Sinologists have distinct ways of speaking about China. In fact, they would chastise me for suggesting there was such a thing as “China” which could be “spoken about.” But they do, quite frequently, sometimes stridently, and with insight as well. One way such way is via the [MCLC listserve](http://mclc.osu.edu/). Anyone can subscribe to it and get a glimpse of this fascinating world.
Many expats–those living in Shanghai at least–will know [Graham Earnshaw](http://www.earnshaw.com/who/longbio.php). He publishes popular China-related books. He recently got into a little spat on the listserve with China scholar Kent Ewing over a review of the book Decadence Mandchoue.
In his review Ewing pointedly asked whether Earnshaw had “committed the foolhardy act of resurrecting an oversexed fantasist who tricked people in his own time.” Earnshaw shot back: “Hugh Trevor-Roper was a homophobic snob … I believe his descriptions of homosexual brothels … I am proud to have published it.”
The MCLC listserve has been around since 1999 and now has around 1,500 subscribers, mainly academics, grad students and journalists. It was founded by Ohio State University professor Kirk Denton, himself an accomplished scholar of modern Chinese literature. It was originally conceived as an adjunct to the scholarly journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture and its [afiliated website](http://mclc.osu.edu/) (which is where you sign up for the listserve).
“I was looking for a forum online to serve the community of subscribers and readers of the journal: a place where I could announce publication of new issues, post announcements about conferences and the like,” Denton tells us. “The idea of using the list as a forum for discussion of MCLC articles never really panned out. Not sure why. Instead, it has become more of a forum for the dissemination and discussion of journalistic articles about China, with a focus on social and cultural issues.”
The listserve delivers up what amounts to a curated RSS feed of China-related news. Articles run the gamut from New York Times reportage to scathing China Digital Times stuff. For expats on the wrong side of the Firewall, it’s a healthy buffet of China news. There’s also a grab bag of academic miscellania–calls for papers, books reviews, job postings–but it’s the debate that’s the real draw. The study of modern China gets very political.
Like last year when that Chinese guy won the Nobel Peace Prize. That post drew 50 comments and pushed scholars into their respective national and political corners. Or last year when German Sinologist Wolfgang Kubin took a swing at modern Chinese literature via his obituary of Chinese poet Zhang Zao. That kicked off a firestorm.
“Over the years, there have been some heated exchanges and the rhetoric has gotten a little over to the top,” Denton says. “I occasionally have to remind list members to critique the ideas, not the person.”
Listserves are digital fossils. Denton knows that and MCLS is scheduled to undergo renovations to become something more blog-like in the near future. Regardless, he’s planning on keeping the email part of it going. Old habits die hard, especially for academics.
Seven of the Best Online China Studies Resources
Sign up on the MCLC website and get your boxing gloves on. This listserve can get personal.
[Chinese Studies Online](http://www.cs-online.org)
You should spend hours digging through this treasure trove of online resources.
Much here requires a Harvard ID, but some doesn’t, including these fascinating prints.
Type in “China” and see what pops out. You can read JK Fairbanks’ seminal book on Chinese history for free.
[HK Journals Online](http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/hkjo)
This free, full-text database has weird stuff that goes back to the 19th century.
Well-organized resources page from Berkeley. Lots of cool free stuff in there.
All roads lead to this University of Leiden virtual library.