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Matthias Schumann

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Research Associate (Postdoc) in the project: "Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change"


Short Biography

Matthias Schumann graduated with a MA in Chinese Studies and History from the University of Heidelberg in 2011, before pursuing his PhD with a thesis on “spirit-writing” (Chin. fuji 扶乩/ fuluan 扶鸞) in Republican China at the Heidelberg Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context". In the following years, he held positions as scientific coordinator and postdoctoral research fellow at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg respectively. In his research, Schumann has mostly been working on the intersections between religion, social activism and intellectual history in late imperial and Republican China.

Research Project

The Changing Life Worlds of Humans and Animals in Early Twentieth Century Shanghai

In his project, Schumann studies the changing life worlds of humans and animals in early twentieth century Shanghai (1900–1949). Being the center of the Chinese publishing market and harboring a multi-ethnic community of residents, Shanghai provided a “contact zone” for different actors to negotiate the understanding and place of animals in the city. In the 1930s, it thus became the home of a Buddhist animal protection movement, which saw the human mistreatment of animals as one major reason for China’s social and political crises. Due to the foreign concessions and the Japanese occupation in 1937, Shanghai also experienced different political regimes, which – in their own distinct ways – sought to regulate, centralize and exhibit animals in an attempt at creating a modern and hygienic city. This project seeks to come to terms with the often-contradictory views of animals at the time and understand how they contributed to the transformation, disappearance, and emergence of the shared life world of humans and animals.