【講題】Out in the Field in the Archives: One Historical Sociologist’s Perspective on the Discipline
Most of the field of sociology understandably focuses on contemporary society. There are more than enough worthy social phenomena and intriguing social puzzles, not to mention social crises, to fill several lifetimes of research. Often, at least in the United States, historical sociology can seem like an academic luxury, to be reserved only for the wealthiest and most exclusive institutions. What, then, can a historical perspective offer to the field? I will argue that historical sociology provides us with the tools to produce and adjudicate between different interpretations of a given social phenomenon. Based on my research on language standardization in republican China (1911–1949), I will illustrate how three different periodizations—presentist, short-termist, and long-termist—give us three contrasting understandings of the creation and rise of Mandarin Chinese.
Jeffrey Weng is assistant professor of sociology at National Taiwan University. He holds a PhD in sociology from UC Berkeley and was 2020–2021 Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow on Contemporary Asia at Stanford University. His research centers on language, race, ethnicity, and nationalism in 20th-century China, and his work has appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies, Theory and Society, the European Journal of Sociology, and is forthcoming in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies.