Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing

Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing

by Fabio Lanza
     
 

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On May 4, 1919, thousands of students protested the Versailles treaty in Beijing. Seventy years later, another generation demonstrated in Tiananmen Square. Climbing the Monument of the People's Heroes, these protestors stood against a relief of their predecessors, merging with their own mythology while consciously deploying their activism. Through an investigation

Overview

On May 4, 1919, thousands of students protested the Versailles treaty in Beijing. Seventy years later, another generation demonstrated in Tiananmen Square. Climbing the Monument of the People's Heroes, these protestors stood against a relief of their predecessors, merging with their own mythology while consciously deploying their activism. Through an investigation of twentieth-century Chinese student protest, Fabio Lanza considers the marriage of the cultural and the political, the intellectual and the quotidian, that occurred during the May Fourth movement, along with its rearticulation in subsequent protest. He ultimately explores the political category of the "student" and its making in the twentieth century.

Lanza returns to the May Fourth period (1917-1923) and the rise of student activism in and around Beijing University. He revisits reform in pedagogical and learning routines, changes in daily campus life, the fluid relationship between the city and its residents, and the actions of allegedly cultural student organizations. Through a careful analysis of everyday life and urban space, Lanza radically reconceptualizes the emergence of political subjectivities (categories such as "worker," "activist," and "student") and how they anchor and inform political action. He accounts for the elements that drew students to Tiananmen and the formation of the student as an enduring political category. His research underscores how, during a time of crisis, the lived realities of university and student became unsettled in Beijing, and how political militancy in China arose only when the boundaries of identification were challenged.

Editorial Reviews

The China Beat

this book is theoretically sophisticated, prodigiously researched, and eloquently written.

The China Quarterly
Well-crafted and insightful.

— Paul J. Bailey

The China Quarterly - Paul J. Bailey

Well-crafted and insightful.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231152389
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
08/13/2010
Series:
Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University Series
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Rebecca E. Karl

A complete reconceptualization, this book challenges us to think about many of the categories of historical analysis to which we have become accustomed. An unsettling and, for that reason, stimulating read.

Rebecca E. Karl, New York University

David Strand

Lanza makes student politics come alive by presenting in vivid detail the everyday routines of going to class, taking exams, finding a place to live, buying books, socializing, and even choosing what to wear, and then explaining how these lived realities contributed to the extraordinary movements and events authored by students and in which they were swept up. To be young and modern in the old capital's avant-garde universities was a complicated business and deserves the nuanced and theoretically sophisticated methods Lanza musters to get inside the heads and habits, dreams and anxieties, of a generation of political activists and educational pioneers.

David Strand, Dickinson University

Madeleine Zelin

Fabio Lanza's study of student activism in early-twentieth-century Beijing explodes the boundaries of our understanding of the critical intellectual revolution that we refer to as the May Fourth movement.

Madeleine Zelin, author of The Merchants of Zigong: Industrial Entrepreneurship In Early Modern China

Michael Tsin

A well-crafted and thought-provoking work. Lanza compels us to confront the historical legacy of the May Fourth movement in China-and student politics in general-in a radically new light. This is the most sophisticated attempt by a historian to reinterpret an episode that has always occupied a central place in the historiography—and in the imagination-of modern China.

Michael Tsin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jeffrey Wasserstrom

The May Fourth movement is one of the most studied events in modern Chinese history, yet Lanza has come up with a strikingly original and compelling new way to approach it. Theoretically sophisticated but written with verve, Behind the Gate places campus life and campus politics of the early 1900s into an exciting perspective that shifts our attention to issues of space, highlighting the process by which 'the student' emerged as a significant social type and political actor. This book is an important addition to the rich literature about one of the great turning points in China's recent past.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

Meet the Author

Fabio Lanza hails from Venice, Italy, and earned his Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Columbia University. He is assistant professor of history at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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