Professor Maura Dykstra of Caltech joins us today to talk about her new book titled Uncertainty in the Empire of Routine: The Administrative Revolution of the Eighteenth-Century Qing State. According to the publisher, the book "investigates the administrative revolution of China’s eighteenth-century Qing state. It begins in the mid-seventeenth century with what seemed, at the time, to be straightforward policies to clean up the bureaucracy: a regulation about deadlines here, a requirement about reporting standards there. Over the course of a hundred years, the central court continued to demand more information from the provinces about local administrative activities. By the middle of the eighteenth century, unprecedented amounts of data about local offices throughout the empire existed.
The result of this information coup was a growing discourse of crisis and decline. Gathering data to ensure that officials were doing their jobs properly, it turned out, repeatedly exposed new issues requiring new forms of scrutiny. Slowly but surely, the thicket of imperial routines and standards binding together local offices, provincial superiors, and central ministries shifted the very epistemological foundations of the state. A vicious cycle arose whereby reporting protocols implemented to solve problems uncovered more problems, necessitating the collection of more information. At the very moment that the Qing knew more about itself than ever before, the central court became certain that it had entered an age of decline."
Professor Maura Dykstra is an Assistant Professor of History at Caltech. As a historian of Late Imperial China, her research interests are on bureaucratic, economic, and legal institutions of empire and their implications for political and social interactions in quotidian contexts. Professor Dykstra received her PhD from UCLA and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. In addition, she has held numerous residential fellowships and visiting positions in Europe and Asia. Starting in Fall of 2023, Professor Dykstra will begin a new position as Assistant Professor of Chinese History at Yale University.
Yiming Ha is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. His current research is on military mobilization and state-building in China between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, focusing on how military institutions changed over time, how the state responded to these changes, the disconnect between the center and localities, and the broader implications that the military had on the state. His project highlights in particular the role of the Mongol Yuan in introducing an alternative form of military mobilization that radically transformed the Chinese state. He is also interested in military history, nomadic history, comparative Eurasian state-building, and the history of maritime interactions in early modern East Asia. He received his BA from UCLA and his MPhil from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Episode No. 15
Release date: September 20, 2022
Recording location: Los Angeles, CA
Bibliography courtesy of Professor Dykstra