Account Due: Making Citizenship and Sovereignty in Qing China, 1674-1894


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation studies a native notion of citizenry and publicly accountable sovereignty developing in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China. This shifting mutual conception between expanding social communities and the state is revealed by a set of previously unexamined practices: the publication and standardization of accounting reports for fundraising. Circulated widely among local residents and distant donors, these reports acknowledged the right of both parties to information and inclusion in public affairs. The making and contestation of accounts articulated ideas of accountability, which became a powerful tool for building solidarity across communities. It also increased the prestige of elites and officials, who brought these practices and their attendant assumptions into state-level discourse. In this bottom up process of communicating and enforcing accountability, accounting for funds transformed into accounting for power, and a social contract formed between “the people” and a sovereign state accountable to them.