Red Revolution, Green Revolution
Scientific Farming in Socialist China
University of Chicago Press 2016
Sigrid Schmalzer‘s new book is an excellent and important contribution to both science studies and the history of China. Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (University of Chicago Press, 2016) reframes how we understand the relationships between science and politics in history by looking closely at the “unique intersection” of the red and green revolutions in modern China. Thoughtfully integrating a source base that includes interviews, propaganda works, films, memoirs, hand-copied underground novels, and more, Schmalzer offers a history of socialist Chinese agricultural science that is at the same time critical and empathetic. One of the core premises of the book is that “scientific farming meant different things to different people,” and so the chapters offer insights into the experiences of very different people and places in order to offer readers multiple entry-points into this crucial period of the history of science and modernity. The book’s analysis hinges on the importance of a productive binary of tu (here, a constellation of meanings that include “native, Chinese, local, rustic, mass, crude”) and yang (a constellation of “foreign, Western, elite, professional, ivory-tower”), following the work of individuals and groups of various sorts and sizes in navigating, producing, and troubling this binary. The chapters not only offer sensitively-wrought case studies of particular sites and contexts of socialist and post-socialist Chinese history, but also speak directly to a number of key debates and concepts that currently animate the field of STS. This is absolutely first-rate work that is highly recommended for anyone interested in the histories of modern science and/or China.