By Tong Lam

In this new book, Tong Lam examines the emergence of the “culture of fact” in modern China, showing how elites and intellectuals sought to transform the dynastic empire into a nation-state to ensure its survival. Central to this transformation was therefore not only political and institutional changes, but also new technologies of government that entailed drastically different ways of thinking about what was considered as legitimate knowledge and admissible evidence. In focusing on China’s social survey movement, A Passion for Facts analyzes how information generated by a range of research practices—census, sociological investigation, and ethnography—was mobilized by competing political factions to imagine, manage, and remake the nation. Lam shows how the production of social facts was itself a mass mobilization, and it involved the making of new political subjects. The book also highlights the role of sentiment in the production of scientific knowledge, and it reopens the controversial colonial question in China studies.

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