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The People's Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0226738604
ISBN-10: 0226738604
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Editorial Reviews


“In this ambitious study of the introduction of Darwinian thought to China, Schmalzer aims to change the way historians of science and Sinologists both look at their disciplines. She demonstrates that knowledge of science dissemination practices is necessary for understanding larger questions of modernity and cultural transformation in China. At the same time, by placing Chinese science in its unique political and cultural context, she challenges the historian’s perception of how the popularization process operates. In the course of telling the story of paleoanthroplogy against the backdrop of the turbulent path of twentieth-century Chinese history, Schmalzer successfully deals with a series of important issues, such as the state’s use of popularization to undermine superstition and embrace socialism, the nationalist symbolism surrounding the ‘Peking Man,’ and the tensions between top-down science dissemination and bottom-up mass science.”

(Bernard Lightman, York University)

“A passionately argued story of human identity, popular science, and politics in twentieth-century China, delightfully out of step with our cynical times and certain to captivate even the most skeptical reader. Schmalzer’s work combines intellectual curiosity mentored by the imagination with serious scholarship firmly grounded in the empirical.”

(Michael Schoenhals, Lund University)

“This wonderfully original book takes a seemingly arcane topic—paleoanthropology and the changing political and cultural meanings of Peking Man—and uses it to explore the changing political cultures of republican, Maoist, and post-Maoist China in a new and subtle way. The author ranges confidently across issues as diverse as evolutionary theory and the search for yetis, illuminating, as she goes, major issues concerning the relationship between science and politics, the relationship between academic elites and citizens who lack scientific knowledge, and the ways in which science is represented and visualized in popular culture. In a consistently thought-provoking fashion, she uses the Chinese case to grapple with fundamental questions concerning the democratic control of science in modern societies.”

(Steve Smith, University of Essex)

“This is one of the few books on science in twentieth-century China, a burgeoning area of research, and the first book on popular science in China. The People’s Peking Man unquestionably breaks new ground.”
(Fa-ti Fan, State University of New York, Birmingham)

"A highly original book....Schmalzer's book finds a great deal to say about issues as diverse as the historical significance of Chinese fossil humans, the search for yetis (called yeren, or 'wild people' in China), changing concepts of human identity, and the conflict between top-down science dissemination and bottom-up mass participation in Chinese science. She also explores other diverse issues that include the connections among science, politics, religion and culture, and the relationship between professional scientists and the general public. Schmalzer presents all these topics in a lively, accessible and thought-provoking way."
(Xu Xing Nature 2009-01-29)

"Peking Man, then, is a wonderfully charged focus for this absorbing study of ideas about popular science, evolution and human identity in 20th century China....an extraordinarily rich, perceptive and highly readable book, that takes in ideas about yeren (the Chinese yeti), the evolutionary link between labour and humanity, the government’s response to Falun Gong and much more."

(Mike Pitts British Archaeology 2009-03-01)

About the Author

Sigrid Schmalzer is assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226738604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226738604
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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