Brown Bag Lecture: Ideology and Innovation in Fish Farming Technology across the “Bamboo Curtain,” 1954–1965

Lunchtime Lectures
Monday, April 9, 2018
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a Brown Bag Lecture by Lijing Jiang, the Haas Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science History Institute.

As a conventional way of supplementing protein supplies and aiding food shortages in Asia, fish farming received substantial attention during the early Cold War as an area for modernization and innovation. In China a narrative about the distinct socialist features of fish farming emerged in the late 1950s as catch-based fishing faced a crisis due to overfishing. A flurry of research into technological innovation in aquaculture followed. This talk depicts the construction of aquaculture as a socialist mode of fishery in post-revolution Shanghai and Guangzhou. It involved political maneuvers in refashioning aquaculture as a pursuit fitting with Marxist ideology and in adapting genetic and embryological research—now considered bourgeois science in China—into applied research in raising fish. Selective breeding of fish hybridized from those of Chinese origin and from Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and other countries within the Communist bloc was carried out, yet without emphasizing the Mendelian genetics in support of such work. Eventually, the hormone-aided method used to artificially reproduce carp species, resulting from collaborations between scientists, engineers, fishermen, and factory women workers, became a celebrated success during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Roughly in the same period the United States and the United Nations aided a number of developments in Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines that promoted different political ideologies and emphasized the legitimate scientific status of aquaculture science. This work, however, often overlapped with the methods and practices in so-called socialist aquaculture on the other side of the “bamboo curtain.” The talk analyzes both the malleability and inertia of the technological system of aquaculture as well as its political roles through comparing these cases.

About the Speaker

Lijing Jiang is the Haas Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science History Institute. Her interest is in the wide-ranging impact of the material and political uses of certain objects and species in life sciences, especially when they cross regional and national borders. Providing a window for this broad interest, her current book project focuses on the evolving role of the goldfish and carp species in developing genetics, embryology, and aquaculture throughout the changing political milieus of 20th-century China.

About the Series

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.