Sinology: Chinese Intellectual History and Transcultural Studies

Pablo Blitstein


In this article I attempt to identify some methodological connections between Chinese intellectual history and transcultural studies in Euro-American academia. I will focus on one shared methodological point: the critique of so-called “methodological nationalism,” that is, of the assumption (explicit or not) that the nation is the ultimate framework for research. Although this critique is a constitutive principle of transcultural studies, and it only represents a particular, and not necessarily mainstream, approach in Chinese intellectual history, the two fields have developed a shared agenda in this regard. In order to explain the tensions and convergences, I will first offer a quick historical overview of the two fields. First, I will focus on the contrast between old and new uses of the concept of “transcultural”; then I will contextualize Chinese intellectual history within the longer history of classical sinology and area studies. After this overview, I will explain their respective relations towards methodological nationalism and give evidence, in their recent history, of some intersecting points between the two.


Sinology; Chinese Intellectual History; Area Studies

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