Recording Available: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960 | Dr. Gina Tam (Trinity University)

Language Politics, Identity and Power in Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China



October 6 @2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Speaker: Dr. Gina Tam (Trinity University)


Taking aim at the conventional narrative that standard, national languages transform 'peasants' into citizens, this book centers the history of the Chinese nation and national identity on fangyan - languages like Shanghainese, Cantonese, and dozens of others that are categorically different from the Chinese national language, Mandarin. She traces how, on the one hand, linguists, policy-makers, bureaucrats and workaday educators framed fangyan as non-standard 'variants' of the Chinese language, subsidiary in symbolic importance to standard Mandarin. She simultaneously highlights, on the other hand, the folksong collectors, playwrights, hip-hop artists and popular protestors who argued that fangyan were more authentic and representative of China's national culture and its history. From the late Qing through the height of the Maoist period, these intertwined visions of the Chinese nation - one spoken in one voice, one spoken in many - interacted and shaped one another, and in the process, shaped the basis for national identity itself.


Gina Tam is an associate professor of history and co-chair of Women and Gender Studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; she is also a Public Intellectual Fellow at the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Asian studies. She completed her Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Stanford University in 2016 and received her B.A. in History and Asian Studies from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008.


This event is organized by the English and Chinese Translation Program, Department of Language Studies, University of Toronto (Scarborough) and co-sponsored by the Global Taiwan Studies Program, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto.