Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Identities & Voices Seminar: 'Banned in China' - Post-Mao Chinese Literature & the Politics of Recognition in World Literature

26 February 2016, 11:30 am–1:00 pm

Banned in China

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IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Hear Flair Donglai Shi (Oxford University) talking about the recent economic/political rise of China and the revival of discussions on modern Chinese literature as world literature.  However, in a world where English now serves as the lingua franca, the cultural deficit between China and the Anglophone world still characterises the relationship between Chinese literature and world literature.

This talk discusses the position of post-Mao Chinese literature in world literature. It aims to expose how the Western/Anglophone literary authority and market wield different 'technologies of recognition', especially 'the systematic' and 'the allegorical' that Shu-Mei Shih has highlighted, to confine post-Mao Chinese literature in a constant struggle between domestic authoritarian 'literary governance' and the set of 'predetermined' interpretations and expectations from the West.

Adopting Franco Moretti's methodology of 'distant reading', Flair will discuss and analyse the presences and absences of a wide range of post-Mao Chinese writers from Gao Xingjian to Xiaolu Guo, from Mo Yan to Weihui Zhou. Through these explorations of the politics of recognition encountered by post-Mao Chinese literature on its route to world literature, this paper argues that though Chinese writers face intersecting oppression from both domestic and international cultural politics, an awareness about the mechanisms of these politics may help them come up with strategies of resistance in their world-constructing creative processes. More importantly, drawing insights from James English and Sarah Brouillette's works on literary prizes and postcolonial writers, he proposes that this awareness itself is a self-conscious and performative strategy which is necessarily characterised by peripheral writers' partial agency in today's global literary marketplace

All welcome.  Please register here.