"Tam's groundbreaking book transforms our understanding of Chinese nationalism by establishing how fangyan have served as both targets for language standardization projects and resources for cultural diversity and communal sentiment. It also reconstructs the complex genealogy of Chinese linguistics as an academic discipline and reveals its fraught relationship to the modern state." 

- Robert J Culp, Bard College, New York

​"Every scholar of Chinese society needs an understanding of how Mandarin became standardized as the national language and how local languages have nonetheless survived. Gina Anne Tam not only gives us that history but, importantly, demonstrates that the relationship between dialect and nation could have been different."

- Sigrid Schmalzer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

"Tam's impressive debut book provides readers with a theoretically sophisticated, clearly argued and gracefully written account of the complex relationship between language and nationalism in modern China. The author moves across a broad chronological and geographic canvass, making claims rooted in history and based on careful archive research. Though about the past, however, Dialect and Nationalism also speaks to issues making headlines now, at a time when struggles in which language and identity figure centrally play out everywhere from Catalonia to Hong Kong."

- Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

The persistence of dialect against the hegemony of Mandarin emerges from Tam’s study as a large-scale example of what James Scott calls “the weapons of the weak.” As Tam hints in the conclusion, fangyan also keeps alive the possibility of alternative notions of Chinese national identity, including the subversive possibility of a pluralistic nationalism — “China” as meaning something more analogous to “Europe” than “France.” The reader finishes Dialect and Nationalism looking forward to a sequel that brings the story into the 21st century.

- John Delury, Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies 

Taking aim at the conventional narrative that standard, national languages transform 'peasants' into citizens, this book centers the history of the Chinese nation and national identity on fangyan - languages like Shanghainese, Cantonese, and dozens of others that are categorically different from the Chinese national language, Mandarin. She traces how, on the one hand, linguists, policy-makers, bureaucrats and workaday educators framed fangyan as non-standard 'variants' of the Chinese language, subsidiary in symbolic importance to standard Mandarin. She simultaneously highlights, on the other hand, the folksong collectors, playwrights, hip-hop artists and popular protestors who argued that fangyan were more authentic and representative of China's national culture and its history. From the late Qing through the height of the Maoist period, these intertwined visions of the Chinese nation - one spoken in one voice, one spoken in many - interacted and shaped one another, and in the process, shaped the basis for national identity itself.

New Books in East Asian Studies Podcast. (Host: Ed Palmer). July 7, 2020. 

"Mandarin Mayhem Part 2: Dialect and Nationalism in China" ​Barbarians at the Gate ​(Hosts: Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser). June 2, 2020. 

"Language, Dialect and Nationalism with Gina Tam" Fernostwärts podcast (Host: Katharin Tai) November 12, 2020


Linguistic Hierarchies and Mandarin Promulgation: An excerpt from Dialect and Nationalism in China. 

Contemporary China Centre Blog: Issue Six, Language Politics in Modern and Contemporary China​. October 21, 2020. 

"What Makes a Language Policy Revolutionary?" Age of Revolutions Blog. October 14, 2020. 

The Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel: New books on Chinese History. July 14, 2020. 

"Gina Tam on Dialect and Nationalism in China, and a grave in Amoy." Visualising China​. May 21, 2020. 

"Dialect and the Making of Modern China: Then and Now." FifteenEightFour. March 11, 2020. 

Book Press

"Dialect Adventures" by Colin Jones. Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel. August 18, 2020

"Essential books on China: The Moral Cost of Development" by Alec Ash. The Wire. ​August 16, 2020

"China's Dialects: Not Going Quietly" by John Delury. Global Asia. December 28, 2020. 

Buy now on Amazon or Cambridge Press





Watch here for an introduction to the book on "Longshorts" through the Long Institute at the University of California, Irvine (Host Emily Baum)


October 13: Modern China Lecture Series at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University  (See it here or listen here

December 11: Modern Chinese History in Global Context: The View from 2020 (全球視野下的中國現代史 -- 2020年的展望), National Chengchi University (7:00 PM-10:00 PM CST on Google Meets, register here: ​​

January 25: "Chinese nationalism with Xin Fan and Gina Tam." Cambridge University Press Winter Festival, 7 PM CST.

April  16: "What is the Chinese Language: The Making of Linguistic Hierarchies in the PRC" The University of Sydney, 12 PM NSW (Sydney time). Register here: 

​May 20: "How Fangyan became Dialects: A history of language and nationalism in China" SOAS University of London, 5 PM GMT Register here