My second month in Paris has just passed and it was indeed a very fruitful one. Like my May report (https://ghc2015.wixsite.com/website-1/single-post/2018/06/04/Report-in-May-2018), I will still write from the following four aspects: 1) seminars, 2) personal meetings, 3) research in archives and libraries and 4) daily life in Paris.
Late June also saw a major event, which was the fourth summer school among five GHC consortium academic institutions. This summer school marked the end of the first round of summer school, after one summer school at each site (Tokyo 2015, Princeton 2016, Berlin 2017 and Paris 2018). Since the detailed report on the summer school is in preparation, my June report will only include some personal reflection on this one-week long event.
June is the last month of the current semester, and with one each last session of the “Sciences et savoirs de l'Asie orientale dans la mondialisation” seminar and “avoirs, institutions, économies: histoires connectées et dynamiques globales” seminar, my participation in EHESS seminar came to an end. The latter, as introduced in my May report, is a series of seminars discussing methodological questions concerning global history, which is organized by professor Stanziani. In this last session, three scholars, working on Russia, China and Turkey respectively (Williard Sunderland, Xavier Paulès and Emmanuel Szurek), talked about the “westernization” process of each country’s case and their relations to Europeanization and globalization. Bring these three countries together might be an occasional choice but for me it was quite fresh, providing some new perspectives on understanding the concept of westernization.
Besides seminars, I continued to attend lectures and symposia held at College de France. In June, one of the most prominent scholars of history of political thought in East Asia and also former professor of the University of Tokyo, Hiroshi Watanabe gave a lecture here entitled “La structure du genre et la sexualité dans le Japon de Tokugawa (1600-1867)”. Another scholar Chu Xiaoquan from Fudan University in Shanghai talked about how Chinese media covered the student democratic movement of France in May 1968. What strikes me most was that both of them gave lecture in fluent French, which demonstrates their brilliant language skill, but at the same reflects there is still a very thick language barrier in between French academia and others, similar to the situation in China and Japan.
2) Personal Meetings
This month, besides my regular working meeting with my supervisor, professor Romano, I continued to make appointments with scholar working on related field of my research topic.
Meetings with professor Romano have always been very helpful and thought provoking. Our meetings in May focused more on my synopsis paper for the summer school, while in meetings this month, we talked more on the project in the whole, based on a up to date outline (including research questions, historiography, and chapter structures) I prepared. In one meeting, we had a thorough discussion on how to read and evaluate historiography. There is natural trend to view past research from current day lenses. The discussion helps me to think, that in future research, I need to be more conscious when reading and “judging” earlier researches, and always try to keep in mind that a scholar’s historical, social, political, and academic background should be considered when evaluating his or her research.
My one-on-one meeting with professor Catherine Jami helped me to think about many aspects that are neglected in my ongoing research up until now. We talked about some methodologies and research tools of digital humanities and how to make use of them in my future research. Being a Chinese specialist who is also very familiar with Japanese academia, she also suggests me to make full use of the resources of advanced Manchu studies in Japan to be better equipped for researches on Ming and Qing dynasties. She also encouraged me to make appointment with one of the most important scholars in my field and plan a trip to KU Leuven. The detail of this trip will be included in my July report.
Another meeting I had this month is with Aliocha Maldavsky from Université Paris Nanterre, a specialist on Catholic mission to New Spain. In studies on Catholic mission, East Asia, South Aisa, and Latin America are generally considered independent field, with its own research tradition and community. Even within East Asia, scholars working on Japan and those working on China have very limited communication. Here in Paris, I had many opportunities to talk with scholar working on similar group (Jesuits and other catholic orders) and similar text (catechisms and other mission press). Discussions with them are always full of treasure for me to better frame my research and polish my methodological approach. These meetings also enable me to think more on possible future research topics, one of which being the connections and communication among missions to various regions in terms of the religious text they produced.
3) Research in Archives and Libraries
Most of my free time in June, I have been working at the BnF, including several of its multiple sites, Richelieu, Mitterrand, Arsenal. Richelieu is for manuscripts and rare books outside of Europe. Mitterrand has a rare book reading room, which is generally for European rare books. Arsenal’s collections include archival documents. Because Richelieu is under renovation, its Chinese collections, which contains nearly 1000 copies of texts produced by European missionaries in the 16 to 18 centuries, is temporarily moved to Mitterrand. Thus I spend quite a lot of time in Mitterrand consulting the originals. Even though many of BnF’s collections have been digitalized and are accessible online, there still are plenty of them that haven’t. And consulting the original provides direct interaction with the book, allowing close inspection of its material aspect, which is extremely important to my research because it has a very strong book history concentration.
I talked in my last report that BnF is generally very easy and convenient to use. But what makes it fantastic for researchers is the fact all BnF collections, rare books as well as modern day printed works, can be photocopied with reader’s own digital camera. (http://www.bnf.fr/en/collections_and_services/a.photocopy_printing_photography.html) this allowed me to consult many more books and make my research at BnF more efficient and smooth.
Another library I visited several times this month is the library of CéSor (Centre d'études en sciences sociales du religieux, EHESS). As a special library for religious studies, they have abundant books and journals on mission studies which are valuable for my ongoing research.
4) Daily Life in Paris
I only visited two museums in June because I only take Sunday off. In order to give a more comprehensive and well-balanced idea of museums in Paris, I will save them for next month, together with my visits to other places.
Here I will only add a few points of my personal reflection on the summer school that happened later this month. All together 5 senior researchers and 16 doctoral students presented their papers or project outlines. It was a very intensive but stimulating five-day program. The papers and projects being discussed during the summer school cover time frame from early 17 century up to present and area almost covering the whole globe. It is not easy for every individual to shift comfortably from Soviet Union to Mexico, or from British Empire to Ottoman Empire, from the civil war US 20 century Japan and it requires great amount of reading to get hold of all the details. However, if seen from a larger picture/question or from methodological approaches, all projects are somewhat connected and everyone has something to contribute to the discussion as well as benefit from it.
Although everyone’s dissertation itself needs focus and we might not able, or do not have to answer to every question or comment emerged from the discussions, I still see the discussions very useful because in them we might as well find our future research possibilities. In the meantime, five intensive days together with more than 20 established scholars and rising young researchers, hearing their thoughts on research, the summer school was also a great opportunity for us to reflect on our own way of doing research, its merits and shortcomings, and ponder for a while what kind of research we want to do in the future.