Translating STS in China: Disciplinary Struggles and Future Prospects

  • Gonçalo D. Santos
  • Naubahar Sharif
  • Jack Linzhou Xing


This article analyzes a debate in Mainland China over how to designate and integrate the international field of STS (science and technology studies) in Chinese academia. Emerged at the turn of the millennium, this debate confirmed the increasing hold of STS in China, but it also revealed significant tensions regarding the general orientation and the place of the field in Chinese academia. These tensions reflect not only larger contradictions found in other globalized local instantiations of STS but also Chinese specificities. To understand both dimensions, this article approaches the rise of STS in China as a creative process of translation mediated by context-specific globalized struggles and negotiations. This approach builds on Asia-focused postcolonial discussions of translational practices to capture some of the distinctive features of the field of STS in China, including the strong influence of the Marxist tradition, the continuing hold of modernist-positivist approaches, and the strong control exercised by the party-state on academia. We use the Chinese example to highlight the translational diversity of the global STS project and to raise general questions about the future of STS across borders in the twenty-first century.


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26 Feb 2023
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