Thesis ID: CBB681053632

To Mix or Not to Mix: Race Science, Miscegenation, and the Making of the Chinese Race (2023)


As the Qing imperium (1644-1911) gave way to a new Republic (1911-1949), people in China began to understand themselves and the world around them in terms of modern scientific knowledge. To Mix or Not to Mix analyzes the conceptual emergence of racial hybridity in Chinese society between 1890-1949 to illustrate the centrality of Western biomedical race science in the making of the modern Chinese subject. This dissertation demonstrates how the debates about miscegenation, mixed-race people, and other hybrid human identities – all conceptually absent in China prior to the nineteenth century – reflected a marked shift in perceptions of peoplehood and the relationship between human bodies and political governance. From the 1890s onward, this interpretive shift underpinned Chinese state-building ideology and transformed all areas of Chinese life including political identity, ethnic relations, citizenship, policing, and the development of the social and medical sciences. Drawing from scientific publications, medical journals, newspaper clippings, popular magazines, scholarly textbooks, fiction, police files, immigration documents, asylum applications, among other primary sources, this study examines – through the lens of racial hybridity – how the biological interpretation of human racial and political identity became entrenched in the Chinese cultural imagination through translations of Western biomedical race science and reconfigured traditional systems of knowledge. By the end of the Republican period, race had become a subject of scientific inquiry and an object of political governance – its enumeration, measurement, and subjection to scientific analysis were seen as essential to national progress. From this perspective, “race” in the modern Chinese context should be understood as a distinctly modern discourse of human sociopolitical identity inseparable from global racial biology and its logic of scientifically measurable civilizational progress.

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Authors & Contributors
Asen, Daniel
Chen, Hsiu-fen
Dikötter, Frank
Gonaver, Wendy
Kurtz, Joachim
Leonard, Thomas C.
Late Imperial China
Acta Historica Leopoldina
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Chinese Journal for the History of Science and Technology
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Korean Journal of Medical History
University of Chicago
Princeton University
University of South Carolina
College of William and Mary
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Science and race
Transmission of ideas
Lombroso, Cesare
Morton, Samuel George
Richthofen, Ferdinand von
White, Walter
Qianlong Emperor
Li Wenyu (1840–1911)
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
18th century
Progressive Era (1890s-1920s)
United States
South America
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Eastman Kodak Company

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