To 'Know' the Nation: Statistics, Quantification, and State-Society Relations in the Early People’s Republic of China, 1949-1959


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is a study of statistics and state-society relations in the first decade of the People’s Republic of China. Two broad lines of inquiry frame the project. The first is empirical: how did the nascent PRC state build capacity to ‘know’ the nation? The second is theoretical, exploring the role of statistics and numbers in a strongly ideological state. These two lines of inquiry translate into three sets of inter-related questions structuring the project. The first investigates the extent to which the Chinese communist revolution reshaped statistical science and work. The second examines how new systems of statistical data collection affected the relationship between state and society. Finally, the third, by focusing on links between Chinese and Indian statisticians during the 1950s, explores international networks of scientific exchange that potentially, if only for a limited time, provided alternatives to the ideological strictures imposed by Cold War loyalties.