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Early China Seminar Lecture Series: “Coining Chinese Civilization: The Emergence of Civilizational Consciousness in Early China”

09/20/2019 @ 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Speaker: Uffe Bergeton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Time: September 20, 2019 (4:30-6:30 PM)
Location: Faculty House (*please check the announcement board in the first floor lobby for room information)

Drawing on his book The Emergence Of Civilizational Consciousness In Early China: History Word By Word (Routledge, 2019), Uffe Bergeton’s presentation traces the emergence of civilizational consciousness in pre-Qin China. He approaches this question in ways that establish a fresh hermeneutical dialogue between ancient Chinese and modern European concepts of ‘civilization.’ New mappings of diachronic changes in the meanings of Old Chinese words are used to determine when pre-Qin thinkers first began to think of themselves as belonging to a ‘civilization.’ Beyond the word wen 文, which is sometimes translated into English as culture or civilization, semantic histories of other key terms, such as yi 夷 and Xia 夏, are also proposed. The key argument is that a language-specific form of civilizational consciousness took shape around the middle of the first millennium BCE when the word wen was coined (or lexicalized) in the meaning ‘civility/civilization’ and a contrast between the ‘great ones’ (Xia) and the ‘civilizationally inferior others’ (yi) emerged.

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4:30 pm - 6:30 pm


Faculty House
64 Morningside Drive
New York City, NY 10027 United States
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