My broad scholarly interest is in the wide-ranging impact of the material and political uses of certain objects or organisms in life sciences, especially indigenous species. I ask how philosophical, cultural, and political meanings etched into chosen research materials shaped scientific practice, and how such practice made a difference in knowledge production and disciplinary development at particular times and places. Focusing on China and East Asia, I pay particular attention to how the uses of indigenous research materials and species interacted with nationalism/regionalism, global strains of science, conceptions of modernity, and environmental history.
As a window to this broad interest, my current book project focuses on the evolving role of the goldfish, Carassius auratus, in modern Chinese biology. With the working title Of Goldfish and Scientists, the manuscript traces use of goldfish as an experimental organism in developing genetics, embryology, and aquaculture throughout the changing political milieus of twentieth-century China. The book will unravel entanglements of the scientific uses of the goldfish in China with local breeder traditions, American genetics and French embryology, dialectical materialism and Soviet influences, Maoist carp aquaculture and post-Mao biotechnology. More specifically, the book will concentrate on a close-knit circle of biologists whose influential, and sometimes controversial, work shaped a unique trajectory of Chinese biology and fisheries. It will also delve into both the work of breeders and fishermen that enabled related research, and the resulting natural and social habitats of the goldfish and carp in China’s long twentieth century.
“The Socialist Origins of Artificial Carp Reproduction in Maoist China,” in Science, Technology and Society, forthcoming March 2017.
“Retouching the Past with Living Things: Indigenous Species, Tradition, and Biological Research in Republican China, 1918-1937,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 46, no. 2 (April 2016): 154–206.
With Hallam Stevens, “Chinese Biotech versus International Ethics? Accounting for the China-America CRISPR Ethical Divide.” BioSocieties 10 (2015), 483–488.
“IVF the Chinese Way: Zhang Lizhu and Post-Mao Human in vitro Fertilization Research,” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 9, no. 1 (March 2015): 23–45.
“Causes of Aging Are Likely to be Many: Robin Holliday and Changing Molecular Approaches to Cell Aging, 1963–1988,” Journal of the History of Biology 47, no. 4 (November 2014): 547–584.