Tong Lam

Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, Asian Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies, UTM
Tong Lam


Main bio

Tong Lam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies and the Graduate Department of History. His research is on the modern and contemporary history of China, with emphases on empire and nation, governmentality, knowledge-production, as well as urban space and ruins. His first book, A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900-1949 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), analyzes the profound consequences of the emergence of the technologies of the “social fact” and social survey research in modern China. His new book-length project, The Qing Empire Strikes Back, is a study of late Qing China’s ambitious attempt to transform itself into a modern colonial power in an era of intense imperialist rivalries. Lam’s ongoing research also examines the prevalence of designer architectures, urban ruins, and derelict spaces in post-socialist China’s spectacular and speculative development. As a visual artist, Lam uses photographic techniques to carry out ethnographic studies of contemporary China’s hysterical transformation. At present, he is working on a photo essay book on industrial and post-industrial ruins and abandonment from around the world.

Lam is also involved in a number of collaborative initiates, including a project on the history of science and technology in China and India, as well as a SSHRC funded trans-media study of the changing technologies of film projection in China’s countryside. The products of this latter project include a documentary film, large format photographs, photo essays, and art installations. He also cofounded the Critical China Studies Working Group and organized an international conference on Architectural Spectacle and Urbanism in (Post)socialist China.


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Topics in Global Affairs IV: Seeing Taiwan