April China Seminar

April 14, 2022


Dr. Gina Anne Tam
Associate Professor, Chinese History
Co-Chair, Women and Gender Studies
Trinity University

Today, it is often presumed that there is one Chinese language– being what we in English call Mandarin– and a number of Chinese dialects, among which include better-known ones such as Cantonese or Taiwanese. But where do these designations of language and dialect come from, and what effect does this have on Chinese collective identity today? This talk will focus on how the presumption that non-Mandarin Chinese languages are nothing more than “dialects” resulted from battles over competing understandings of the Chinese nation that began in the early twentieth century and were solidified in the early years of the PRC, narrating how the legacies built decades ago built the foundation for the linguistic hierarchies that define the relationship between language and identity in China today.

Dr. Gina Anne Tam is an Associate professor of Chinese history and co-chair of Women and Gender Studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Having received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2016, her research and teaching focuses on the construction of collective identity– national belonging, ethnicity and race– in modern China. In addition to her book Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960, she has also published peer-reviewed work in top academic journals and has written about the relevance of her work to current events in Foreign AffairsThe Nation, and Dissent. She is also a Public Intellectual Program Fellow through the National Committee on US-China relations. She is currently working on a new book project on the role of women and gender in the history of grassroots protests in post-war Hong Kong. 

The China Seminar was founded by Dr. Daniel W.Y. Kwok 45 years ago. Under his guidance, it became a signature program of the Friends of the East-West Center (FEWC) in 2009. The program provides an informal venue for China experts, such as scholars, diplomats, and journalists, to present talks on aspects of China that interest the community and members of the Friends. Topics include politics, economics, social issues, history, culture, food, arts, and many other subjects. Though Dr. Kwok has recently retired from his involvement with the program, the FEWC and the East-West Center remain committed to continuing this important program.