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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Trang X. Ta
ANTH 444
Seattle Campus

Politics of Representation in Modern China

Focuses on issues of representation and power in twentieth century China. Combines substantive information on modern Chinese society and culture with recent debates in social theory and the politics of representation. Major themes include Chinese nationalism, body politics, popular culture, and everyday practice. Offered: jointly with JSIS A 403.

Class description

This course examines contemporary Chinese society in the process of economic liberalization and social transformation from the late 1970s to the new millennium. As China’s prominence grows on the international stage from joining the World Trade Organization to hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008 and the World Expo in 2010, a myriad of representations of China as an impoverished developing country, a socialist nation with an authoritarian government, and the next superpower circulates in the global imaginary. Set against this backdrop of discordant visions and understandings of China, we will examine how economic liberalization since the Deng Xiaoping era has transformed the everyday lives of Chinese citizens through exploring the issues of urbanization, migration and labor, public protest, governance and citizenship, health care, gender and sexuality, and consumption. The readings consist of ethnographies and research articles drawn from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines. We will also be viewing several documentaries throughout the quarter as a supplement to the readings in the course.

Student learning goals

Gain an understanding of the complex social changes in contemporary China beyond the simplified stereotypical representations.

Learn how to conduct scholarly research and compile an annotated bibliography and web-based research portal on a topic concerning China.

Develop critical thinking skills and employ those skills to engage in class discussions.

Practice how to closely read a variety of scholarly texts and synthesize theoretical arguments for analytical papers.

General method of instruction

Seminar style discussion.

Recommended preparation

A survey history course on Modern China. Area studies courses are also generally useful.

Class assignments and grading

Final web-based project and presentation, go-posts, geography quiz, and participation.

Grades are based on the clarity of the presentation of ideas, perceptive analysis of the research topics, insightful utilization of the course readings, and quality of written prose.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Trang X. Ta
Date: 09/29/2011