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.
This course explores the representation of modern Chinese society as it entangles with political power at both macro and micro levels. The concept “representation” will be interrogated in its two layers of meaning encompassing both “portrait” and “proxy,” guiding us to explore connections between representations of social movements and processes of subjectivity formation. Three themes will be interrogated, including revolution and class leveling, labor and citizenship, as well as epistemology and development. During the Maoist socialist era (1949-1976), we examine the cultivation of revolutionary spirit through aesthetic realism as well as the construction of socialist subjects through class-level projects that sought to narrow the “three gaps (sanda chabie)” between worker and peasant, country and city, intellectual and manual labor. The analysis of key subjects, rationale, and projects will continue through the post-Mao reform era (1976-present) during which we speculate on how the reform government has gradually abandoned socialist values in pursuit of neoliberal policies as they reconfigure the Chinese citizenry and development strategies. In the course, we will explore the key questions: What animated the Chinese revolution? How did techniques of narration create activist subjects? How did the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) act in tension between serving as the vanguard and representing the interests of the people? How is labor value measured differently between the socialist and post-socialist eras? What are the global changes that laid the foundation of labor changes in China? Through a critical examination of the portrait of social transformation of modern China in films, novels, and social science analysis, we want to speculate on possibilities of identifying new forms of political activism in a globalized economy.
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