theoretical characteristics? What discourse(s) does this model develop and for what purpose is it elaborated?
As early as the 1930s, Chinese researchers sought to adapt the social sciences, born in a Western context, to the Chinese context in order to be able to grasp its specific questions. Sociologists and anthropologists, including the famous Fei Xiaotong, have thus devoted themselves to “indigenizing” essentially exogenous concepts and theories. After three decades of the disappearance of the Chinese social sciences during the Maoist period, various works have emphasized for some twenty years a revival of the Chinese social sciences, documenting movements towards “indigenization” and “sinization” or, on the contrary , pointing to trends in the “globalization” of the social sciences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China (Gransow 1993 ; Dirlik 2013). At the same time, major efforts have been made to introduce Chinese social sciences in the West (Rocca 2008, Roulleau-Berger, Guo, Li and Liu 2008), in particular with the aim of encouraging a hybridization of disciplines that would allow us to think together of ever more global questions, which can be found indifferently in China or in the West (Rocca 2008, Roulleau-Berger and Li 2012).
A notion, however, seems to encumber many of these debates: that of “model,” whether Chinese or Western. Inherited from subaltern studies and post-colonial criticism, this notion is today constantly invoked, in different contexts, either implicitly or explicitly. The conference given by Xi Jinping in May 2016, during which the President called on Chinese researchers to “accelerate the construction of a philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics” (jiakuai goujian Zhongguo tese zhexue shehui kexue) is an example. The notion of “model” also underlies the mobilization of SOAS students and professors who recently called to “decolonize” university curricula by introducing more diversity, or the position of some Chinese and Western scholars, claiming to want to break from the “colonial” or even “imperialist” tradition of Western humanities and social sciences to embrace a Chinese point of view. These different initiatives are based on a common assumption: there is an indigenous way, as opposed to a Western way, of doing humanities and social sciences, and the Western way not only carries prejudice but also dominant views on the countries studied. Is such a judgement grounded? Should the debate necessarily be reduced to these two binary oppositions and does sinicization necessarily rhyme with emancipation?
The aim here is to distinguish, on the one hand, a legitimate epistemological question, which consists in emphasizing the need to rethink and even emancipate from paradigms and theoretical frameworks elaborated in different historical, political, social and cultural contexts, which would consequently be unfit to account for the Chinese reality as well as to favour comparison, and, on the other hand, the possible culturalist or political instrumentalisation of this question, with its afferent consequences on the knowledge produced.
This special issue aims to question the notion of model in the light of the already existing work raising the question of analytical frameworks in humanities and social sciences in the Chinese context. It seeks to reflect on the validity of epistemological relativism and the relationship between knowledge and power, while providing additional insight into the conditions under which scientific knowledge is produced. Is there a specifically Chinese, or conversely, specifically Western way of constructing a research object in the humanities and social sciences and studying it? Can we identify differences in the values that underlie the scientific approach and discourse on both sides and to what extent can these values be identified as strictly Chinese or Western? How and under what conditions can concepts developed in different contexts travel across borders while maintaining their relevance and heuristic value? Is the affirmation of a national specificity of scientific disciplines compatible with the aim of the humanities and social sciences and how far can a scientific discourse present cultural or national characteristics? What exactly do we mean by “Chinese” and “Western” and what is the role of the political and ideological determinants in the production of knowledge? What are the ethical and scientific implications of this desire to indigenize disciplines? Ultimately, the central objective of this issue will be to determine the boundaries between the scientific and the ideological.
This special issue is open to all disciplines: philosophy, literature, history, sociology, anthropology, political science, international relations, geography, economics as long as the studies are firmly anchored in a contemporary Chinese context (empirical and textual cases-studies will be valued) and show a clear concern for critical and nuanced dialogue, both with relativist and universalist theses. In order to answer the initial question, contributions may address, but are not limited to:
Circulation, transferability, historicity:
The frontiers of scientific knowledge:
The conditions of knowledge production and its determinants:
Format of Submission
In Conformity with China Perspectives’ editorial policy, papers should be rigorous, original contributions to their respective disciplines, while providing readable insights on contemporary China for the general public and scholars from other scientific backgrounds.
Submissions could be in English or French and are particularly welcome from researchers at an early stage of their careers.
About the journal:
An interdisciplinary quarterly journal published in both French and English, China Perspectives provides insightful analysis of the latest trends in the Chinese world. China Perspectives is an anonymously peer-reviewed academic journal. It is referenced in 8 international databases including Scopus. Its authority is ensured by an editorial board made up of reputed scholars. A serious yet readable journal, China Perspectives has already proven essential for sinologists and Asia analysts, but its broad scope and highly informative articles may be of interest to anyone keen on improving their knowledge about Greater China.
About the CEFC:
The French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) is a public research centre with a regional remit (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan) supported by the French ministry of Foreign Affairs and the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research).