Comparativ 29 (2019), 1

Comparativ 29 (2019), 1
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Organization name
Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung
Comparativ Universität Leipzig Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics IPF 348001 Ritterstrasse 24 04109 Leipzig GERMANY e-mail:
Matthias Middell

Moving Knowledge – The Soviet Union and China in the Twentieth Century
edited by Marc A. Matten and Julia Obertreis

Table of contents



Marc A. Matten / Julia Obertreis: Knowledge Circulation in Russia - the Soviet Union and China in the 20th Century, pp. 7–21
This special issue is dedicated to the history of knowledge circulation in Russia / Soviet Union and China in the 20th century. Focusing on scientific knowledge production in biology, medicine, and natural sciences in both empires we argue that their translation, reception, transfer, and dissemination can only be described properly when taking into account that development and diffusion of science and knowledge are shaped by local circumstances. The papers in this special issue discuss the role of brokers in movement of knowledge across linguistic, ideological, and cultural borders. Educated in transnational contexts, having multilingual competence, and integrated in global communication networks these brokers faced considerable challenges in their work resulting from two big fields of tension: the tension between “Western” input and national adaptation, and between “bourgeois” knowledge production and socialist ideas of science and knowledge. It is these tension that are at the core of the different papers.

Hajo Frölich: Real Animals: Nationalism and the Practice of Zoological Research in China, 1900s–1930s, pp. 22–43
When, in the early twentieth century, zoology as an academic subject was established in China, its first agents did all they could to distance themselves from earlier Chinese forms of researching animals. Instead, Chinese zoologists – many of whom had studied abroad – emphasized the complete novelty of their discipline and how it, like many other new branches of science, would contribute to making the Chinese nation “rich and strong” again. Yet by taking a closer look at China’s first scholarly journals devoted to zoology, this article demonstrates how in various ways, the new field was in fact also characterized by continuities and by references to “traditional” ways of studying animals in China. I suggest that such continuities should be read as conscious if understated attempts at self-assertion within an increasingly global scientific community. Thus, Chinese zoology doubtless was a hybrid undertaking far from having severed all connections to the country’s past. From the 1900s to the 1930s, however, both a cursory look as well as the rhetoric of Chinese zoologists suggested otherwise. This contradiction is explained by referring to the global political context as well as the role of nationalism.

Vera Shibanova: Child Studies in Udmurtia in the 1920s, pp. 44–63
Interdisciplinary child research emerged in the late nineteenth century with the pioneering work of the American social-Darwinist psychologist G. Stanley Hall. It soon became a transnational scientific movement, pedology, which gained particular traction in Bolshevik Russia in the 1920s. The present essay offers an insight into pedological practice in the Soviet Udmurt Republic and highlights the engagement of local elites, who were concerned with both the theoretical implications and practical consequences of pedology for the indigenous population. Udmurt intellectuals regarded social-biological theories as discriminatory and formulated alternative approaches to school the next generation. This article presents their hitherto little documented educational projects, which evolved in the context of the new programme of child studies conducted in the region. The intellectual and scientific transfer that took place in Udmurtia was not a one-way street, but reflects a reciprocal process of communication and exchange. For about a decade, local elites enjoyed a modicum of freedom and attempted to influence Soviet scientific policy. Pedology proved to be an important but short-lived chapter in the history of Russian science.

Marc A. Matten: Turning Away from the Big Brother: China’s Search for Alternative Sources of Knowledge During the Sino-Soviet Split, pp. 64–90
In the first two decades of the People’s Republic of China transnational science circulation played a significant role in the country’s socialist reconstruction. In this context, modernization was pursued via translation and transfer of Soviet knowledge, most prominently in the form of the journal Knowledge is Power (Zhishi jiushi liliang). Following the style and ideas of its Soviet namesake Znanie – sila it presented the vision of “tomorrow” – the near future – for young workers and students. Starting its publication in 1956, it supported the state’s call for “marching towards science,” a slogan behind which was China’s awareness of its backwardness in science and technology. Earlier research has shown how ideological campaigns in 1950s China tried to reduce the technological and scientific dependence on the Soviet Union, but the Maoist reshuffling of the role and function of science in the second half of the 1950s – while emphasizing the need of self-reliant development (duli zizhu de fazhan) – eventually resulted in a more transnational orientation towards science and technology.

Jan Arend: Stress in the USSR: On the Dissemination of Health Knowledge in the Soviet Public Sphere, 1960s–1991, pp 91–104
When and where does “stress” – a psychological and bodily condition associated with the pressure to perform – become a social concern? Previous historical research has situated the topic in the West, linking it to what is understood to be a Western type of capitalism and / or neoliberalism. This article departs from this line of research by demonstrating the broad dissemination of the topic of stress in the Soviet public sphere since the mid-1960s. Based on an examination of three of the most widely read Soviet state newspapers, the article shows how the notion of stress was conveyed to the Soviet public and thereby sheds light on the circulation of knowledge related to health in the period of late socialism. Stress, although the concept originally came to the Soviet context through a process of knowledge transfer from the West, had a life ofits own in the Soviet Union. By analyzing how the concept of stress was adapted to a state socialist context, the article points to previously underexplored cross-bloc similarities with regard to perceptions of emotions and the body.


Lon Kurashige (ed.): Pacific America. Histories of Transoceanic Crossings, Honolulu 2017
by Steffen Wöll, p. 105–106

Krishan Kumar: Visions of Empire. How Five Imperial Regimes Shaped
the World, Princeton, NJ 2017
by Carolien Stolte, pp. 107–108

Jutta Wimmler: The Sun King’s Atlantic. Drugs, Demons and Dyestuffs
in the Atlantic World, 1640–1730, Leiden 2017
by Alexander Engel, pp. 109–110

Kenneth N. Owens / Alexander Yu. Petrov: Empire Maker. Aleksandr
Baranov and Russian Colonial Expansion into Alaska and Northern
California, Seattle 2015
by Susanna Rabow-Edling, pp 111–112

James Alexander Dun: Dangerous Neighbors. Making the Haitian
Revolution in Early America, Philadelphia 2016; Elizabeth Maddock Dillon / Michael J. Drexler (eds.), The Haitian Revolution and the early United States, Philadelphia 2016
by Andy Cabot, pp. 113–118

Dietmar Hüser (Hrsg.): Populärkultur transnational. Lesen, Hören,
Sehen, Erleben im Europa der langen 1960er Jahre, Bielefeld 2017
by Michael G. Esch, pp. 119–123

Duncan Bell: Reordering the World. Essays on Liberalism and Empire,
Princeton, NJ 2016
_by Anthony Pagden, pp. 124–125

Michael Ignatieff / Stefan Roch: Academic Freedom. The Global Challenge, Budapest 2018
_by Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, pp. 126–130

Autorinnen und Autoren, p. 131

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