337 Claudia Cohen Hall
Lijing Jiang, Haas Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Visions of Life in the Land of Change: The Goldfish as Pet and Experimental Organism in Twentieth-Century China
For the development of genetics, embryology, and aquaculture technology in China, the goldfish has played a uniquely important role partly because of its connections to experimental traditions, historical heritage, and economically valuable fishes. Building upon well-developed literature on model organisms in the life sciences, this talk gives an overview of the trajectory of using the goldfish as an experimental organism in twentieth-century China, while illuminating how its scientific life co-evolved with its varied representations as pet in China's changing political and cultural milieus. It shows how biologists engaged local cultures, politics, and global scientific traditions in genetics, embryology and evolution to construct different research programs of the goldfish in drastically different political climate. Following the fish, we open windows to understand the changing epistemic and socio-cultural space of biology in the country. Some of the scientists, for example, have used the goldfish to study Mendelian genetics in the Republican period, to support cytoplasmic inheritance and a "Great-Leap Forward" in aquaculture in early Communist years, or to test new biotechnological promises during the economic reform. In the end, I will raise questions about the exact epistemic and social functions, as well as the "modelness" of the goldfish as reflected in the scientific and political activities mentioned in the talk. I will also discuss the question how such regional focus on a single species that was less studied elsewhere help us to explore new ways to study world histories of biology and the role of local organisms in them.