Crossroads 2018 has an exciting line up

Institutional Dilemma and Cultural Practices: Doing Cultural Studies in Mainland China

XU Miaomiao ,Cultural Studies Institute, Beijing Academy of Social Sciences
PAN Jia’en ,Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Chongqing University
ZHANG Huiyu ,School of Journalism and Communication, Peking University

Conceived and Introduced by:
ZHANG Chun, Managing Editor of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, Higher Education Press

Institutional Dilemma and Cultural Practices: Doing Cultural Studies in Mainland China

Panel Abstract:

Since the late 1990s, Cultural Studies (CS) projects focusing on various aspects of the Chinese mainland societies have grown significantly across the country and produced notable scholarly outputs at both institutional and social levels. China’s latest “Cultural Studies wave” at the beginning of the 21st century is a result of the expanding academic/institutional system under the growing economic capacities, as well as the world-historical challenges and dramatically changing social reality China faces in time of transformation. In this context, CS’ development can be marked by distinctive institutional moments, critical intellectual movements, and CS education: students training and teaching. It is notable that different parts of Chinese mainland maintain different levels of institutional development. These institutions have attracted scholars from the field of literature, history, sociology, political philosophy, anthropology, Media Studies, etc. However, due to the anti-institutional nature of CS and the tension between the existing university system as well as Chinese governmental ministration system, the process of CS development and research activities are facing a series of practical and theoretical difficulties across China. It is a challenge for all scholars who are working in an institutional space, to understand the production mechanism of the dominant culture, as well as the relationship between our socialist past and the post-socialist present with probing into their cultural (inter-)production, while maintaining the inter-disciplinarity of CS. Equally importantly, towards an alternative solution to the relationship between CS and social improvement, Chinese CS scholars are paying attention to rural areas, trying to open up a wider space and establish a unique frame through rural construction and experimental cultural practices. The key factor and it’s global significance of CS in mainland China might be the direct experiences of the daily life of contemporary Chinese people, the enrichment of resources from socialist history of Chinese revolution, and their contemporary practices.

Paper One:Building Cultural Studies: Institutional Spaces and Dilemma—A Case Study Based on Bejing Cultural Studies Institute of CNU (XU Miaomiao)

Cultural studies as an important approach has been widely engaged by Chinese mainland scholars since the 1990s. The dramatically changing social reality during the transforming mainland provides numerous topics and resources for CS. However, since the power of governmental ministration upon academic production and disciplinary construction are hardly challenged, the establishment of CS as faculty and department is still struggling for their spaces in the university/college system. Based on the case study of Bejing Cultural Studies Institute in Capital Normal University (CNU), by interviewing key members of it’s staff, investigating its history and discussing the interactions between the CNU CS institute and local government, this presentation attempts to demonstrate the co-operation and tension between this institute and local government in their struggle of building cultural images, defining public spaces, and improving cultural meaning in urban spaces in metropolitan like Beijing. Moreover, by tracking different resources, such as intellectual knowledge capital and educational cultivate ability provided by the institute, and policy making, funding support and staffing management by the government, my research found the border of the CS institute are continually moving under the governmental ministration and censorship. In the context of contemporary China, CS institutes are at the center of building intellectual spaces and negotiating for academic powers with authoritative discourse.

Paper Two:Cultural Studies and Its Local Resources: Discourse and Practice in Chinese Mainland Rural Reconstruction Movement (PAN Jia’en )

Cultural Studies have the tradition of emphasizing "context" and "practice." Faced with the current difficulties in mainland Chinese Cultural Studies, especially in institutional academic researches, such as lack of attention to local issues and ideological resources, lack of the overall historical horizon and sense, Chinese CS research needs to return to its own unique historical and social context by opening the borders and incorporating local resources. It is necessary to find more potential sources of critique and resistance in modern China and urban-rural areas, and to confront Chinese problems and experiences which are of great complexity. By returning to its unique historical and social context and taking local resources into consideration, this study tries to return to their long-term engagement in “action-writing” practice in Rural Reconstruction Movement. Under the unique perspective of “practitioner-researcher,” we hope to open up the multi-dimensional space obscured by the mainstream vision and find the local resources and promotion of CS in the historical context of China.

Paper Three:Hidden and Visualization: A Class Perspective in Chinese Cultural Studies(ZHANG Huiyu)

Chinese institutional Cultural Studies have focused mainly on popular culture, which is the special consumerism culture, where consumers are mainly urban people. It is difficult for popular cultural studies to discover the worker culture and class issues which disserve more attention from Chinese CS scholars and social attention. This study attempts to re-examine the rise of contemporary China from the perspective of class. China's reform and opening up since the 1980s is a process in which the planned economy era of the state-owned workers gradually lost their social status and historical subjectivity. This kind of socialist political practice that became the center of the class struggle, witnesses the failure of working class, who once was the main subject of history. Chinese migrant workers as "cheap labor" in the manufacturing industry have become the new groups of workers. These new workers, who are voiceless in the mainstream culture, form a hidden class in the mainland. They are often presented either as necessary working labor of social assistance or the threat of middle-class life. By focusing mainly on three different cultural practices of the new workers, I will present their grievances and plight while providing a promising political and social landscape.