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Whither China? presents an in-depth and wide-angled picture of Chinese intellectual life during the last decade of the millennium, as China struggled to move beyond the shadow of the Tiananmen tragedy. Because many cultural and intellectual paradigms of the previous decade were left in ruins by that event, Chinese intellectuals were forced in the early 1990s to search for new analytical and critical frameworks. Soon, however, they found themselves engulfed by tidal waves of globalization, surrounded by a new social landscape marked by unabashed commodification, and stunned by a drastically reconfigured socialist state infrastructure.
The contributors to Whither China? describe how, instead of spearheading the popular-mandated and state-sanctioned project of modernization, intellectuals now find themselves caught amid rapidly changing structures of economic, social, political, and cultural relations that are both global in nature and local in an irreducibly political sense. Individual essays interrogate the space of Chinese intellectual production today, lay out the issues at stake, and cover major debates and discursive interventions from the 1990s. Those who write within the Chinese context are joined by Western observers of contemporary Chinese cultural and intellectual life. Together, these two groups undertake a truly international intellectual struggle not only to interpret but to change the world.

Contributors. Rey Chow, Zhiyuan Cui, Michael Dutton, Gan Yang, Harry Harootunian, Peter Hitchcock, Rebecca Karl, Louisa Schein, Wang Hui, Wang Shaoguang, Xudong Zhang

Few countries have been so transformed in recent decades as China. With a dynamically growing economy and a rapidly changing social structure, China challenges the West to understand the nature of its modernization. Using postmodernism as both a global frame of periodization and a way to break free from the rigid ideology of westernization as modernity, this volume’s diverse group of contributors argues that the Chinese experience is crucial for understanding postmodernism.
Collectively, these essays question the implications of specific phenomena, like literature, architecture, rock music, and film, in a postsocialist society. Some essays address China’s complicity in—as well as its resistance to—the culture of global capitalism. Others evaluate the impact of efforts to redefine national culture in terms of enhanced freedoms and expressions of the imagination in everyday life. Still others discuss the general relaxation of political society in post-Mao China, the emergence of the market and its consumer mass culture, and the fashion and discourse of nostalgia. The contributors make a clear case for both the historical uniqueness of Chinese postmodernism and the need to understand its specificity in order to fully grasp the condition of postmodernity worldwide. Although the focus is on mainland China, the volume also includes important observations on social and cultural realities in Hong Kong and Taiwan, whose postmodernity has so far been confined—in both Chinese and English-speaking worlds—to their economic and consumer activities instead of their political and cultural dynamism.
First published as a special issue of boundary 2, Postmodernism and China includes seven new essays. By juxtaposing postmodernism with postsocialism and by analyzing China as a producer and not merely a consumer of the culture of the postmodern, it will contribute to critical discourses on globalism, modernity, and political economics, as well as to cultural and Asian studies.

Contributors. Evans Chan, Arif Dirlik, Dai Jinhua, Liu Kang, Anthony D. King, Jeroen de Kloet, Abidin Kusno, Wendy Larson, Chaoyang Liao, Ping-hui Liao, Sebastian Hsien-hao Liao, Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, Wang Ning, Xiaobing Tang, Xiaoying Wang, Chen Xiaoming, Xiaobin Yang, Zhang Yiwu, Xudong Zhang


In Postsocialism and Cultural Politics, Xudong Zhang offers a critical analysis of China’s “long 1990s,” the tumultuous years between the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. The 1990s were marked by Deng Xiaoping’s market-oriented reforms, the Taiwan missile crisis, the Asian financial crisis, and the end of British colonial rule of Hong Kong. Considering developments including the state’s cultivation of a market economy, the aggressive neoliberalism that accompanied that effort, the rise of a middle class and a consumer culture, and China’s entry into the world economy, Zhang argues that Chinese socialism is not over. Rather it survives as postsocialism, which is articulated through the discourses of postmodernism and nationalism and through the co-existence of multiple modes of production and socio-cultural norms. Highlighting China’s uniqueness, as well as the implications of its recent experiences for the wider world, Zhang suggests that Chinese postsocialism illuminates previously obscure aspects of the global shift from modernity to postmodernity.

Zhang examines the reactions of intellectuals, authors, and filmmakers to the cultural and political conflicts in China during the 1990s. He offers a nuanced assessment of the changing divisions and allegiances within the intellectual landscape, and he analyzes the postsocialist realism of the era through readings of Mo Yan’s fiction and the films of Zhang Yimou. With Postsocialism and Cultural Politics, Zhang applies the same keen insight to China’s long 1990s that he brought to bear on the 1980s in Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms.

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