Future of the Humanities: Faculty Papers

The following papers by faculty at Duke Kunshan University, New York University, Shanghai, and Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, Suzhou will be presented at the Fall Conference The Future of the Humanities at Duke Kunshan University, September 20-21, 2019.

Bryce Beemer, DKU

Creole Islam in the Shadow of Ethnic Cleansing: Histories of Myanmar’s Kaman Muslim Communities

The Kaman are a Muslim community in Arakan, who, unlike the Rohingya minority, are considered an indigenous ethnic group in both Myanmar law and tradition. Until recently, the Kaman community proudly announced their history and creole origins as a multiethnic military unit in the Mughul army, comprised of archers, captured in a 1660 skirmish between Arakan and Mughul forces. The captured Mughal archers were incorporated into the victor’s military, adapted to life in a Buddhist majority state, and cohered over the decades into a new ethnic group. “Kaman” means “archer” in Persian. We can understand these war captives as moving through a decades long process of ethnogenesis in which “Muslim archers” became “Archer Muslims”: their ethnonym, “Kaman”, is literally the duty they performed for the Arakan king. The Kaman are technically protected by Myanmar law and should be immune from the state and communal violence and terror visited upon the undocumented Rohingya, however, the Kaman have been swept up in this violence. Many hundreds have had their homes and villages burned and are living in refugee camps alongside the Rohingya. This has led to a profound rethinking of Kaman history and identity amongst community leaders as they search for new forms of protection in the ever more dangerous anti-Mulsim and anti-Bengali politics that have roiled Arakan and Myanmar since democratic elections began in 2011. My paper will examine remarkable changes in Kaman identity over the last few decades as the community reacts to Myanmar’s shifting, uncertain, and potentially deadly identity politics.

Tabe Bergman, XJTLU

Trump in the Chinese Media: A Content Analysis

Donald Trump’s campaign and election to president of the United States has raised questions about traditional western approaches to journalism, including objectivity and professionalism. To what extent should journalists assume an active oppositional stance and call a lie a lie? Trump’s unexpected rise has also presented a challenge to China’s English-language journalism. Trump appealed to some Chinese by presenting himself as the non-establishment candidate, whereas his rival Hillary Clinton promised a continuation of US policy towards China heavy on, among other things, rhetorical concern about human rights. But Trump also expressed strongly negative opinions on China, and was very unpopular among western populations, the target readers of China’s English-language journalism. How, then, did China’s journalism aimed at global readers evaluate Trump and his pronouncements?

Xuenan Cao, DKU

Irretrievable Documents: Fictions of Absented Presence

Our understanding of media history is skewed, inevitably, towards the objects that can be stored and seen, or media devices for storage and retrieval. How do one see a media object hidden from sight? How can we reconstruct senses of loss from the already lost materials? My talk explores these issues through one historical narrative about book-making. During the early years of the People’s Republic of China, the Great Leap Forward has led the country to a frenzy of agricultural modernization and industrialization. Less well-known is that book-publishing also has to make a leap. Publishers have produced unprecedented number of books despite the shortage of paper. As a result, they preferred producing slimmer books in place of thick volumes and occasionally omitted pages. Paper mills tried to increase output by simplifying the production process, producing brittle, translucent paper sheets. Book-slimming and page-omission have rendered these books printed on brittle, translucent pages unsuitable for long-term storage. Meanwhile, bibliophiles neglected these slim, brittle books and protected rare prints in their clandestine networks; their fine books overwrote the lost past with their stories of preservation. Loss itself becomes a lost story. By way of attempting to name this absented presence, novelist Yan Lianke brings into view what cannot be empirically verified, urging us to investigate where content and form have not been separated and when the production of a culture and the culture of loss were still one.

Titas Chakraborty, DKU

Saari Gaan: Situating Boatmen in the Cultural World of Eighteenth Century Bengal Mysticism

This paper investigates the place of boatmen in the socio-cultural world of eighteenth century Bengal, through a close examination of their work songs or saari gaan. Before the coming of railways, boatmen provided the bulwarks of inland shipping in Bengal, an important region in the global trade networks of the early-modern period. European sources, which provide extensive archival documentation for boatmen in the eighteenth-century India, specify boatmen of the deltaic region as “Muslims.” However, the Islamic identity of most boatmen was underpinned by their heterodox practice of pir worship. Additionally, census data from the nineteenth century shows that boatmen’s occupation was not determined by caste.  Boatmen’s work songs, which were collected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, provide the key to understanding the constitutive elements of this very fluid social identity of the boatmen. As this paper will demonstrate, the themes, motifs and language of these songs place them within the cultural milieu of heterodox mysticism that existed in Bengal between fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.  The saari songs reveal a reciprocal relationship between the cultural world of Bengal mysticism and the boatmen’s world of work. In making their work songs, boatmen borrowed heavily from the forms and imagery created by the various sects of Bengal mysticism. Yet they were composed in the rhythm of rowing, making ordinary boatmen cultural agents within this milieu of creative mysticism. This paper contributes to the rich literature on popular devotional movements in South Asia, by studying saari songs for the first time within the context of late-medieval Bengal.

Kaley Clements, DKU

Low Hanging Fruit

Low Hanging Fruit is a documentary project that follows avocados as a commodity in Michoacán, the only state in México allowed to export the product into the USA. The project maps out a history of the fruit, follows how an 80-year US embargo on the product was eventually lifted to only include avocados from Michoacán, and flows into how the commodity is ran today. Avocados are used as a symbol to represent a greater story about how markets are controlled in today’s globalizing economy. This is done by following some of the logistics as broken into three main categories: governmentality, ecological devastation, and environmental racism.

Anna Greenspan, NYU Shanghai

China and the Wireless Wave

Urban life in the 21st century is immersed in the imperceptible waves of wireless media. Nowhere is this more so than in urban China, where a hyperdense network of mobile devices increasingly provides the abstract infrastructure of daily life. Initially, as the planet electrified, China perceived the emerging global mediasphere as an invader from outside. Yet, as electric communication became wireless, China – from its cell phone production hub in the megacity of Shenzhen, to the enthusiastic embrace of 5G – has grown ever more attuned to the technology of the age. My project explores China’s entanglement with the wireless wave. It does so by connecting contemporary media theory with modern Chinese thought. In drawing on an intellectual tradition outside the West, China and the Wireless Wave, participates in the creation of a global media theory for a global media age. In doing so, it offers new insights about China’s intimate involvement with the technological culture of our time.

Nellie Chu, DKU

“Just in Time” Capitalism: Transnational Subcontracting, Urban Villages, and Fast Fashion in Guangzhou, China

My presentation briefly introduces my book project, which analyzes precarious accumulation as an exemplary condition of “just in time” livelihood and precarious labor among Chinese rural migrants. These migrants collaborate with West African and South Korean traders and entrepreneurs as they collectively labor across the global supply chains for fast fashion in southern China. Just in Time narrates the life stories of migrants (transnational and domestic), as well as their experiences of labor, in order to underscore the paradoxes and nuances of migratory life and livelihood in the era of “just in time” supply chain capitalism. A key feature of migrants’ precarious accumulation is the tension between the desire or necessity for quick, easy money based on short-term, risky strategies of accumulation, while they simultaneously search for financial stability and security in the long-term. Migrants, I argue, find themselves caught between the necessity of having to accumulate profit and capital over time, and the inability of them to do so in light of rapidly changing fashion trends, market competition, and policing by more powerful bosses. While scholars and observers of informal economies in other regions of the world have framed this paradox ambivalently as “relative autonomy” or as “competing desires,” I describe this tension as a class-based contradiction, one that has a historical and material basis in post-Fordist forms of social organization. Its effects are evidenced in other arenas of transnational capitalism and precarious forms of migratory labor and subjectivity.

Zach Fredman, DKU

Making Our Friends at Home: China’s Hostel Program for U.S. Armed Forces during World War II

During the Second World War, the Chinese Nationalist government’s War Area Service Corps (WASC, 軍事委員會戰地服務團) operated a network of hostels that provided free board and lodging to all American military personnel stationed in China. The Chinese government did not devote scare resources to hosting American personnel solely to prove its commitment to the Sino-U.S. alliance, though this was a central goal. Rather, WASC director Huang Renlin and other Guomindang officials saw the hostel program as solution to a fundamental question of China’s search for national rejuvenation: how to convince Americans to treat Chinese as equals? From their perspectives, part of the answer was the creation of a hostel network and cultural outreach program that would demonstrate their capacity for adhering to American norms while also showcasing China’s cultural achievements. Most importantly, hostels would mediate how American soldiers perceived China with their senses, insulating them from unwelcome encounters: unsightly poverty, noxious odors, unfamiliar tastes, and cacophonous streets. The hostel program succeeded shaping American perceptions but not as Huang and other Chinese officials had intended. Instead of fulfilling their ambitions, the program became grounds for Americans to deny Chinese the equal relationship they wanted. Hostels offended the five senses, reproduced imperialistic treaty port hierarchies, and demonstrated the purported incapacities of the country’s officials. This attempt to create new knowledge about China by manipulating the sensory experience of American personnel ended up reproducing the old knowledge of racial superiority and familiar national hierarchies.

Dave Hare, DKU

VR Affordances Expand Chinese VR Policy Outcomes

Virtual reality documentary films aim to convince participants that they have entered a new embodied position within a different space. This form of telepresence is brought on by variations in and/or technical and technological limitations to the creative approach to movement, haptics and/or proprioceptivity (Griffiths 2008; Ross 2018). When married to spiritual-based environments, which have themselves traditionally offered modes of psychological movement, or transcendence, the optical illusion takes on additional layers of complexity and meaning. The 12-minute VR documentary film, The Cave (2017), by Chinese filmmaker, Zhao Qi, provides a means of exploring these aspects of VR in a Chinese context, Dunhuang Mogao Cave 285. Zhao Qi and crew’s creative approach to this environment provides a form of direct experience that expands contemporary research and tourism-based experiences of Cave 285 by emphasising the Buddhist stories that adorn the walls of the Cave and their spiritual purpose. The film ends with participants being allowed to meditate under a digital Bodhi Tree and a conceptual shift into the universe. Whilst this approach experiments with VR form in ways that reconfigure the mediated representation of the cave location, it also broadens the scope of VR production in China beyond the country’s stated VR policy aims. This conference paper combines research on Chinese VR industry policy and creative uptake of VR technology to illustrate latent affordances of the screen technology in China.

Seth Henderson, DKU

Offerings, Architectures, and Curses: A Conversation With Seth

My work focuses on the question of displacement—identity, migration, and ritual in post-colonial East Asia. In particular, three projects that I made in Hong Kong (two short documentary films, The Offeringsand Cursed Blessings, and one interdisciplinary art project, Traveling Architectures) investigate the complex relationship between local traditions and global phenomena, and how people, events, and rituals deeply rooted in a culture respond to an ever-changing landscape of the global economy. In The Offerings, we meet a father and son who have continued the family trade of custom-built paper effigies that when burned, pass to the intended ancestor in the after-life.  These paper replicas range from mansions and servants to bowls of noodles and money. Cursed Blessingsintroduces us to Ms. Leung, an octogenarian practicing a mixture of certain Daoist and Buddhist beliefs alongside local deity worship to provide a service deeper than simply placing the curses requested by her customers. Traveling Architecturesweaves together film, choreography, architecture, music, and projection mapping in telling a story of Hong Kong in metaphor through tracing the histories of the hawker stalls and their neighborhoods. The Offerings,Cursed Blessings, and Traveling Architecturesare interconnected in various ways but one thread that runs through them is that of displacement, either by religious persecution, war, market forces, or government policy. These three projects examine the global circulations of peoples, cultures, and ideas. In particular, they address the connections and tensions of these movements through intersecting past and present, the traditional and the modern, as well as the spiritual and the material on a transnational platform.

Selina Lai-Henderson, DKU

Color Around the Globe: Langston Hughes, Black Internationalism, and Translation in China

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was the first African American writer to set foot on Chinese soil. Having visited Mexico, Europe, and West Africa before he had yet to turn twenty-two, Hughes eventually made his way to the Soviet Union, China, and Japan in 1933. At the age of thirty-one, he pioneered what none of his contemporaries or predecessors had been able to achieve—rewrite the public image of African Americans in the Chinese cultural and intellectual imagination. Crucially, his visit to China trailblazed territories of black internationalism as he responded to American and European global hegemony through using China as an experimental ground.  At a time when the Soviet Union held center stage in Communist revolutionary thought, Hughes’s Chinese encounters challenged the assumption within the American and African American communities that China was largely irrelevant in the discourse of proletarianism. The internationalist perspectives that he obtained from the sojourn offered him a powerful tool to communicate the struggles of black citizenship at home in a global context. It stimulated a racial consciousness that defied national, geographical, and political boundaries of the US color line.

Leksa Lee, NYU Shanghai

The Number One Fake Museum Under Heaven and the Embodied Experience of Realness in China

China’s booming museum industry is beset by rumors of fakes and contentious debates over what makes artifacts authentic. But even when different definitions of realness are in competition, some of their standards seem to converge. This talk compares two Chinese museums that collected “fake” or ahistorical artifacts. The Jibaozhai Museum went viral when its collection of ridiculous forgeries was revealed, while the Museum of Oolong Tea Culture methodically fabricated legally licensed replicas across the course of two years. Though the two museums were worlds apart, there was an eerie similarity in how the curators of each constructed the authenticity of their collections through embodied performances of expertise. These convergences show how participants in China’s museum industry mix and match different standards of realness – such as these performances – like artifacts brought together in a collection. Drawing on online media and ethnography, this talk argues that the new notions of realness emerging from China’s museum industry are “collected” authenticities, echoing and borrowing from each other even as they compete.

Yitzhak Lewis, DKU

Invisible Differences, or: What is Literary Marginality?

The concept of “marginality” has been employed by a wide variety of literary and cultural studies, ranging from Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Lifeto Chana Kronfeld’s On the Margins of Modernism. Such studies reveal a persistent problem with the theorization of “marginality.” At times it is indistinguishable in its application from the Deleuzian concept of “minority,” while at other times it simply means “unimportant” or “not central.” This paper offers an attempt to stabilize the theoretical signification of “literary marginality.” The paper argues that the emergence of the public sphere in the nineteenth century had a particularly aesthetic dimension to it—making a certain class of social difference invisible—and that “the margin” is the space where such aesthetic invisibility is challenged.

Daniel Lim, DKU

Philosophy Through Machine Learning

I motivate and defend the idea of teaching philosophy through computational concepts. In particular, I highlight the affinity that exists between machine learning and philosophical issues surrounding induction. I will focus on three areas: (i) overfitting and David Hume’s so-called Problem of Induction, (ii) validation and the accommodation vs. prediction debate in scientific theory selection, and (iii) feature engineering and Nelson Goodman’s so-called New Riddle of Induction.

Yuexi Liu, XJTLU

Hearing Voices: The Extended Mind in Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

Waugh’s last comic novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold(1957) takes “exterior modernism” to a new height, no longer avoiding interiority—as in his interwar fiction—but exteriorising the interior through dissociation. ‘The Box’, to which the writer-protagonist attributes the source of the tormenting voices, may well be his own mind, an extended—albeit unhealthy —mind that works as a radio: he transmits his thoughts and then receives them as external signals in order to communicate with them. Pinfold’s auditory hallucinations are caused by the breakdown of communication. Interestingly, writing is also a dissociative activity. Concerned with the writer’s block, the novel reflects on the creative process and illuminates the relationship between madness and creativity. If dissociation, or the splitting of the mind, is a defense against trauma, the traumatic experience Pinfold attempts to suppress is the Second World War. The unusual state of mind accentuates the contingency of Waugh’s radio writing; his preferred medium is cinema.

Jesse Olsavsky, DKU

Runaway Slaves, Abolitionists, and the Origins of Prison Abolitionism

This paper will reveal the abolitionist roots of prison abolitionism. Prison abolitionism became a significant movement in US in the 1970s when reformers, prisoners, and scholars began demanding fundamental reform, even abolition, of America’s vast and highly racialized prison system. Taking inspiration from the abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century, prison abolitionists argued they were continuing the abolitionist struggle by reforming the American prisons which had emerged as a response to slavery’s abolition. Curiously, historians have not examined these links between abolitionism and prison abolitionism, and in fact have maintained that there was little other than symbolic connection between the two movements. This essay, by examining nineteenth century abolitionist debates about the function of prisons in American life, will argue that contemporary prison abolition had antislavery origins. It began with runaway slaves, who narrated their experiences to abolitionists. In hundreds of instances, these fugitives described American institutions—which confined them, policed them, incarcerated them, and hunted them down—as “the prison house.” Abolitionists appropriated this carceral language to describe slavery. Together, fugitive and free abolitionists, many of whom served jailtime for their activism, pushed this rhetoric to its logical conclusions. They argued that all forms of prison-like unfreedom, including the harsh conditions in prisons themselves, had to be abolished. As a result, abolitionists began to involve themselves in prison reform work, a contentious issue in American public life in the nineteenth century. They agitated against capital punishment, denounced the massive size of the American prison system long before it truly took off post-reconstruction and even formulated utopian plans for the abolition of police forces. They started the work of reforming American prisons from within, and some even began to argue for their complete abolition.

Alex Oprea, ANU

Litigators and Legislators: The Role of Courts in Education Policy

What should be the role of courts in remedying educational injustice? There is widespread agreement among political philosophers and legal scholars that the distribution of education funding in many countries is unjust. In the United States, New York spent an average of $21,206 to educate each of its public-school students, while Utah spent an average of $6,575. In China, a primary school student from Beijing receives an average of 24,000 CNY per year, while a primary school student in Henan receives just under 5,000 CNY per year. Beyond funding, there are wide disparities in access to qualified teachers, safe learning environments, well-maintained school facilities, and quality educational programming. The response to these injustices has recently focused on litigating education rights in courts of law. In this paper, I argue that the courts indeed have a key role in protecting educational rights. However, many of the existing attempts to litigate education policy reform have challenged the democratic rights of communities to decide education policy through elected representatives and other democratic channels. To address this problem, I defend a democratic role for courts in education that simultaneously protects victims of injustice and respects the democratic rights of citizens.

Liqi Ren, DKU

Meaning in Absence: The Case of Tampon Use among Chinese Women

While the tampon is a popular female hygiene product that is used in most western countries, within the Chinese market, around 98 percent of women use sanitary napkins and only 1.9 percent use tampons. The culture is changing rapidly in China today, but tampons have not been accepted by many women. What do Chinese women think about using tampons? How do culture and objects interact with each other in terms of rejection and receptivity? This paper tries to answer these questions by discussing the relationship between culture and objects, Chinese sexual culture, and the perceptions of women regarding tampons. It is possible to gain extensive cultural knowledge about Chinese society and values by exploring what the absence of this object means, which in turn provides a glimpse into the socio-cultural fabric of a society and the operational values of the community.

Philip Santoso

The Nature and Meaning of the Left-Right Metaphor in Politics

How do people form their perceptions how far “left” or “right” parties are? Despite the importance of the left-right metaphor in Western Democracies, this question has not been satisfactorily answered. In this paper, we identify a set of cues that voters may use to form their perceptions of parties’ left-right positions and empirically estimate the weight they place on each of these factors when actually placing parties on a standard left-right scale. The factors we examine include: parties’ policy positions, parties’ patterns of conflict and cooperation with other parties, parties’ sizes and the scope of their support, and socio-demographic basis of party supporters. To produce these weights, we use original conjoint experiments in Great Britain, Canada, and Germany, in which respondents are shown profiles of hypothetical parties and assign the party a score on a left-right scale. This lets us, for the first time, directly estimate the relative influence of different party attributes on voters’ perceptions, to answer more definitively than any previous work what voters really mean when they think of a party as left or right.

Penelope Scott, XJTLU

The Concept of the Sacred in Ælfric’s Lives of Saints

The designation of certain spaces, objects, and people as sacred is a cross-cultural phenomenon, though the conceptual category of the sacred differs across cultures in terms of how it is constructed and how it interacts with other cultural models. This paper examines the construction of the sacred in Anglo-Saxon hagiographies from a cognitive perspective. The paper methodologically brings together analysis of Ælfric’s Lives of Saints with discussion of the sub-senses of halig ‘holy’ from a semasiological perspective, and is theoretically informed by cultural linguistics and cognitive approaches to religion (e.g. Anttonen 1996, 1999). Paden (1996) notes that for much of the history of comparative religious studies, the “mana” model has prevailed in descriptions of the concept of sacrality. While he concedes that this model is representative of the sacred in many cultures, he contends that another is at least as important, which he terms the ‘sacred order’ model. The sacred, in this second model, stands not in opposition to the mundane but to that which breaks the boundaries between the sacred and the profane. This paper details the construction of the sacred in terms of image schemas, conceptual metaphors and cultural schemas (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Quinn 1987; Sharifian 2011) and argues that while the ‘mana’ and ‘sacred order’ models of sacrality exist in Old English the two models are interconnected and form part of a larger complex cultural model in which space is at the center.

Daniel J. Stephens, DKU

Value Pluralism and Later Mohist Ethics

The writings of the later Mohists contain several interesting updates to the Mohist ethical theory, the most central of which is the adoption of an account of benefit (li – 利) that identifies it with what a person is pleased to get. In this talk, I will make the case for a way of understanding this alteration to the Mohists’ theory and why they made it. On my interpretation, the adoption of this subjective account of benefit is meant to allow the Mohist ethical theory to deal with the diversity of human preferences in a better way than the earlier Mohist ethical theory and its objective account of benefit. My argument for this interpretation will consist, primarily, in showing how the Mohists’ updated theory gives them plausible responses to two types of criticism that they faced. The first type of criticism, from the Zhuangzi, points to a type of psychological pluralism to claim that the Mohist focus on benefit may be too narrow to capture everything that people value. The second type of criticism, from Mengzi, points to a type of psychological universalism to claim that the Mohist focus on impartial benefit runs counter to people’s basic emotional tendencies. After making the case for my account, I will briefly discuss what I think we can learn from seeing that these kinds of philosophical moves were made in early China.

Ben Van Overmeire, DKU

Carnival in the Zen Temple: A Bakhtinian Interpretation of Janwillem van de Wetering’s Afterzen

This paper provides a close reading of Janwillem van de Wetering’s Afterzen(1999). Unlike other autobiographical reflections written by Zen students, Afterzendoes not focus on a single student’s experience of a single teacher. Instead, the book records conversations between a great variety of Zen students and their masters. In doing so, Van de Wetering presents an elaborate commentary on the classical Zen recorded sayings literature, which typically portray interactions of legendary Zen masters with their students. I argue that Van de Wetering’s representation of Zen can be best understood via two concepts pioneered by Mikhail Bakhtin: Afterzenis both a heteroglossic text, in that it is a patchwork of multiple voices, and it is a carnivalesque text, in that it consistently exposes authority as fraudulent, and hails the fraudulent as authentic. Afterzenis thus a particularly sophisticated example of and commentary on the modern Zen memoir.

Mengqi Wang, DKU

The Clash of Homely Imaginations Marriage house in post-reform China

In contemporary China, homes bought as part of a marriage preparation are called “marriage houses.” After the post-socialist state installed the housing market in the late 1980s, buying marriage houses gradually became a norm in the cities. This paper presents the controversy over the gendered ways in which a marriage house is financed among the kinship network. On one hand, a down payment is considered as a male honor and the wife’s family is expected to contribute to mortgage payment and other home-related “minor” expenditures. On the other hand, property professionals including real estate practitioners, legal scholars, and economists call for clearly defined property rights and prefer an ascription of ownership on the basis of down payment. In doing so, they criticize “marriage house” practice as encouraging self-seeking in marriages and claim that only “love” makes marriages. This paper teases out the disparate value regimes in controversies regarding marriage houses. I argue that, rather than taking either value system as a given, anthropologists should examine clashes of discourses as the point where hegemonic forces fail to produce accordant social performances.

Qian Zhu, DKU

Creating “New Men” in Everyday Life: “New Villages” in China and The Cultural Politics of Accumulation

From 1919-1921, “New Culture Movement” intellectuals debated “new village” (xincun) that were meant to form a new type of community, in which a collective “new life” could be organized to generate “new men” (xinren). As a result of the debate, “new village” became a method of social transformation that reorganized labor and social relations in everyday life. Chinese socialists, communists, and liberals, were inspired by the critique of capitalism of Robert Owen’s utopian communes in the 1820s, the church reform movement in the United States in the 1840s, Mushanokōji’s atarashiki-murain Japan and the “country-town” in Britain during and after WWI. In 1922, “model new villages” emerged as the spatial proposals in China for local experiments in the rural construction movement and the housing project for the urban poor from the 1929 to 1936. This paper explores the new village debate, the “model new village” proposals, and a few examples of the new villages in rural and urban construction projects to elaborate the transnational politics of constructing a communal life and a new form of society in the early 20th century. The paper argues that the new village movement in China manifested the cultural politics of primitive accumulation in China, which paralleled global capitalist development in the early 20th century. Although the idea of “new village” was originally an anarchist concept and a social experiment to overcome capitalism and alienation of labor, in the 1920s-30s its reconceptualization and social practices were implemented for multiple economic and political agendas.