Factual knowledge-transfer and the New Men-Utopia
Angelika C. Messner (University of Kiel) [BIO]
It is well known that the import of Western sciences to China in the nineteenth century was part of an imperialist expansion of the Western nations. Their notions of the necessity of a global “science” based on demonstrations of technological material cultural products. Yet, among the most powerful western cultural products were the “scientific” ideas on the psyche which included “factual” knowledge on corporal anatomy, sexuality and the composition of the feelings. These issues were used by Chinese proponents of the New Cultural Movement of that time as weapons against traditional values and ethics. The new episteme meant to guarantee the genesis of New Men. Young Chinese men and women who were educated abroad strongly argued in favour of the New Men utopia. “Utopia politics” are determined by the specific social spaces which came into existence as a by-product of the new social relationships. The transformation of the planet in the early 20th century was accompanied by the slogans “Change the life, change the society”: The genesis of the New men basically was tied to the “scientific” conceptions of “psyche, sexuality and feeling”.
This paper aims at exploring the new social space on the basis of a close reading of several texts which appeared at that time within the Chinese context. These texts’ suggestions of adopting the new “objective” and “global” knowledge however were not free of doubts and ambiguities. It is this field of uncertainty and doubt which awaits further investigation.
Keywords: early 20th century China; import of conceptions of “psyche”, “sexuality” and “emotions”; the genesis of New men and the genesis of a New social and mental space; the simultaneous negation of this New space.