Field Research Grants

Yujie Li, History


Socialist China (1949-1978) was known as a “bicycle kingdom.” In fact, human-powered transportation technologies, including bicycles, tricycles, and wheelbarrows, were widely used in both state-led infrastructural projects and household productions. In the countryside, the intense reshaping of landscapes to enhance agricultural production relied heavily on wheelbarrows. In the cities, it was the bicycle that made it possible for the massive labor force to commute from every corner of the city to centralized work units on a daily base. A history of the bicycle and other man-powered transportation in Socialist China thus provides a unique opportunity to combine top-down institutional history and bottom-up social history. This project asks how the state planned the production and distribution of these essential items. It also tries to find out how the daily use of these technologies shape the spatial and social relationships among communities. Eventually, this project intends to shed new light on how the dynamic of centralization and decentralization, the paradox between the hegemonic political life and the anarchist social life, manifested on the use of everyday technology such as the bicycle.

Yujie LiYujie Li is a PhD student in History Department at the University of Chicago whose work focuses on the twentieth-century China. Her research interests include history of material culture, history of technology, and history of work and life under Socialism. Yujie completed her Master in Social Sciences in the University of Chicago and her Master in Arts Administration in Columbia University. Before her study in the United States, Yujie worked in arts and media in Beijing.