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Fellow Seminar: Translating the Polis: Intellectuals in Republican China and the Reception of Ancient Greek Political Concepts, 1911-1929

16 March 2023 @ 16:30 - 18:00

Dr. Federico Brusadelli (Advanced Academia Fellow, Feb – July ‘23) will talk about his research at CAS:

Intellectuals in Republican China and the Reception of Ancient Greek Political Concepts, 1911-1929

on 16 March, 2023 (Thursday) at 16:30 h.

Moderated by Luka Nakhutsrishvili.

Abstract: After the humiliating defeat with Japan in 1895, the élites of the Qing empire started a serious reflection on how to “save China” from her existential crisis. Foreign political ideals and institutional models were for the first time taken seriously into account as viable solutions for the reform and salvation of the country. Against this backdrop, the introduction and adaptation of ancient Greek philosophy constituted a fundamental element in the reception of Western concepts and practices (democracy, parliamentarism, cosntitutionalism), and especially in the understanding of their classical roots, in comparison with the allegedly “despotic” trajectory followed by China since the first Empire.

This presentation will focus on how Chinese intellectuals as Kang Youwei (1858-1927), Liang Qichao (1873-1929), Zhou Zuoren (1885-1967), and Zhang Weici (1890-1976) approached the Greek “polis” both as a theoretical model and a historical experience, and used it in the public debate on how to build a “modern” political order in the passage from an ailing Empire to a fragile Republic.

Investigating the circulation of the polis – an urban space characterized by representative institutions but also by a strong internal cohesion – in the political discourse of early-20th-century China, will shed light on how concepts of “sovereignty”, “self-government”, “autonomy” were translated and historicized, and how they interacted with other historical references/models (either retrieved from the Chinese past or from Western experiences) in the often heated confrontation between federalism and centralism, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, progressivism and conservatism.


16 March 2023
16:30 - 18:00


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
7B Stefan Karadzha St, entr. 3
Sofia,‎ ‎1000‎ ‎Bulgaria
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