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A Global History of the Doctoral Dissertation as a Genre of Academic Writing, with an emphasis on its developments East Asia

Event title and speaker name; picture of the professor; background image of hands writing in a notebook with a nearby tablet, laptop, photographs, glasses, stack of books, and cup of coffee
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Dr. Kevin Chang (Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)

Today students work on their dissertations for the PhDs everywhere in the world, including East Asia. China especially has surpassed the U.S. to become the most productive country of the PhD, producing the greatest number of dissertations each year. The history of the PhD in China is very short, however-just about 50 years, whereas the history of the dissertation as a genre of academic writing is very long-more than eight hundred years. This talk sketches the long history of the dissertation and its arrivals and developments in East Asian countries. By looking at the transformation of the specimen of work that defines the qualification of a scholar, this historical sketch challenges the conception of the scholar and his scholarship that we have taken for granted.

About the speaker:
Kevin Chang works on a variety of subjects: science and medicine in early modern Europe, the history of media and publication, comparative studies of the humanities (philology and linguistics in particular) and global history of higher education. He received his PhD in history from the University of Chicago and works at the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica, Taiwan's national academy. He co-edited World Philology (Harvard University Press, 2015) with Sheldon Pollock and Benjamin Elman, Impagination: Layout and Materiality of Writing and Publication (de Gruyter, 2021) with Anthony Grafton and Glenn W. Most, and A Global History of Education: Disciplines, Institutions, and Nations, 1840-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2021) with Alan Rocke. He has finished a manuscript titled The Dissertation: A Global History. The book examines the dissertation as a genre of academic writing and publication since its origin in the earliest medieval universities, investigates its evolution in the early modern period, analyzes its formation in the early 19th century, and traces its globalization in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is working on a manuscript entitled "From Writing to Spoken Languages: the Breakaway of Language Sciences from Philology, 1880-1960 (contracted with Princeton University Press). He has received the Fulbright Fellowship, the Membership of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Harvard-Yenching Visiting Scholarship, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Experienced Scholar Fellowship. He is a member of the International Commission for the History of Universities and served as the Ambassador Scientist for Germany's Humboldt Foundation.