Literate Community in Early Imperial China

Talk by Charles Sanft, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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In this talk, Prof. Sanft argues that soldiers in the northwest border region during the Han dynasty constituted a literate community of commoners linked to the broader textual culture of the empire. He offers a new interpretive framework and consider (and reconsider) excavated documents to challenge common assumptions about text in early China. Paleographic materials give us good reason to think that people at various social levels had meaningful interactions with writing. The implications of this argument undermine received understandings of text in early society. For while scholars have often viewed text as the exclusive province of elites, he proposes that its capabilities functioned throughout society.

Charles Sanft completed the Ph.D. in 2005 and the Habilitation in Chinese Studies in 2011, both at the University of Münster. His articles have appeared in Early China, Environmental History, and other journals and his monograph, Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China: Publicizing the Qin Dynasty was published by the State University of New York Press in 2014. He is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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Duration: 1:14:09


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Published: Thursday, May 11, 2017