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In this episode, I interview Shaoling Ma, professor of Humanities (Literature) at Yale-NUS about her new book, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861-1906 (Duke UP, 2021). In this fascinating book, Ma grapples with theoretical and historical questions of media and mediation in the late Qing. Calling on a diverse set of sources, including diplomatic records, science fiction novels, modern poetry, and telegraphic dispatches among many others, Ma’s examines “mediation in terms of the discursive interactions with physical devices and material processes of communication” (49). By reading the treatment of documents and labor in Wu Jianren’s New Story of the Stone against representations of the new, “stoney” lithographic practices of the Dianshizhai Pictorial, or showing how the Boxer crisis shaped understandings of telegraphy and transmission, The Stone and the Wireless enriches not only Chinese studies, but also speaks broadly to scholarship on media and technology. In her conclusion, Ma teases readers with an interpretation of a very recent Chinese sci-fi novel, convincingly making the case for the contemporary political relevance of her study.
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