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Chinese Studies M.Phil. dissertation-in-progress presentations

When Jun 14, 2017
from 03:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where Rooms 8 & 9
Contact Name
Contact Phone 01223 335146
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Pontus Ljungberg

The individual, the ethnic, and the national: Hui Muslims between China and the Middle East

This paper will explore transnational imaginations, connections and practices amongst the Hui Muslim community in north western China. In analysing the effects that transnational imaginations are affecting in China, I argue that through practices of tapping into cultural resources which are not readily available to non-Muslim Chinese, whether through the alternative aesthetic of Islamic architecture, the drive to acquire Arabic language skills, or in emphasising the scientific nature of Islam, Hui Muslims subvert and negotiate the minzu discourse that places the Hui in a less developed or advanced position in relation to the Han Chinese. In addition to this, connections to what is conceived of as the “pure” Islam of the Middle East is a strategy for claiming authenticity of belief and practice for certain Islamic sects vis-à-vis others forms of Chinese Islam. In spite of the power of the imagination of Islamic brotherhood and the worldwide Muslim community, I argue that in engaging in translocal and transnational practices, questions of well-being, livelihood and the pursuit of personal development (发展) and finding one’s cause (事业) in life are stronger currents than more explicitly religious goals, although the two intersect and cannot be clearly separated. Through looking at the experiences of Hui Muslims in Dubai as well as in the commercial centres of Yiwu and Guangzhou, I suggest that the ideal of the universality of the Muslim community does often not materialise in practice, and this often strengthens a sense of belonging to China. Recognising the power of the state to shape the social world, this paper also analyses the responses and priorities of the Chinese state, especially at its local level. Rather than having a purely negative view of Hui engagement with the wider Islamic world, I argue that the state is seeking to mobilise the resources of Chinese Muslim culture for state goals of economic development and winning goodwill of Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East, seeing the Hui as cultural ambassadors rather than the Han man’s burden.

Sarah Parks

Learning to Discern: Wine Culture and Connoisseurship as a Pedagogical Tool in Mainland China

This work will explore interest level, content, skill level, knowledge distribution and dissemination channel, as well as quality differences in wine knowledge acquisition primarily amongst upwardly mobile Chinese young adults living in Tier I Chinese cities. I use the concept of connoisseurship more broadly to include a wider range of subjects interested in wine drinking and etiquette – from intrigued casual wine drinkers to avid wine hobbyists, amateur enthusiasts, collectors, and investors, as well as professional vintners, sommeliers, and wine masters. In doing so, this work is one that shifts the focus slightly away from these persons of so-called “good taste” to the process of taste formation and the act of learning how to discern. I propose to examine how wine as a “cultured” extracurricular pedagogical tool shapes how social distinction is naturalised in everyday lives of individuals in urban China. While wine is still largely thought of as a luxury product (奢侈品), this hegemonic identity is slowly but surely being actively challenged, deconstructed, and renegotiated, especially by China’s new generation of educated young wine consumers. Additionally, this seems to suggest that wine has begun to transcend some of its previous incompatibilities (不搭) with the Chinese palate and traditional diet. This “democratization” of wine, however, does not imply that wine is becoming dissociated with elitism and exclusivity, but rather that what constitutes the elite and at what levels in Chinese society these distinctions are being negotiated has begun to shift. I argue that knowledge of and experience with “proper” wine drinking culture and etiquette is a means through which social distinction can be quantified, codified, reproduced, and embodied. Moreover, it is the ability to possess and express with ease a seemingly natural, flexible, even improvised kind of “wine literacy” rather than “connoisseurship” per se that marks true distinction.

Simon Schaefer

Case Studies about the Chinese Blogosphere and its Web 2.0 Functionalities with a special Focus on Implications regarding Civil Society

Setting the stage

Judging from pertinent literature, civil society is a key word with a long history which 2500 years after its coinage by Aristotle is still (or again) being used as a term to investigate societal phenomena. My dissertation will at the outset introduce the term civil society from a historical perspective using Western and Chinese sources, dedicating special focus to its Chinese translation and usage. Referring to a quotation by McLuhan I intend to show that no technological innovation is without cultural implications and that novel communication and networking functionalities are the result of a plethora of technological innovations which have had a lasting impact on the way people discourse and associate with each other.

Case study 1: Informational Turn – From XYZ (Suku sessions, Danwei Sessions) to Weibo Networks

To what extent do changes in the flow of information also alter society? Wissen ist Macht – Knowledge is power! China’s social arena went through many volatile and transformative periods in the 20th century. This chapter, for the sake of a stark contrast, juxtaposes the current mode of social media interaction with public discussion settings a couple of decades ago.

Case Study 2: “Wanghong” Li Kaifu

Li Kaifu is an utterly interesting person whose Weibo profile will help us conducting an analysis of a social media discourse. Li Kaifu is a telling example who like no other embodies contemporary Chinese modernity, or at least its ideal: educated in the US, he held important positions in the IT sector both in America and China. His current Weibo account has over 50 Mio followers which is more than the amount of readers of the eight globally widest-circulated (and paid-for) newspapers combined. Li Kaifu was born in Taipeh and is currently residing in Beijing. His many professional hats and the wide acclaim he has received online make this case study relevant for the discussion of Chinese contemporary online discourse. By analysing this specific social media account and the way information is shared, I want to find out to what extent his posts enable and encourage people to express their opinion and associate over topics of mutual interest.

Case Study 3: General functionality: Projection of the Self into the public sphere as a corporatist/individualist impulse and its associative function

This subchapter has yet to be defined more clearly.

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