Father and Mother of the People: Thinking Through Ming Bureaucratic Paternalism


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  • Speaker: Sarah Schneewind, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego
  • Host Department: ccs
  • Date: 03/12/2013
  • Time: 12:00PM - 1:00PM

  • Location: Room 1636 School of Social Work Bldg.
    1080 South University
    Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1106

  • Description:

    By Ming times, personal relations had long reasserted themselves within the bureaucratic structure that Qin had originally designed to make officials mere cogs in a machine, dependent on the emperor alone.  In this talk, which grows out of my current research on shrines to living officials, I will focus not on the corruption and factionalism so salient in scholarship but on the rhetoric describing and idealizing the relation of local subjects to the magistrates and prefects set above them.  The parental metaphor for this relationship, apparently a straightforward requirement to nourish and to obey, takes some surprising twists and turns as the writers of commemorative steles for pre-mortem shrines expand on it.

    Sarah Schneewind is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.  She has studied the relations of state and society through an institutional case study, in Community Schools and the State in Ming China, and through an omenological micro-history, A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China, a book also designed to introduce undergraduates and general readers to some aspects of historiography, Ming life, and melonology (guaxue).  An edited volume, Long Live the Emperor! Uses of the Ming Founder Across Six Centuries of East Asian History, carried forward her attack on Ming autocracy.  Oriens Extremus generously published her long study and interpretation of a short biography: “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: Imperial Autocracy and Scholar-Official Autonomy in the Background to the Ming History Biography of Early Ming Scholar-Official Fang Keqin (1326-1376).”   She is currently, and gratefully, on an NEH grant researching local shrines to living officials, with an opening bid, “Beyond Flattery,” coming out in the Journal of Asian Studies.  She has an amateur interest in East-West connections and has proposed, in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations, that the Classic of Documents may have shaped the Declaration of Independence.