|Title:||Mass Timber: Engineered Wood and Material Modernity in the People’s Republic of China|
|Speaker:||Dr. Jennifer Altehenger (University of Oxford)|
|Date/Time:||April 28, 2022, 4:00 pm (HK time)|
How did materials shape everyday technology in the People’s Republic of China? And what might a material history of socialist China look like? Steel and cotton were among the most famous materials, widely discussed, heavily politicized, and prominent in everyday life between the 1950s and 1980s. Yet there were several other notable materials such as plastics, synthetic fibres, aluminium, concrete, glass, or engineered woods. While these often make an appearance in historiography, they are more commonly extras rather than protagonists. Taking the example of engineered woods, this presentation explores how plywood, particleboard, and fibreboard were researched, developed, made, used, and debated as part of making a socialist everyday through technologies of all kind. From the Great Leap Forward campaign to manufacture fibreboard in small local factories as part of an attempt to supply communities with more objects of use, to the rapid rise of particle- and fibreboard as the backbones of light industrial modernization during “reform and opening”, the stories of engineered wood reveal the everyday material dimensions of mass mobilization, industrialisation, and socialist governance over time.
About the Speaker
Jennifer Altehenger is Associate Professor of Chinese History and Jessica Rawson Fellow in Modern Asian History at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1989 (2018) and - together with Professor Denise Y. Ho - editor of the forthcoming volume Material Contradictions in Mao’s China. She is now writing a book - Revolutionary Designs: Furnishing Life in Socialist China - on the history of design, industry and everyday life in China following the end of World War II.
CRF Project “Making Modernity in East Asia: Technologies of Everyday Life, 19th – 21st Centuries” (RGC CRF HKU C7011-16G), Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong