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Lecture "The World of Everyday Political Thought: A Transcultural History of a “Chinese” Rhetorical Curriculum, ca. 1200–1600" by Shoufu Yin

Jul 11, 2022 | 01:00 PM - 02:30 PM

This talk has two goals. First, it develops a new approach to the studies of political theory and philosophy, one that I call everyday political thought. This approach invites us to explore how ordinary individuals were able to come up with remarkable ideas despite the fact that they were living under and working within different forms of oppressive powers. Second, employing everyday political thought as method, I provide a new narrative of the history of early modern political thought by excavating a rhetorical curriculum that flourished in East Eurasia. This rhetorical curriculum trained individuals to write official documents in literary Sinitic, a lingua franca of the regions. I use documents in Chinese, Mongolian, Manchu, and Persian, among other languages, to reconstruct how the curriculum took its shape under Mongol-ruled China, flourished in post-Mongol East Eurasia, until it was finally restructured under the Manchu Empire. Practicing both close and distant readings of a large number of previously untapped sources that have survived in different parts of the world, I show that this form of education enabled individuals thus trained to philosophize the state, bureaucracy, and counterfactual histories in their everyday settings. In sum, this talk seeks to demonstrate how new method and toolkits, combined with large corpora of overlooked materials, will allow us to write new kinds of intellectual histories that decenters Western Europe and China while foregrounding the theoretical contributions of “everyday” thinkers of different locals and traditions.

This lecture is part of the lecture series Conceptions of World Order and Their Social Carrier Groups.

The Speaker

Shoufu Yin is an assistant professor in history at the University of British Columbia. His research and teaching center on Chinese and Inner Asian political culture and thought in global historical contexts. Specializing in areas where cultural history meets comparative philosophy, he works on a wide array of previously unknown, untapped, and understudied sources in different languages—literary Sinitic (classical Chinese), Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, Persian, Latin, and Greek, to name a few. As such, his publications show that it is productive to engage the intellectual world of hitherto overlooked and marginalized groups—including peasant women who fought in wars, Manchu translators who processed imperial documents, and anonymous typesetters behind the production of books. Ultimately, his scholarly passion lies in writing new kinds of global intellectual histories that foreground the theoretical contributions of both “canonical” and “everyday” thinkers of different traditions.


This event will take place in a hybrid format.  

On Campus: Hörsaal 1.201, Waldweg

On Zoom: The digital participation at this event is open to everyone who registers prior to the event: Registration