Publications

2022
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2022. “The Mean-ness of Statistics.” Harvard Data Science Review 4 (4). Publisher's Version
TheMeannessofStatistics.pdf
China’s first hydroelectric station began producing electricity in 1912, a year better known for marking the end of imperial rule and the advent of republican governance. Located a short distance outside of the southwestern city of Kunming, Shilongba (Stone Dragon Dam) was a cross-cultural endeavour that involved long-distance encounters of both materials and expertise that spanned not just vast expanses within China, but also a world divided by competing imperial interests. The technologies involved were at once both new and old. Turbines and dynamos represented the latest in German innovation, but the techniques used to carve the canal and lower the water table had been perfected over centuries. A history of Shilongba thus allows us to approach China’s transition from Empire to Republic not merely as a political process but also as one of multiple makings – of state, technology, energy, society, and not least, history itself. This paper explores these multiple makings, focusing on the first phase of construction from 1908 to 1912, when a dam was constructed, a canal dug, and the first power station established.
2021
Ghosh, Arunabh, Adhira Mangalagiri, and Tansen Sen. 2021. “China and India in the Age of Decolonization: An Introduction to the Nehru Papers Project, 1947–1964.” China and Asia 3 (2): 177-82. Publisher's Version
Andrew B. Liu, Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), pp. 360, \$50.00, 25 b/w illus, Hardcover. ISBN: 9780300243734.
This paper uses the decade-long collaboration between the Indian paleobotanist Birbal Sahni (1891–1949) and his Chinese doctoral student Hsü Jen (Xu Ren 徐仁, 1910–1992) to offer a connected history of mid-twentieth century scientific activity in China and India. Possibly the first Chinese scientist to earn a PhD from an Indian university (Lucknow, 1946), Hsü was certainly the first to be appointed to a faculty position in India. Sahni and Hsü's attempts to build Asian networks of scientific activity, characterized by the circulation of experts, scientific knowledge, and specimens, provide the grounds for considering a practice of Pan-Asianism. Such a formulation adds to existing work on the Pan-Asianist articulations of intellectual and political figures and urges for an expansion of how we understand scientific activity across China and India from the 1930s to the 1960s. In so doing, the paper makes two historiographical interventions. In the first instance, the collaboration presents an opportunity to move beyond the two dominant frames through which histories of science in China and India are studied: the nation state and Non-West/West binaries. Second, a focus on science widens the scope of China–India history, a field dominated by research on cultural, intellectual, and diplomatic topics.
2020
ICI Co-Director Mark Frazier’s Interview with Professor Arunabh Ghosh, author of Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (Princeton University Press, 2020).
In 1949, at the end of a long period of wars, one of the biggest challenges facing leaders of the new People’s Republic of China was how much they did not know. The government of one of the world’s largest nations was committed to fundamentally reengineering its society and economy via socialist planning while having almost no reliable statistical data about their own country. Making It Count is the history of efforts to resolve this “crisis in counting.” Drawing on a wealth of sources culled from China, India, and the United States, Arunabh Ghosh explores the choices made by political leaders, statisticians, academics, statistical workers, and even literary figures in attempts to know the nation through numbers.

Ghosh shows that early reliance on Soviet-inspired methods of exhaustive enumeration became increasingly untenable in China by the mid-1950s. Unprecedented and unexpected exchanges with Indian statisticians followed, as the Chinese sought to learn about the then-exciting new technology of random sampling. These developments were overtaken by the tumult of the Great Leap Forward (1958–61), when probabilistic and exhaustive methods were rejected and statistics was refashioned into an ethnographic enterprise. By acknowledging Soviet and Indian influences, Ghosh not only revises existing models of Cold War science but also globalizes wider developments in the history of statistics and data.

Anchored in debates about statistics and its relationship to state building, Making It Count offers fresh perspectives on China’s transition to socialism.
2019
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2019. “Forecasting.” Critical Terms in Future Studies, edited by Heike Paul, 127-130. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Publisher's Version
ghosh_arunabh_forecasting_criticaltermsinfuturesstudies_2019.pdf
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2019. “Commentary: New Directions in the Study of PRC-Era Science.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society 13 (3): 443-448. Publisher's Version Abstract
This essay offers commentary on the previous three articles regarding PRC-era science by Sarah Mellors, Chuan Xu, and Sigrid Schmalzer. It notes that by moving beyond older concerns that were centered on issues of state control or techno-nationalism, these articles exemplify new directions in the study of PRC-era science. Their focus on lived experience, local stories, and materiality provides rich and diverse perspectives on histories of science in the PRC by exposing the often contradictory ways in which the power and influence of science operated across society. The commentary concludes by identifying three pathways for future research.
easts_443ghosh.pdf
2018
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2018. ““What Does Longevity Mean for Leadership in China?”” The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power, edited by Michael Szonyi and Jennifer Rudolph, 51-57. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
ghosh_arunabh_what_does_longevity_mean_for_chinas_leadership_2018.pdf
07_chr779278.pdf
Is there a correct way to ascertain social fact? As late as the 1950s, the scientific community remained divided over this question. Its resolution involved not just epistemological and theoretical debates on the unity or disunity of statistical science but also practical considerations surrounding state-capacity building. For scientists in places like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union, at stake was the very ability to realize the kind of planned economic growth that socialist countries idealized. The solution they chose reformulated statistics explicitly as a social science, salvaging it from what they then dismissed as the tainted, bourgeois, and socially unproductive pursuit of mathematical statistics. This distinction—most tangibly understood as the rejection of all probabilistic methods—had implications for both the ways in which data was collected and the ways in which it was analyzed.
2017
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2017. “Before 1962: The Case for 1950s China-India History.” The Journal of Asian Studies 76 (3): 697-727. Publisher's Version
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2017. “1950s China-India Chronology.” A Resource for Research and Teaching. Publisher's Version
Ghosh, Arunabh, and Sören Urbansky, ed. 2017. “China from Without: Doing PRC History in Foreign Archives.” The PRC History Review, 2, 3, 26 pp. Publisher's Version
Ghosh, Arunabh. 2017. “India and Science and Technology in the Early PRC.” The PRC History Review 2 (3): 7-9. Publisher's Version
Ghosh, Arunabh, and Sören Urbansky. 2017. “Editorial Introduction.” The PRC History Review 2 (3): 1-3. Publisher's Version