What is the Chinese Language? The making of linguistic hierarchies in the People’s Republic of China
Organised by the Department of Chinese Studies in collaboration with the China Studies Centre ‘Language, Literature, Culture and Education’ cluster and The Australian Society for Asian Humanities (formerly OSA).
Today, it is often presumed that there is one Chinese language- being what we in English call Mandarin– and a number of Chinese dialects, among which include better-known ones such as Cantonese or Taiwanese. But where do these designations of language and dialect come from, and what effect does this have on Chinese collective identity today? This talk will focus on how the presumption that non-Mandarin Chinese languages are nothing more than “dialects” resulted from battles over competing understandings of the Chinese nation that began in the early twentieth century and were solidified in the early years of the PRC, narrating how the legacies built decades ago built the foundation for the linguistic hierarchies that define the relationship between language and identity in China today.
About the speaker
Gina Anne Tam is an assistant professor of Chinese history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Having received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2016, her research and teaching focuses on the construction of collective identity– national belonging, ethnicity and race– in modern China. In addition to her book Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960, she has also published peer-reviewed work in Twentieth-Century China, and has written about the relevance of her work to current events in Foreign Affairs, The Nation, and Dissent. Her new project will be a global history of Chinese restauranteurs and the making of pan-Asian cuisine in the twentieth century.
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