Making Conceptual History in/on China: Challenges and Opportunities

Making Conceptual History in/on China: Challenges and Opportunities

11.12.2020 - 11.12.2020

Zoom Webinar

Online workshop (Zoom) organized by Federico Brusadelli (University of Naples "L’Orientale", EURICS fellow) and Joseph Ciaudo (University of Ghent, IFRAE fellow) December 11, 2020 - 10 a.m. CET


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Conceptual history has experienced a significant broadening of its interdisciplinary reach and of its geographical scope over the last decade. It has notably has also attracted the attention of scholars working on non-European countries and histories: Africa, the Ottoman Empire, South Asia and East-Asia. This opening of conceptual history to non-European corpus has, furthermore, challenged its methodology and the materials it deals with.  Historians of Asia have been increasingly interested in adopting a conceptual framework particularly when researching on the contested issue of “modernity” and “modernization”, at a time when traditional Eurocentric, nationalist or Marxist master-narratives are being contested or abandoned. China is no exception, obviously. Recent literature has focused on pivotal concepts of the late imperial and early republican debate as nation and nationalism (minzu, minzuzhuyi), liberalism (ziyouzhuyi), democracy (minzhu), science (kexue), society (shehui), public opinion (gonglun), etc. 

Making conceptual history in a Chinese context poses a significant methodological challenge, questioning the validity and adaptability of the linguistic, chronological and philosophical frameworks of an originally “Western” discipline. It also highlights the importance of studying the historical evolution of concepts as the product of “transfers”, “translations” or “circulations”, rather than of purely “internal” dynamics. 

On this background, this online workshop – organized by Federico Brusadelli (University of Naples “L’Orientale”, EURICS fellow) and Joseph Ciaudo (Ghent University, IFRAE fellow) - wishes to address this challenge through a moment of dialogical confrontation and collective elaboration, between sinologist and conceptual historians from different disciplinary and academic backgrounds. 

The first roundtable, focusing on the use of “Begriffsgeschichte” in a Chinese context, will start at 10 a.m., CET. Joseph Ciaudo will open the discussion by presenting a brief state of the art of conceptual history in and about China.

The second roundtable, which will look at the methodological challenges of making conceptual history in a more general global/transnational perspective, will start at 2 p.m., CET. Federico Brusadelli will this time open the discussion with general remarks on the recent attempts to make conceptual history go global or at least transnational.

For registration and further information, please send an email to: and