Chinese Studies Seminar Series
Semester One

This term the Chinese Studies seminar series features three visiting speakers on 21 October, 4 November and 18 November. All seminars will take place at 50 George Square from 15.00-17.00 in either G.05 or G.06.   The next lecture is on Wednesday 4 November.

Wednesday 4 November G.05 : 17.00-19.00

Dr Gerda Wielander (University of Westminster)
Happiness in recent Chinese socialist discourse – has Ah Q become a role model?

Happiness and prosperity have been core to Chinese socialist thinking from its inception. The Revolutionary Alliance Programme of 1905 used the term fuzhi to express its aspirations for a new society, a term most recently reintroduced by Xi Jinping in 2013. Socialism has never just been an aspiration to prosperity and redistribution of resources; it has always also held the promise of a new society, which would bring spiritual as well as materialistic transformation. In psychological terms, this anticipated transformation was built on the concept of “revolutionary spirit” (Larson 2009).

In this talk I argue that the emphasis on happiness we see in Chinese political discourse today ties in with the renewed emphasis on socialist values. It also highlights the ideological dilemma the party is facing as a ruling party which continues to espouse visions of ‘groundbreaking changes’ and future utopian societies while at the same time trying to elicit quiet contentment from all, including the most disaffected, by focusing their minds on seeing the glass half full. While adopting the proper spirit remains a key characteristic of subjective feelings of happiness, what exactly constitutes the proper spirit has changed from revolutionary optimism to something more akin to Ah Q’s “spiritual victory” method.

Gerda Wielander is Reader in Chinese Studies and Head of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Westminster, London. She obtained her Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Vienna with theses on Liang Qichao’s historiography (MA) and the contemporary Chinese language press in Malaysia (PhD). Her main research interest lies in the link between the personal and spiritual to wider social and political developments in modern and contemporary China. She is the author of Christian Values in Communist China (Routledge 2013) as well as several journal articles and book chapters. She is currently working on an interdisciplinary edited volume with the working title Perspectives on Chinese Happiness.

Wednesday 18 November G.06

Dr Phillipa Lovatt (University of Stirling)
Sound Music and Memory in JIa Zhangke’s ‘Hometown Trilogy

In Jia Zhangke’s ‘Hometown Trilogy’ the complex diegetic soundscapes, which are often recorded using the documentary method of ‘direct sound’, are represented as ‘occupied’ spaces: acoustic realms that are densely layered with the competing discourses of reform-era China. This paper explores how this experience of lived space during the period of China’s rapid transformation in the years following the end of the Cultural Revolution is articulated through sound and music. Through detailed analysis of particular scenes in Xiao Wu (1997), Platform (2000), Unknown Pleasures (2002) and his first student film Xiaoshan Going Home (1995), the paper will discuss how the layering of acoustic space within the films communicates the ways in which social and personal memories are connected by establishing both the atmosphere of an era within the diegetic space of the film through music, radio or television broadcasts for example, and by setting the (sometimes conflicting) emotional tone for each scene.

Wednesday 21 October G.05 – Now completed

Dr Charlotte Goodburn (Kings College, London)
Rural-urban Migration, Citizenship and China’s 2014 hukou reforms

In July 2014 the State Council announced ground-breaking hukou reforms, abolishing the urban/rural distinction that has existed since the 1950s. Much scholarship on citizenship in China, influenced by Dorothy Solinger’s important work, has focused on urban versus rural hukou as defining a binary system of unequal citizenship, privileging urbanites and denying genuine membership to rural people. Rural-urban migrants are in the worst position of all since, despite making up a third of China’s urban population, they are often unable to access urban state resources, including education, healthcare, housing schemes and social welfare.

Based on this picture, we might expect the 2014 hukou reform to have an equalising effect. However, this paper draws on the author’s research in Shenzhen and on other work on rural-urban migration to argue that, in fact, citizenship statuses are more complicated than Solinger’s model implies. In particular, the distinction between local and non-local, interpreted differently in cities of different sizes and now enshrined in the 2014 hukou reforms, creates a hierarchy of citizenship statuses with varying impacts on migrants of different ages, genders and areas of origin. Rather than moving towards universalization of Chinese citizenship rights, then, the current trajectory is actually one of increased citizenship differentiation.

The paper concludes by proposing an alternative theoretical model of Chinese citizenship, based on recent literature on international migration and citizenship. Drawing on concepts such as “probationary” citizenship, “localised” citizenship and “undocumented” migrants, it suggests a more nuanced way of thinking about citizenship and rural-urban migration in China.