Research Here we update you on our current research. Daria Berg: Women and the Literary World in Early Modern China, 1580-1700 (Monography) What did it feel like to be a writing woman in early modern China? Which elements in Chinese society shaped her dreams, her social and cultural aspirations, her desires, fears and nightmares? How did she perceive herself, fashion her image and represent herself to the world? What impression did she make? How did her observers and contemporaries—in particular the literati, late imperial China’s political elite and the gatekeepers of elite culture, but also other literate women including both gentlewomen and courtesans—perceive and accommodate this new phenomenon? How did they construe the trope of the woman writer in their imagination and how did they portray her in cultural discourse? This book sets out to explore these questions, aiming to reconstruct the woman writer’s imagination, perceptions of the world, acts of self-fashioning, her impact and legacy. It aims to examine the discourse about the woman writer as constructed by the men and women in the world around her. The book aims to investigate how she carved out a place for herself in the literary world, how she inscribed her name into China’s cultural empire, how she crafted her image and immortalized her words. Book manuscript submitted to international publisher, currently under revision. Daria Berg and Mohammed Shafiullah: “The Rhetoric of Cultural Communication in the Works of Chinese Bloggers and Artists” (Conference paper) As China is catapulted towards its new status as a global superpower, a new generation of urban citizens communicates fresh visions of what constitutes the ideal society in the twenty-first century. This project investigates the rhetoric of cultural communication in China to find out how artists and writers critique contemporary Chinese society using both traditional and the digital media, in particular Web 2.0. Analysis will focus on two case studies: first, bestselling novelist-cum-blogger Han Han; and second, the lesser-known ‘Utopian Team’ artistic duo He Hai and Deng Dafei. They share a social conscience that drives them to merge their art with social activism, using the new social media as their vehicle of expression. They belong to the new Generation X (xinxin renlei) of children born in the late 1970s and 1980s who have no personal memories of Mao, grew up during Deng Xiaoping’s era of reforms and witnessed the consumer revolution in China. Since Han Han started blogging in 2005 his mix of satire and social critique has made him China’s most widely read blogger. His site has been visited over 551 million times. Han Han’s works thrive on social and political satire targeted at China’s education system, the establishment, authority, corruption, current affairs and media censorship. Through the medium of performance art and blogging, He Hai and Deng Dafei, too, critique local culture, the impact of globalization and the spectacular transformation of urban life in China today. They have tackled social issues such as poverty and the plight of the migrant workers in China’s emerging world cities. The Chinese government reacts with censorship, fearing the cultural scene and web- based forms of communication as potential catalysts for revolution. This study aims to discover how these members of the new generation of writers, artists and intellectuals in China negotiate cultural communication and censorship. It will analyse the rhetoric of cultural communication in the works of these writers, bloggers and artists within the contemporary cultural and socio- political contexts. This research will shed new light on our understanding of cultural communication as a social and political barometer. Paper presented at the XIX EACS Conference (Paris, 4-8 Sep 2012). Giorgio Strafella: “The Representation of Socio-Cultural Change in the Renwen Jingshen Debate (1993-95)” (Conference Paper) The Chinese ‘debate on the spirit of the humanities’ (renwen jingshen taolun) in 1993-95 mainly addressed two issues, viz. the public function of humanist inquiry and cultural production, and the intellectuals’ response to commercialised mass culture. The participants in the debate were mainly humanist scholars and literary authors. In this sense, this paper suggests that the renwen jingshen debate can be considered an intellectual meta-discursive event. Even though the debate forged divisions among China’s intellectuals that persist to this day, virtually every participant agreed that mutations of great scope and depth were occurring in the country’s culture and society. This paper analyses the representations of social and cultural change as found in a corpus of 50 articles from the renwen jingshen debate. The analysis explores the rhetorical strategies that intellectuals employed to express their viewpoint on these changes and their position on the wenren’s appropriate response to them. To do so, the paper elaborates on the theoretical perspective developed by Norman Fairclough in his analyses of the language of ‘change’ and ‘transition’ in the political discourse of late Twentieth century Britain and Eastern Europe. The paper argues that the representations of change in the debate reflect the intellectuals’ retreat from the discussion and critique of the effects of Reform and Opening up on China’s social and cultural life. Even when they disapproved of them, the participants consistently adopted rhetorical strategies that background agency and responsibility in the processes they observed, while portraying such processes as necessary and already accomplished. Such strategies mainly include passivation, metaphorical language, nominalisation, and the rhetoric’s of transition and modernisation. The findings suggest an acute ‘depoliticisation’ (Rancière) in the Chinese intellectual field. While existing literature on the debate in Chinese, English, and French focuses on the participants’ division in factions and refers to a small number of articles, this paper identifies shared elements within a corpus that better reflects the scale of the renwen jingshen debate. By doing so, it sheds light on a crucial phase of contemporary Chinese intellectual history. Paper presented at the XIX EACS Conference (Paris, 4-8 Sep 2012). Wing-Fai Leung and Daria Berg: “The Du Lala Phenomenon: Chick-lit in Postsocialist China” (Conference paper) The book series A Story of Lala’s Promotion (杜拉拉升职记, The Promotion of Du Lala, hereafter Du Lala), first published in 2007 and followed by three sequels in 2008, 2010 and 2011, was an instant bestseller written by Li Ke (李 可, birth date and real name unknown), known as the Chinese J.K. Rowling. The novel was adapted as a feature film (English title Go Lala Go!, directed by Xu Jinglei who also took on the lead role) and a television drama series in 2010. The novel narrates the story of Du Lala, a post-1970s university graduate with no family background, who ‘strives for success through individual efforts’ (preface) and ends up a top executive in a fictional Fortune 500 company. A new consumer culture arrived in Reform-era China alongside the re-emergence of the discourse of individual agency. Du Lala is the story of a generation of ‘white-collar misses’ in urban China- professional women who can make full use of their youth and gain jobs in the corporate world. Lala therefore exemplifies the postsocialist Chinese dream- a young generation of apolitical, diligent workers who strive for economic success. The phenomenon can be seen through the lens of the ‘chick lit’/post-feminist fiction which supports a new gender regime and offers displacement of the feminist challenges to patriarchy through the rhetoric of individual choice. Both television and film adaptations of the book emphasise the commercial value of this Chinese chick lit phenomenon through focusing on fashion, consumption and the romantic sub-plot, while skating over the objectification of women in the office environment. Both media use copious amount of product placement. The Du Lala phenomenon individualises the gender discourse in postsocialist China, portraying a world of aspirational middle class and globally influenced values in a depoliticised world. This paper argues that the media representations of the young professional woman conform to the Hollywood romantic comedy genre and neglect the struggles over gender and sexuality that continue to exist for many young women in urban China. Paper presented at the XIX EACS Conference (Paris, 4-8 Sep 2012). Giorgio Strafella: “Postmodernism as Nationalist Conservatism? The Case of Zhang Yiwu” (Workshop paper) The assimilation of concepts and vocabularies originating from the Euro-American postmodernist movement into China’s intellectual discourse(s) dates back to the first half of the 1990s. This process took place in various localities within the country and was deeply influenced by both the particular historical conjunction, which as far as the academe is concerned was defined by a conservative ‘re-examination’ (反思 fansi) of the political role of the Chinese intellectual, and the eagerness of certain foreign scholars — namely, Fredric Jameson — to export their brand of postmodernism. The present paper examines the political stance of the most influential figure in this early phase assimilation, Peking University’s literary scholar 张颐武 Zhang Yiwu (b. 1962), through a discoursive- historical analysis of his writing in the early and mid-1990s. Pointing at his (admittedly) strategic ‘misinterpretation’ of North American postmodernism, this paper argues that Zhang Yiwu employed a postmodernist-ish critique of the concept of modernity to advocate a cultural periodisation as well as a theory of cultural criticism that are defined by sinocentrism and intellectual ‘depolitisation’ (Rancière), and to promote a new grand national narrative for the (multi-national) Chinese state. In the first part, the paper examines programmatic articles in which the elite scholar articulated his theory on the ‘end of modernity’ and the end of China’s ‘new era’. In addition, it takes into consideration other contemporaneous interventions which illuminate Zhang Yiwu’s political stance toward the modern, ‘globalisation’, and China’s post-1992 economic reforms. The paper also provides a critical account of the discussion between Zhang Yiwu and his detractors 徐本 Ben Xu and 赵毅衡 Henry Zhao, who from a liberal standpoint argued against Zhang’s political ‘conservatism’. Finally, the implications of Zhang Yiwu’s influence on the understanding of ‘China’s postmodernity’ in the field of Chinese Studies are discussed. Paper presented at the Workshop “Asian Postmodernities and their Legacies”, Universität Zürich, (30-31 March 2012) Giorgio Strafella: “The Job of a Humanist: The Renwen Jingshen Debate, 1993-1995” (PhD Project) The ‘renwen jingshen’ debate began among a small group of cultural intellectuals in Shanghai led by literary critic Wang Xiaoming. Started as a reflection about the commercialisation of Chinese popular culture, the debate soon evolved into a nationwide, polarising discussion on public values, the humanities, and modernity. The discussion, which involved prominent public intellectuals like Wang Meng, Zhang Yiwu and Chen Xiaoming, has been acknowledged as ‘one of the most interesting intellectual debates of the Nineties, and arguably the only one that was truly indigenous’ (J. Fewsmith). The project analyses the main trends of intellectual development in post-1989 China, in particular those in cultural politics. It will do so by focusing on some of the key issues addressed by the debate, such as the intellectuals’ relation with the state and the market, and their interpretation of Chinese modernity. Furthermore, it will attempt to track the development of fundamental concepts such as ‘renwen jingshen’ and ‘postmodern’ in the language of contemporary Chinese critical inquiry.The descriptive component will be contextualised from intellectual, social, and political perspectives. As to the interpretative contribution of the work, it will be based on critical analysis of the discourse practices under investigation, including keywords, rhetorical patterns, buzzwords, and coded language. Ongoing PhD project at The University of Nottingham, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, expected completion in 2013.