7/28/08

What are my sources?

在Baltimore的会上,和Timothy Brook的一位高足攀谈。问他是如何开始自己现在的研究题目的。他说,每个人不一样,他自己本来没有一个明确的“问题”,是被他手头的source引导进入现在的课题的。但有的人,是先提出一个自己觉得有意思的问题,然后根据问题来找source。

昨天在网上跟Xuan mm聊,她说回北京的时候,去很多档案馆想查资料,都一听说她在国外念书就直接翻脸不让进,或要具体到借阅书名、卷名的单位介绍信。我才意识到,收集source并不是一个简单明了的过程。我得能找到介绍信。我得能知道谁会给我开这样的介绍信,如何去和他们搞好关系、吃喝往来,档案馆的门才会敞开。到处都是social institution。到处都是political negotiation。说要写这些东西,自己得先熟谙这一套才行。

我的source在哪儿呢?不禁有点着了慌。我连一点archival research都没做过呢。:(

Paul Cohen: History in Three Keys: the Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth

上个星期断断续续看完了Cohen的这本书。把还能想起来的,有关无关的,记一点在这里吧。

--看完以后留下的最深印象是Cohen的博学。写中国的义和团,而能随手征引别处的case进行比较,是一种从心所欲、不逾矩的境界。整本书看下来,我倒并不那么想看关于义和团起源的周锡瑞那本更详尽的专著,却记下来了Boyer&Nissenbaum写萨勒姆witch-hunting的、Paul Fussell写一次大战的、David Arnold写饥荒的、Nancy Scheper-Hughes写day-to-day violence的、Simon Schama在法国大革命二百周年之际反省重述该段历史等等的一串书单。我始终还是相信有universal的人性超越于局域文化之上,一部医疗史,不同人解读着同样的伤痛;手术刀层层剖视的身体里,流着同样的气血。写中国史而能让汉学小圈子之外更广的同行及读者有所会心,总是好事。

--该书层层追问历史书写的本原,并将其剥离成三个层次:narrative, experience, and myth。头一个层次基本上是Esherick一整本书的缩减版。experience分头描写了饥荒、恐惧、对女性的偏见、谣言、催眠术、暴力,试图在最大程度上忠实地重构当事人的体验。当中征引不少人类学的相关理论,颇有趣味。myth则进一步缩减为五四以来乃至文革时期对义和团的政治性重述,a history of discourse,尤其集中分析了政治精英留下的文本。

--这是一本很用力写就的书,很精致,力求无懈可击。读起来可看出作者集全力对付的是某历史理论问题,义和团本身只是恰好适用的一个事例,用以说明当一个好的历史学家是多么的不容易。(-_-bb)。超脱乃尔,可能是好事;也可能会让这本书在该理论问题过气之后,一道被束之高阁。

--"Three keys," 这个音乐学意象很美好。但三种音调,是否本出于同一个天然的和声?是否总是需要如此着力地将它们一一分明?

7/14/08

07-14-2008

在日语课期中考的前夜,忽然发愿,在我老牛破车的本本上重装iTunes,然后一首一首地把1000多首音乐重新过一遍灌到iPod里面去。其间本本因为温度太高自动关机两次,穿插等待后台运行时背书若干段,终于在临近午夜时搞定。一个月没有像样音质音乐听,一下子放开了有点收不住。最后迷迷糊糊睡着的时候,大概已经两点了。

今天考了试,奔去城里见了房东拿了lease,把午饭落在家饿到崩溃,地铁坐错方向好几站,后来又把id落在图书馆的复印机。就在我刚刚开始以为与这个新地方已经两相熟悉的当口,才发现自己仍然笨手笨脚、跌跌撞撞。

其实一直以来的斗志,都是在说服自己不要被吓倒而已。要在这个园子里朝入暮出多少次,才能脱离旅游者的状态,才能来去自如。

大概我还是有点想家了。

7/12/08

07/12/08_4 What is Cultural History?

This week's academic reading was concluded by a pleasant afternoon spent at the COOP, with Peter Burke's What Is Cultural History? Burke's prose was as tacit and amiable as always, and very much amusing. He won't hesitate making witty jokes of himself and his trade as a cultural historian. Having attended his lecture once in U of C, I could imagine the respectful scholar speaking with a bold British accent, with his crisp and well-tempered gestures.

I recommend without reservation this book as well as History and Social Theory. They clarified numerous questions for me and can serve as great references to many other important works. I just adore him so much.

07/12/08_3 The Birth of the Clinic

When I first met Judith Farquhar in her office in the deep winter of 2006, my heart beated quickly and I lingered outside the Anthropology building in U of C and my body trembled. I, the ignorant inquirer of my unknown future, would meet the famous scholar whose recent work Appetite: Food and Sex in Postsocialist China seemed both intriguing and elusive to me. Our meeting that day turned out to be brief and unsuccessful, with me asking stupid questions and her caught in a bad cold, our conversation interrupted by my silence and her coughs. When I left her office in dismay, I only remembered one message: "haven't read any Foucault? Read some Foucault."

With this prescription in mind, I felt greatly frustrated by Paul Rabinow's The Foucault Reader and Byron Goods' book. It's just too difficult for me to make sense of. I largely gave up applying to anthropology programs because of my initial frustration on Foucault..

That's why I felt especially relieved when I finished reading my first Foucault book, The Birth of the Clinic, from back to back. Now I can see why this man was so influential and why Judith asked me that question while deeply troubled by her running nose. His prose was so difficult yet so fascinating. The word 'gaze' that he used so often in this book is the best description of what I felt: Foucault's own gaze into the obscure past of modern medicine, the illuminating, penetrating, and unforgiving gaze. Precise, painful, yet so beautiful. There's indeed something special about this man.

Skipping a lot of detailed narratives, I tried to grasp his main arguments. First, I found his theory of three layers of spatialization in medicine quite useful: 1) the 2-dimensional spatialization of diseases in the intellectual landscape of nosology and categories; 2) the 3-dimensional localization of diseases in the actual human body; 3) the social spacialization of healing institutions and associated infrastructures. I found most history of medicine monographs can be characterized accordingly. While Professor Kuriyama's work mainly discussing the conjunction of the first and the second layer, Charles E. Rosenberg's work basically concerned the third. So where am I? It's an important question to ponder from now on.

Second, I could see Foucault's effort to locate the "mutating" moment of medicine to the late-18th century France, and the particular connection with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution during that time. I was surprised to learn that universities were shut down at that time, and it provided an unprecedented chance for physicians to abolish established Galenic systems and experiment under a new light. I cannot list all details here, but it intrigued me to probe into the social history of French Revolution and the rejection of a consistent, homogenous "western" system of medicine as oppose to a similarly consistent "Eastern" one.

Thirdly, his discussion of the problem of medical professionalization, the dilemma between the necessity to create a privileged group with esoteric knowledge and the Revolution's claim to abolish all other guilds and old institutions. He termed it "the dictatorship of genius" and "the sovereign liberty of truth." Although he did not develop it further here, it is basically the source of the so-called "bio-power" in his other works.

I would finish for now by a quote reflecting the new light assumed by death, according to Foucault: "The living night is dissipated in the brightness of death." What doctors cannot know from a living patient could suddenly be revealed by dissecting his body after death. Death is no longer the ending point of all lives and diseases, but a point of departure in which new lights on life and disease could be harvested. I know I'll return to this book sooner or later, and hopefully, Foucault will not seem so overwhelming to me by then.

07/12/08_2 Another Modernity?

It took me a week to finish reading Gyan Prakash's Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India. The prose is dense and I knew almost nothing about the historical making of modern India, but it was great reading one chapter every night. It revealed important light for me the connection between Postcolonialism and the historical study of science, and Indian scholars had made respectful contribution by probing the history of modern nation-state making and the problem of a east-west, ancient-modern, static-progressive dichotomy in the grand narrative of Eurocentric history. Prakash's analysis of science's cultural authority in India has been particularly interesting to me. I imagined a comparative project juxtaposing the modernizing projects happened in Japan, China and India, and analyzing the relationship between different conditions of political sovereignty (completely-independent, semi-colonized and completely-colonized) and the cultural representations of western science and technology. For example, the construction of a major bridge across the Ganges River, the Yangtzi River and maybe some other major river in Japan---how do people perceive and portray the engineering achievement in terms of their own situations? Do they share the same mentality and dilemma trying to achieve a unique modernity?

Prakash's account of how Indian elites tried to locate their own "scientific past" is especially revealing in its astonishing resemblance with the Chinese counterpart. It immediately reminded me of the construction of "四大发明" and the re-discovery of 梦溪笔谈 and 天工开物 as part-and-parcel of the construction of a Chinese scientific past, so that the modernizing project can gain its legitimacy and consistency with this reconfigured history. Comparing it with the monograph studying 北京人 and the origin of the Chinese people in Dilemmas of Victory: the Early Years of the PRC, it is well worth further investigation on similar projects.

Of course, Prakash could also be critiqued as being excessively theoretically-minded (see his wide usage of Foucault on governmentality!) and overlooking the benefits of modernization, but his aspiration, I believe, lies in the confidence on critical history, from which "a new post-colonial India" could spring. He also brought other theorists such as Theodor Adorno to my attention:

"Late-comers and newcomers have an alarming affinity to positivism.... It would be poor psychology to assume that exclusion arouses only hate and resentment; it arouses too a possessive, intolerant kind of love, and those whom repressive culture has held at a distance can easily become its most diehard defenders."
---Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, trans. E.F. N. Jephcott (London: NLB, 1974), 52.

...Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger, Arendt... @_@

07/12/08_1 Occidentalism

Last week's reading was dominated by theories, which has been extremely illuminating for a theoretically-ignorant person like me. It was started by going over the introduction of Shih Shu-mei's The Lure of the Modern and Chen Xiaomei's Occidentalism (with the preface written by Dai Jinhua) on Monday, both comparative literature monographs. Shih analyzed "modernist" novels in the Republican period and emphasized the semi-colonial environment that played into the favored representation of the West in Chinese writings. Chen investigated into largely the same problem by choosing the late 1970s and 1980s, and described an important yet questionable "Occidentalism" among the Chinese intelligentsia. Both could be considered as response to Said's Orientalism, applying (or reversing) his theory into the idiosyncratic context of modern Chinese literature. What intrigued me most, however, was Chen's questioning into herself's role as a Chinese-born scholar writing in the essentially-western academic world. What significance does our writings bear to the people whom we claim to represent? Reflecting over the writings of the Chinese overseas diaspora after 1989, she pointed our to a gap between the imagined community and the real China, the "subalterns" out there. What is the point of doing social science research, other than painstakingly producing a couple of books which will soon be buried into an obscure corner of libraries? We gotta make some true noise out of this. We gotta investigate theories not for theories' sake. We gotta recognize our own prejudices and standings without pretending to know everything. It's the everlasting dilemma for choosing to distance yourself from the "moral economy of the crowd" while trying to make sense of the very phenomena.

7/6/08

7/4/08

梦07-04-2008

2009.12.31 按:
整理blog发现这样一篇没有发过的draft...

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独立日放假,睡懒觉做了很清晰的梦。梦见北大钢琴社演出,却是在一个从没见过的大礼堂,设备好得惊人,观众群情兴奋,甚至要求加演。演出中化学院某同学倾情放歌,唱了类似敕勒歌的一首沧桑曲目,迷倒一片。该钢琴的曲目上演了,却被tw同学告知这架钢琴坏了,只能放录音。我手持麦克风特别傻地站在那钢琴旁边,话筒里传出断断续续不清晰的《悲怆》。观众开始退场,我看见观众席里Vic同学失望和鄙夷的目光。演出结束时我对观众发表了fund-raising的激情洋溢的演说,募得美元一大把,每个给钱的人都拿到了欧洲杯纪念明信片,上面还盖了6月18号的邮戳。再后来的后来,不知怎么和蛋女走在最后面,说些毕业了该如何如何的话,她大学时的男朋友也出现了,跟我说,他觉得把钱捐给我们很放心。攥着那些钱,还不舍得数,就和蛋女走回了宿舍楼。她回屋就累得睡下了,我则在床头坐定,忽然一动念头,坏了,后天就要回美国,新的签证还没有签,连预约的电话卡都没有买。这样没有办法回去继续学日语,也没有办法继续生活。忧伤忽然如涨潮一般漫溢了整个梦境,我就那样坐在床头发呆,无心去数旁边一堆散乱的一元美钞。

醒来以后很平静,第一个念头是继续睡,回不了美国就回不了呗,管他呢。第二个念头是你根本就还在这旮旯呆着呢,这都做得什么梦啊!