Day 3 (afternoon): China in a Global WWII

Concrete examples of the global circulation of vaccines and laboratory equipment were some of the issues raised in the discussion.

From 3 – 14 July 2017, as part of the CCKF-CHCI Summer Institute China in a Global World War Two, invited guest speakers and select early career scholars are combining the discussion of formal academic papers with the close reading of texts in Chinese history and literature. Scholars will be blogging for the duration of the Institute, so keep an eye out for the latest entries on the CRASSH blog. In the following post, Helena F.S. Lopes from the University of Oxford summarises the afternoon of Wednesday, July the 5th (Day 3).

The afternoon of July the 5th focussed on vaccination and immunology in China, particularly in Kunming and Chongqing, as well as food rationing in Shanghai during the war.

Mary Augusta Brazelton, a University Lecturer in Global Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine at Cambridge introduced part of her book project on the history of Chinese public health. The presentation at the Summer Institute was centred on mass vaccination and immunology in China showing how the war period was crucial for the development of systems of mass immunization. Mary focused on different communities of microbiologists, the role of the Chinese Nationalist state and international institutions (such as the League of Nations) and how these participated and interacted in public health efforts during the war in China, especially in terms of the development and use of vaccines to prevent or control epidemics at a time of crisis. The development of material networks connected with vaccination during the war was also addressed.

Although the paper was focused on Kunming, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Guiyang, there were also references to other locations such as the CCP Shaan-Gan-Ning border region, and occupied cities. How vaccination was connected to state building, who was vaccinated, who benefited from the development of immunisation efforts, how vaccine-related research was (or not) linked to biological warfare, and concrete examples of the global circulation of vaccines and laboratory equipment were some of the issues raised in the discussion.

The second paper was delivered by Syu Siou-meng, a PhD Candidate at National Taiwan University. Her presentation focused on her doctoral project on food rationing and social change in wartime Shanghai (1937-1945). After providing a transnational perspective on rationing and modern war, Siou-meng focused on some of her key research questions. These included how different authorities in Shanghai implemented rationing, what was rationed and how rationed foodstuffs were distributed, how rationing contributed to social stratification during the war and how it propelled dietary changes amongst the people in Shanghai. Siou-meng also provided insight on how wartime rationing had a lasting impact, with continuities in the Chinese Civil War, in Cold War Taiwan, and even today.

The discussion that followed evoked family memories of food shortages and how they shaped future generations’ relation with food. A variety of suggestions for further research from different angles were also put forward. These included issues as diverse as who were the people involved in the promotion of a vegetarian diet during the war and precedents for this advocacy, how rationing was implemented towards other groups (such as the unemployed and Japanese community in Shanghai), and the role of black markets.

Although centred on specific local experiences, both papers addressed transnational networks and comparative practices that placed wider issues on medical care, circulation of knowledge, food provision, and the role of the state in wartime China within a truly global context. 

Videos from the Institute: 

China in a Global WWII: Convenors in Conversation
Musical Moment: A performance by Joshua Howard and Yan Xu

Blog Posts from the Institute:

Day 1 (Introduction)
Day 2
Day 3 AM
Day 3 PM
Day 5 AM
Day 5 PM
Day 6
Day 7 AM
Day 7 PM
• Day 8 AM
Day 8 PM
Day 9 AM 
Day 9 PM
• China in a Global WWII: A Reading List

We are grateful for the support of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholary Exchange (CCKF). If you'd like to learn more about the Institute and its aims, please click here. 


Posted: Monday 10 July 2017

Contributor: Helena F.S. Lopes