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Abstracts for Twentieth Century Think Tank

The Twentieth Century Think Tank offers broad coverage of 20th- and 21st-century topics in the history, philosophy and sociology of science, technology and medicine. The regular programme of papers and discussions takes place on Thursdays over lunch.

Think Tank meetings are held fortnightly on Thursdays, 1–2pm in Seminar Room 2. All welcome!

Organised by Mary Brazelton and Richard Staley.

Lent Term 2020

Show overview

23 January Allegra Fryxell (Pembroke College, Cambridge)
The tempo of modernity: rethinking the history of modern time
Transformations in time and space are fundamental components of definitions of modernity, yet time has only recently gained attention as a crucial category of the modern in historical research. While historians have typically explored changing notions and experiences of time through new technologies or conventions for measuring time, this paper seeks to expand the conceptual definition of time in modernity by arguing for an interdisciplinary approach that brings the history of science into conversations with the history of art and literary studies. Focusing on the period from the late 19th century to World War Two, ideas of time manifest in period philosophy, psychology, theatre and science fiction are used to capture a general sense of temporality (and its relationship to historicity) in early-20th-century modernity. The paper presents a new form of temporality, palimpsestic time, as a common feature of Euro-American modernity that must be taken into account alongside popular theories of 'social acceleration'.
6 February Zhu Jing (University of Warwick)
Non-Han bodies: anthropology, visuality and biopower in China's southwest borderland during the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)
This paper examines the biopolitics of non-Han bodies by probing how ethnicities were classified and conceptualized in Republican China. Extensive anthropometric research was carried out on non-Han populations in the southwest during the second Sino-Japanese War, during which several anthropologists turned to researching non-Han groups under the rubric of frontier politics (边政 Bianzheng). Through imagery, technology and statistics, Republican scholars sought to generate collective physical traits for non-Han populations, in order to justify state interventions, whether for 'civilizing' the non-Han, cultivating the frontier, reclassifying local ethnic groups or constituting a unifying Zhonghua Minzu. The paper emphasizes the legacies of late imperial ethnography on Republican frontier governmentality, in particular the ideas and techniques of representing racial orders through employing imagery and the body as tools. It thus enriches our understanding of the intersections of science, visuality and frontier biopower in Republican China.
20 February Cancelled
5 March Cancelled