Inspiring interviews with international scholars

By WANG CHAORUI / 12-07-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Pathways of Scholarship: Reflective and Methodological Conversations with International Scholars in Humanities and Social Sciences

Pathways of Scholarship: Reflective and Methodological Conversations with International Scholars in Humanities and Social Sciences is published under the chief editorship of Ruoyun Bai, an associate professor from the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto, and Li Chen, an associate professor from the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. The academic WeChat official account “World Reading of Yunli” founded by the two scholars has been well received by overseas Chinese students.

The book is a compilation of 17 scholarly interviews published by the WeChat account in recent years, featuring 20 guest interviewees from diverse fields such as history, comparative literature, law, sociology, gender studies, and media studies. The interviewees include renowned historians Prasenjit Duara and Di Wang, experienced scholars with published works, as well as “young scholars” who have recently obtained their doctorates. This differentiated interview structure caters to the reading needs of different audiences, enriching the depth and substance of the book. 

Though domestic readers may have heard the names of the scholars interviewed and followed their academic works, they may not be familiar with their inner world, recent research, and academic experience. This book thus serves as a bridge, shouldering the important responsibility of facilitating academic exchanges and cultural dissemination, narrowing the psychological distance between those familiar and vague figures and the vast number of readers.

In terms of writing styles, the book is somewhat reminiscent of John Dower’s Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. Dower’s book, which won the Pulitzer prize and became a bestseller, seamlessly integrates groundbreaking academic ideas, meeting the industry’s demand for professional exploration. While striving to be straightforward and concise in language, Pathways of Scholarship also encompasses a host of in-depth explorations, spanning from the fields of international history (such as micro history), sociology (such as quantitative methods), and media studies (such as virtual ethnography), to reflections on post-colonialism, decolonization, and sexism.

Li Chen and Meng Zhang [an assistant professor of history from Vanderbilt University] probe whether environmental history has its own unique theories and paradigms. Lydia H. Liu [Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities from Colombia University] highlights the non-negligible contribution of later-period Wittgenstein philosophy to artificial intelligence research. Ying Zhang’s [an associate professor of history from Ohio State University] observations on the development of “masculinity studies” in China are built upon solid research experience. The foreign academic theories covered in this book may not be well known within domestic academia, or they may have sparked debates after initially attracting attention. It is advisable to conduct further exchange to achieve mutual learning. 

Wang Chaorui is from the Commercial Press.