Organizer: Wen hsin Yeh, University of California, Berkeley
Chair: Rubie Watson, Harvard University
Pamela Kyle Crossley, Dartmouth College
Discussant: Helen Siu, Yale University
The Qing empire bequeathed to twentieth century eastern Asia set of geographical, cultural, political and economic relationships, out of which the modern entity of China has been crafted. Periodization of the emergence of republican political forms in China reveals a set of overlapping systems of reference: One, the residual cultural and political habits of empire, the other an inchoate republican, egalitarian, unitary consciousness. This paper will examine the workings of these dynamics in northern China, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.
David Strand, Dickinson College
Discussant: Roderick MacFarquhar, Harvard University
Someone once said that social history is "history with the politics left out." Despite more recent efforts to "bring the state back in" to historical analysis, questions remain as to how the rapidly expanding list of social history topics concerning local history, ethnic groups, class cultures, gender, tourism, pilgrimages, factories, banks, childhood, disease, and language (to name a few) relates to the rise and fall of regimes, leaders and policies. At some point, history from the bottom up meets history from the top down, if only to explain the working out of policies directed at the topics and "ordinary" people social historians tend to study. From a political science point of view, regarding political power and the state as residual categories for events and forces outside the lives of ordinary people is plainly unsatisfactory. A key measure of the importance of the modern state is its quotidian presence. For their part, social historians often expect the groups and localities they study to be granted a degree of agency commensurate with the myriad of strategies they find their subjects pursuing, often in defiance of stereotypical representations about their (womens', peasants', workers', entrepreneurs') lack of power. And yet, does the proliferation of studies of active groups and localities add up to a new argument for causation that revises our view of who or what "made" the Chinese revolution? There seems to be little agreement on the nature of the "missing link" connecting leaders and followers, government and citizenry, state and society. There is a more widely held sense that whatever these relationships entail, their nature is fundamentally interactive. This paper will consider the notion of political leadership as an example of how such an "interactive" approach might be applied.
Jing Wang, Duke University
Discussant: Perry Link, Princeton University
The 1990s in post Mao China, now designated as the "post new era" by indigenous cultural and literary critics, witnessed the end of elitism and utopianism and the beginning of popular and consumer culture. New problematics arose to replace old ones. I will be speaking as the organizer of an interdisciplinary research cluster on popular culture at the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute of Duke University. One of the major tasks of the cluster is to locate areas of inquiries pertaining to popular culture that go beyond the overseas Chinese scholars' preoccupation with the problematic of the "public sphere" and "civil society."
This presentation will cover a brief run down of the following topics: the mapping of the field of Chinese popular culture of the 1990s, the definition of the relationship between the public and the popular (e.g., in what way the issue of consumption usurps that of liberal democracy as the central concern for an average Chinese citizen), the oppositional and complicitous relations between popular and official culture. To respond to those who insist that contemporary Chinese consumer culture is merely "profitable opiate," I propose that we examine whether or not, and to what extent, we can speak of the popular as a site of ideological contestation (and perhaps subversion). Furthermore, I shall ask what changes occurred to overdraw the conceptual boundary of cultural authority in the "post new era"? What kind of new mechanism is at work to produce new structures of cultural authorities after the bankruptcy of elitism?
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