April 16: Rebecca Karl, NYU/CUHK, The Magic of Concepts

Repetition and History in China’s Global Twentieth Century


April 16: Rebecca Karl, NYU/CUHK:

“The Magic of Concepts: Repetition and History in China’s Global Twentieth Century”


5-6:30 PM, Room 4.36, Run Run Shaw Tower


This talk introduces my most recent book, The Magic of Concepts, through an exploration of the problem of repetition in history. Thinking about repetition (rather than rupture or continuity) as an historical analytic, I argue, allows the historian to investigate the relation between concept and history in ways that do not erase the historicity of concepts and the historical conceptualization of history. The specific arena of my intervention revolves around the problem of “the economic”, and specifically how to ask and think about questions of economic practice and concept in China’s 1930s and 1990s, where the 1930s problem is posed in the context of capitalist crisis and the 1990s problem is posed in the context of socialist crisis. The talk focuses on the economic critiques written by Wang Yanan, a Marxist economic philosopher of the mid-20th century.​


Rebecca E. Karl is Professor of History at New York University. Her most recent book is The Magic of Concepts: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China (Duke UP 2017). She is also the author of Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World: A Concise History (Duke UP 2010) and of Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Duke UP 2002). She is the co-translator (with Xueping Zhong) of Cai Xiang’s Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966 (Duke UP 2016). She co-translated and coedited (with Lydia H. Liu and Dorothy Ko) The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory (Columbia UP, 2013). She is also the co-editor (with Peter Zarrow) of Rethinking the 1898 Reform Period: Political and Cultural Change in Modern China (Harvard UP, 2002) and (with Saree Makdisi and Cesare Casarino) Marxism beyond Marxism (Routledge, 1996).