Content analysis of historical debates on "air quality" and "health"

Media discourse in the 1920s: The importance of getting enough fresh air to protect life quality.

This study describes and analyzes the historical public debates related to the composition of air, the quality of air, air pollution and health issues in modern China. The aim is to understand the interface between scientific notions of air pollution and traditional Chinese notions of the relation between air and health. The historical study will be connected to the study of more recent and contemporary media debates. The aim is to produce the first genealogy of the Chinese concept of air.

Main questions:

  • How were ideas about air as a composite gas introduced and translated into China through the introduction of chemistry as a western science after 1850, what vocabulary was established, and how are these ideas and terms related to traditional Chinese notions of ‘air’, gases and qi (氣)?
  • How was the relationship between the quality of air and health issues first conceived in popular debates in China and how does this reflect traditional indigenous Chinese interpretations of qi as a source of human health?
  • What is the genealogical relationship between early modern debates on health issues related to air and late modern and contemporary issues of health and air pollution? Is individual risk assessment involved in these debates?
  • How is the relationship between indoor air quality and outdoor air quality debated in modern Chinese popular journals and books?
  • Does any of these modern Chinese sources relate air quality questions to political decision making?

Data and fieldwork:

  • Chinese historical journals accessed in bksy (全国报刊索引) through Zhejiang provincial library
  • Books and documents in Chinese libraries, both public libraries and university libraries (mainly Beijing, Shanghai)

Time schedule:

  • Fall 2014: Identification and analysis of translations and terminology for ‘air’ in Chinese sources 1855-1911. Write and publish an article on this topic in Chinese or English.
  • Spring 2015-spring 2016: Identify and access Chinese printed sources from late Qing (1855-1911), Republican China (1912-1949) and, if possible, from the early People’s Republic of China (1950s-1970s) on the relationship between air quality and health issues.
  • Spring 2015-2016: Search the bksy in order to identify and download relevant articles from the same period as above.
  • Spring 2016: Refine research questions and identify concrete points of common interest with the other Airborne studies.
  • Fall 2016: Start work with analysis at CAS.
Published July 1, 2015 1:00 PM - Last modified Nov. 22, 2017 2:43 PM