Whose books? The Harvard-Yenching Institute's library and the question of academic imperialism
Article publication date: 15 December 2020
Issue publication date: 13 May 2021
This essay focuses on the Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute and examines how the Library collected and transported Chinese rare books to the United States during the 1930 and 1940s. It considers Harvard's rationale for its collection of Chinese books and tensions between Chinese scholars and the Harvard-Yenching Institute leaders and librarians over the purchase and “export” of Chinese books.
This research is a historical study based on archival research at Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Harvard-Yenching Library, as well as careful readings of published primary and secondary sources.
By examining the debates that surrounded the ownership of Chinese books, and the historical circumstances that enabled or hindered the cross-national movement of books, this essay uncovers a complex and interwoven historical discourse of academic nationalism, internationalism and imperialism.
Drawing upon the unexamined primary sources and published second sources, this essay uncovers a complex and interwoven historical discourse of academic nationalism, internationalism and imperialism.
This study adopts the Chinese system, with surnames followed by given names, as with Fan Shuhua and Li Ji. Out of respect for their own choice, those who adopted English names and used them consistently are identified accordingly. Thus, it is Alfred Kaiming Chiu rather than Qiu Kaiming; William Hung instead of Hong Ye.Earlier version of this article has been presented at the workshop of “Histories of Education in China and Beyond” held in Hangzhou, China in the summer of 2019. I am indebted to Harvard-Yenching Institute and Harvard- Yenching Library for providing a travel fund to do archival research. I am also grateful for help from Adam Nelson and comments from HER anonymous reviewers and Editor Julie McLeod. Many thanks also for the comments of Walter Stern, Wang Huimin, Wang Chen, Shen Wenqin, Chen Luxi and Zhao Kang.
Qing, L. (2021), "Whose books? The Harvard-Yenching Institute's library and the question of academic imperialism", History of Education Review, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 54-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/HER-11-2019-0044
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