China Unofficial Archives launch
After months of work, on Dec. 13 we launched the China Unofficial Archives, a repository of hundreds of underground periodicals, books, and movies.
The site is a project that I began to think about when I was working on Sparks, my book on counter-history in China. One key point is that the digital revolution has made it easier than ever for people inside an authoritarian state like China’s to share information by basic technologies, such as PDFs or digital films. And yet much of the information sharing is ad hoc. A person may get an email with a PDF book attached on, say, the Cultural Revolution, but not realize what else has been published or filmed on this topic. Or they might like the author but might not have an easy way to access that person’s works. An online archive, I thought, could help fill this gap.
After incorporating the archive as a non-profit over the summer, I secured funding from a charity, hired a web designer and had invaluable help from people such as the independent journalist Jiang Xue (who also features in Sparks).
We “launched” via an online event sponsored by Westminister University’s China Centre. I was joined by Gerda Wielander, who has done much research on history and state narratives in China, and Shao Jiang, a London-based scholar who advises the archive. The event will eventually be posted to YouTube.
For a description of what the site aspires to be, you can see its “About” page here. I also wrote the first in what I hope will be a series of “Curators Notes” by me and various people involved in curating the site.
As I mention in the note, this is a work in progress. We’ve already received very useful feedback on how to improve it and are also in the middle of uploading hundreds of new movies and other files. We currently have about 850 items in the archive but need to double it–and fill in many holes (also outlined in my note)–before it will really take shape.