Uluğ Kuzuoğlu’s new book discusses 20th-century reforms of the Chinese writing system in the context of a growing information economy.

Throughout the 20th century, Chinese characters were at risk of disappearing. In his new book “Codes of Modernity: Chinese Scripts in the Global Information Age,” Assistant Professor of History Uluğ Kuzuoğluexplores how the rise of new information technologies made it extremely difficult for the Chinese script to survive modernity. Kuzuoğlu sat down with the Ampersand to discuss the political, economic, and creative forces behind China’s search for a new script.

Uluğ Kuzuoğlu

What inspired this book?

In Turkey, where I grew up and went to college, there was an alphabet revolution in 1928. Before then, everything was written in the Arabic script. After that year, everything was written in the Latin script. Schools stopped teaching the Arabic script, and print shops stopped printing it. So, when I enrolled in the history department for my master’s degree, I had to learn the Arabic script from scratch just to read anything in Turkish published before 1928.