On May 8, 2017, the Center for East Asian Studies’ second event in the East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talks series was held in the University’s Seminary Co-op bookstore featuring Assistant Professor of History Johanna S. Ransmeier in her new book Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China.

The event opened with remarks from Abbey Newman, Associate Director of CEAS. After Newman’s brief introduction about Ransmeier and her book, Ransmeier started her talk by reading selections from her book, stating “During the late Qing and Republican periods a robust market in servants, wives, slaves, concubines and prostitutes thrived throughout North China.” She then emphasized that Chinese families at all levels of society relied upon sold people to address domestic need. From Ransmeier’s perspective, the structure of the Chinese family was not only influenced but encouraged the buying and selling of people. More specifically, human trade helped families dispose of unwanted children, acquire servants, borrow the reproductive services, or incorporate new family members into their households. Furthermore, Ransmeier spoke on the complicit dynamic of human trafficking, including the social and legal networks that sustained it.

During the Q&A session, the audience was able to actively interact with Ransmeier over variable topics such as the difference between Asian trafficking and American slavery, child trafficking problem in contemporary China, trafficking resale situation and related gender inequality issues. Basically, Ransmeier emphasized that she defined “Trafficking” as “buying and selling people” throughout this book and tried to explain why trafficking was tolerate and prevalent during late Qing and Republican China. Ransmeier also shared how she selected from numerous materials including police records, court records and parents’ petitions. 

Finally, the event finished with a short reception, further allowing the guests to discuss with Ransmeier. The event was co-sponsored with UChicago Urban.

Contributed by Xinxin Zhang