I've now been working in the archives for about 2 and a half months and have been overwhelmed with the possible directions my research could go. What is even more overwhelming is that I have only looked at 30-40 books at one archive (the Shanghai library), and within the next month or so I plan to move into the Shanghai Lexicographical publishing house, which holds more than 25,000 textbooks.
But in general, I have found a few trends that I believe I want to further explore. Some of these I have touched on in other posts, but now I would like to clarify these ideas into a clear list. This is a short post, and I will expound further on these ideas in posts to come.
One idea that I have come across both in Culp's book and among others is the concept of a control of space and time in creating the nation. I know that Culp is not the first to posit this, nor is this concept particular to the modern period (most famously Mark Edward Lewis wrote on this theme in The Construction of Space in Early China). But Culp mainly mentioned the creation of a regimented schedule and uniform classroom setup in creating a modern citizenry; I would like to focus on how textbooks create this idea as well. This is especially created in weisheng (hygiene) textbooks and changshi (everyday knowledge) textbooks, where the proper decorum, dress, and behavior is explicitly outlined. Furthermore, Culp talks about how this construction of uniform space and time helps to create a sense of industrialization and an integrated societal unit of which these young citizens are part of; I think this idea can be taken further and in different directions, which I will talk about in other posts.
Another concept I would like to look at is: who is a citizen? Again, this idea has been nearly exhausted by other scholars, especially by looking at history and geography textbooks, but I think that there are some areas that have yet to be looked at. The idea of race has been mentioned and analyzed, but not yet in full. Some scholars argue the idea of a dominant racial theory, others emphasize the plurality of races in the Chinese nation. But this idea has yet to be resolved. Also, the use of pictures in textbooks to emphasize the rightful place of citizens has yet to be examined. Beyond race, the tensions between rural and urban citizens has not yet been examined. We know that the GMD had more power and hold in cities, whereas the Communists glorified the rural landscape; but in these nationally produced textbooks, it almost seems as though the rural lifestyle is more respected and rural citizens are more important than other citizens. I'm not sure why this is.
Also, I feel that the question of women as citizens is still ambiguous. Paul Bailey has talked about women's education, but no one has asked how women are portrayed in textbooks, and how that effects the subsequent status of females as citizens. If women are using textbooks where all of the pictures of people studying are men, and those who are participating in civic rituals are all men, what message does that send to them? Are women full citizens? Furthermore, while these textbooks explicitly state that Mongolians and Tibetans are Chinese people, the question as to whether women are Chinese citizens is left ambiguous. It would be interesting to see why that is.
Look for further posts that delve deeper into these ideas.