Scavenged state : archives and the making of modern China

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Scavenged State reconstructs the socioeconomic and political history of modern Chinese archives. A key concept for this project is scavenging, a term that is not usually applied to state archive creation. Often considered a desperate survival tactic that occurs in the wake of ruin, I found that archival scavenging in China was surprisingly systematic, strategic, and creatively optimistic. Over a century of civil war, imperial invasion, and revolution, certain caches of documents were privileged and then reintroduced as foundational for a variety of states, including Japanese-aligned, warlord, republican, and communist. When pressured to conform to international standards (such as those favored by France, the Soviet Union, or the United Nations), record keepers advocated for "Chinese-style" systems, deliberately ambiguous phrasing that reached to imperial precedent for authority while embedding contemporary political concerns about state survival in reforms of archival material processes. These processes—which included everything from document accession and indexing guidelines to exhibition strategies, destruction protocols, and security audits—reveal fascinating shifts in strategic conservation. My research on the development and implementation of these seemingly mundane curatorial procedures shaped the source-base that scholars and policymakers rely on today. Documentary protocols turn out to have been highly political. Recognizing the role of scavenging in the creation of state archives calls for us to decenter the party-state and make room for local and individual agency in summoning forth visions for modern China.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2023; ©2023
Publication date 2023; 2023
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Brett-Roche, Riley Morgan
Degree supervisor Mullaney, Thomas S. (Thomas Shawn)
Thesis advisor Mullaney, Thomas S. (Thomas Shawn)
Thesis advisor Chang, Gordon H
Thesis advisor Sommer, Matthew Harvey, 1961-
Thesis advisor Wigen, Kären, 1958-
Degree committee member Chang, Gordon H
Degree committee member Sommer, Matthew Harvey, 1961-
Degree committee member Wigen, Kären, 1958-
Associated with Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences
Associated with Stanford University, Department of History


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Riley Brett-Roche.
Note Submitted to the Department of History.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.

Access conditions

© 2023 by Riley Morgan Brett-Roche
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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