Matthew Foreman

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Northwestern University

2020 to 2021
Research Fellow

Science and Security: Constructing the Modern Chinese Citizen, 1900-1966

 At the turn of the twentieth century, being “Chinese” began to be understood in terms of modern scientific knowledge. This dissertation investigates the recent emergence of a “psycho-biological” notion of “race” in Chinese culture, focusing on the ways the introduction of Western biomedical sciences transformed Chinese understandings of Self and Other in the twentieth century. This dissertation revises the conventional view that racial thought in modern China and the legal and institutional frameworks founded upon it were mere extensions of existing ethnocentrism in premodern Chinese cosmology. Drawing on scientific publications, medical journals, newspaper clippings, popular magazines, scholarly textbooks, fictional and periodical literature, police files, immigration documents, oral histories, among other primary sources, this study highlights the first three decades of the twentieth century as a pivotal turning point in the modern definitions of Chinese racial identity and its national formulations.