Can you tell me what this course is about and who the audience is? 
This course takes a broad look at how Chinese “things” have changed the world. We’ll learn about the cultural, technological, environmental, and economic contributions that connect China and the rest of the world. These include everything from chopsticks and toilet paper to civil service exams and Maoist revolution. Everyone is welcome. I don’t assume that you have any previous knowledge of Chinese language or history. We all bring different backgrounds, interests, and capacities, and we can learn a lot from each other.

What is the story behind the creation of the course? How did you get into this topic?

A lot of students have a vague sense that China will be important in the twenty-first century. But it’s easy to get swept up in hype about the economy, or despair about
climate change, or anxiety about war and conflict. This course will help you to understand the long, historical context of international trade, cultural exchange, and scientific inquiry that has interwoven China and other societies for centuries. You’ll gain a better sense of context and healthy skepticism when you hear people or media
making huge claims about China. I am primarily a historian of modern Chinese environmental history, with a focus on animal experiences and science and technology studies. So, this course gives me a chance to explore the deep history of many topics that I study in a twentieth or twenty- first century context.

What type of assignments can students expect to demonstrate their learning?

Especially at a big school like UM, I find small group discussions extremely helpful. You’ll have many chances to discuss your reactions to our readings and other sources of evidence: what arguments did you find persuasive? What could have used more evidence? Even if you don’t enjoy speaking to the whole class, you’ll have plenty of chances to form your own opinions and discuss them with your peers. You’ll also do several short pieces of writing which will give you a chance to articulate your views on the cultural connections we study. You’ll also get a chance to explore perceptions of China among people who aren’t taking this course. This could be your classmates, friends, and colleagues, as well as mainstream media and even social media personalities. What beliefs or prejudices do people have, and why? How aware are they of the connections between China and other societies?

We won’t do multiple choice exams or true/false. I can be more useful to you by helping you to digest evidence, form your own viewpoint, and discuss your position in writing or

Any favorite “thing” that you are looking forward to teaching about? Any reading you are excited about?

As someone who has listened to quite a few true crime podcasts, I’m looking forward to teaching about the development of autopsies and criminal investigation in China. We’ll also dig into some controversial topics, such as the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon, and the origins of the Black Plague of the 14 th century. All our readings are in English. But we’ll be digging into some rich translated primary source documents, to better understand the perspectives, contributions, and convictions of Chinese people of the past and present.

If you have any questions about this course, please reach out to Dr. Braden or the curriculum coordinator at More information on ASIAN 262 can be found here.