The Common People and the Artist in the 1930s

An Essay in the Cultural and Social Metahistory of China through Visual Sources
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" The present project proposes a new form of “intellectual journey.”1 This would be a journey in which historical knowledge is produced and conveyed by visual materials integrated into an architecture of relational data.2 Our exploration of this approach in the fields of history and China studies has a major purpose: opening the way to comparable applications in all the social sciences. This project will take up the challenge of elaborating a new form of historical writing. The objective is not simply to combine texts and documents but to make these different elements “speak” separately, in parallel and/or together. To achieve these goals, the participants in this project will follow a parallel route on the basis of three distinct corpuses of still pictures (photographs) and moving pictures (films) centered on three groups of individuals (“common people”, “peasant-boatmen”, “actors, actresses and new women” in three different spaces at the same period (the 1920s and the 1930s)
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Research Topics


The organizers of the project gratefully acknowledge the support from:

The present project was also a core element of the research program [European Platform for Digital Resources
and New Research Trajectories on China] of the European Joint Laboratory [Laboratoire Européen Associé] established under the auspices of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) between the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University and the Institut d'Asie Orientale [UMR5062] at Ecole Normale Supérieure and Lumière Lyon 2 University.



1 We borrowed this expression from Lew Lancaster, director of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (

2 Gibson, Alex, “WWW and the Internet: New Opportunities for Historical Discourse?,” History and Computing, 1995, 7(2): 81-89

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