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Pré-Publication, Document De Travail Année : 2023

Who owns China's Past? American Universities and the Writing of Chinese History

Christian Henriot


This study delves into the academic discourse surrounding Chinese history as portrayed in dissertations from American universities. The research initiates with an exploration of the ProQuest Dissertations database, meticulously curating a dataset of 1,132 dissertations with a historical focus on China. Faced with incomplete metadata, particularly concerning the departmental origins of the dissertations, the author employs a keyword strategy to identify relevant works, resulting in a significant corpus from various departments, predominantly history, but also including East Asian Studies, Religious Studies, Art History, and History of Science. The analytical approach utilizes R-studio for processing the dissertations, with a concentration on identifying dominant themes and patterns within different historical periods, such as Ancient China and the Republican period. The findings reveal a diverse array of topics, ranging from early Buddhist practices and their cultural implications to the intricacies of imperial governance and economic policies of the Han and Qin dynasties. A distinct section of the study focuses on dissertations from the Republican period, employing coherence and perplexity metrics to determine the interpretability of the models. Similarly, the Harvard dissertation abstracts are analyzed separately to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the academic landscape. The conclusion underscores the variance in topics across periods, noting the prominence of religion, state governance, and historiography in the dissertations. The study not only charts a map of scholarly trends in the writing of Chinese history but also poses critical questions about the ownership and interpretation of China's past in the academic domain.
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Dates et versions

halshs-04269261 , version 1 (03-11-2023)


  • HAL Id : halshs-04269261 , version 1


Christian Henriot. Who owns China's Past? American Universities and the Writing of Chinese History. 2023. ⟨halshs-04269261⟩
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