East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Nov. 3 Workshop


Workshop on East Asia:

Politics, Economy and Society Presents

Rumor and secret space: the Tianjin Massacre

Xiaoli Tian

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago

4:00-5:30pm, Tuesday

November 3, 2009

Pick Lounge

5828 South University Ave.

Workshop website: http://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Jean Lin (jeanlin@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang, Cheol-sung Lee, Dingxin Zhao

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance, please contact the student coordinator in advance.


This paper uses the case of anti-missionary rumors that
prevailed in 19th-century China to explore how rumor is
produced in a particular social context. Relying on archival
sources, especially those related to the investigations of
the Tianjin Massacre, I show that those rumors were framed
in spatial concepts. Rather than political conflicts, the
medical practice conducted by missionaries provided
materials for rumor production. Furthermore, the rumors were
not caused by deliberate hiding of information, but rather
by the fact that the spatial arrangements of medical
missionaries’ daily activities— the spatial distribution of
activities, the accessibility of space, and the spatial
placement of people—contradicted the endogenous spatial
settings in 19th-century China and therefore made the
acquiring of correct information impossible. Thus, these
rumors were the result of the confrontation of two ways of
understanding of space.

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