Development Seminar

Suzhi (素质 ) Travels: Northeast Asia, China, Africa

Friday January 15
12 – 2 pm
in AP 246, 19 Russell Street

Lunch provided, please register here:

In the reform era, suzhi (quality) has emerged as a new conceptual template to understand and justify competition and mobility. Drawing upon archival and field research data, this talk will trace the historical trajectory and current global circulation of suzhi. The concept of the national quality was present not only among social thinkers in Europe (e.g. Weber), but also among post-colonial nationalists in Asia and Africa. I will begin with the Japanese usage in the 19th Century and track how it travelled to China and Korea in the early 20th Century context of Japanese colonialism. I will then examine the competing discourses of suzhi and class in 20th Century China, the neoliberalization of suzhi (partly detached from the nation) since the 1990s, and the travel of suzhi with Chinese who “go global” to Africa. The logic that links this concept’s historical and national instances will be discussed with the audience.

Yan Hairong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, is the author of New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development, and Women Workers in China (Duke University Press, 2008). She has published in disciplinary and area-study journals. Her current research projects focus on global China and include “Rural China in globalization: the soybean crisis and its everyday impact” (PI) and “Going local while going local?: Chinese enterprise localization in Africa and in comparative perspective” (Co-I).

This Development Seminar is co-sponsored by Intersections.

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