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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Wednesday, 6 March, 2019 - 17:00 to 18:30

China Research Seminar Series talk given by Dr WU Ka-ming, Chinese University of Hong Kong

This talks examines how Chinese national values are imparted to and through the phenomenon of ceremonial volunteers or etiquette volunteers (liyi zhiyuan). These volunteers are all young college women who serve at major national events by greeting guests, ushering and holding ceremonial ribbons. They are supposed to embody Confucian ritual values and the practices of propriety that define China as a nation of civilization through their roles as ceremonial hostesses. This feminine symbol of national tradition is however realized through a heavy emphasis on discipline, physical training, compliance to authority and collectivism expressed through the ways the performances are staged and mass mediated. I argue that the ceremonial volunteer represents a new state effort to engineer a model woman citizen by combining the Confucian discourse on etiquette, the communist party-state discourse on militarization and strong womanhood, the communist sport tradition of body training and the latest initiatives on volunteering. The result is the making of gendered national subjects, marking new values of class, femininity and nationalism. The talk will contribute to the understanding of emergent values about gender, class, volunteering and the important roles they play in the process of citizen making in today’s China.

WU Ka-ming is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she has taken up extensive ethnographic research to examine the cultural politics of state and society, waste, and most recently, gender and nationalism in contemporary China. Her book monograph Reinventing Chinese Tradition: The Cultural Politics of Late Socialism (UIP 2015) argues the nature of cultural production in rural China today can be thought of in terms of a "hyper folk" in which ritual practices, performances, heritage, craft productions and other reenactments of the traditional can no longer be viewed as either simulations or authentic originals but as a field where a whole range of social contests, contradictions and changes are being negotiated. Her co-authored book Feiping Shenghuo: Lajichang De Jingji, Shequn Yu Kongjian (CUHK 2016) (Living with Waste: Economies, Communities and Spaces of Waste Collectors in China) has a great impact on the public discussion of waste and has been covered by major media. Her academic papers were published in high impact journals including Journal of Asian Studies, Modern China, The China Journal, Cities, Urban Geography, Ethnology and Taiwan: The Radical Journal of Social Studies.