China’s ideology has changed beyond recognition in the post-Mao era, but our understanding of today’s ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ is ambiguous at best.
The analysis of history textbooks can shed a new light on ideological change, but research in this field has traditionally focused only on certain historical topics (such as Japan or the Communist Revolution). The pitfall of using such a topic-centered approach is that, like with a bible, you can actually find anything that you’re looking for. Also, by definition, only a small portion of the text can be included in the analysis.
My research instead makes use of new methodologies from the Digital Humanities that allow for the analysis of huge amounts of data, using all of Chinese high school history textbooks since 1949 (14.000+ pages). With Big Data Analysis, more is more.
With this data, I not only can draw ‘the big picture’ of ideological change in Chinese history textbooks, it also opens up new possibilities to do in-depth analyses of the material in completely new ways. In my case: tracing changes of ideological concepts through time.
This is what I will do in the coming years:
- Collect, digitize and prepare a complete collection of Chinese high school history textbooks since 1949
- Draw ‘the big picture’ of ideological change in the textbooks using quantitative methods
- Select three concepts that turn out to be the most indicative of ideological change
- Trace changes of how these ideological concepts are used over time
- Identify historical events that are used to substantiate the ideological charge of these concepts