UCL Urban Laboratory


Call for papers: 'Placing' culture in urban China: Towards an interdisciplinary dialogue

16 April 2015

Workshop: 2 July 2015. Submission deadline: 15 May 2015. Response date: 5 June 2015

Placing culture in urban China

As the Chinese city transforms, arts and culture are widely used instruments of regeneration and competitive place promotion, and serve as well in the struggle to upgrade from labour-intensive manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy.

The distinctive spatial articulations of cultural production in the context of the transitional Chinese city are of critical interest to the ongoing retheorization of the role of cultural production in the twenty-first century city broadly, and point towards possible urban futures for a country in a dynamic state of cultural redefinition. But arts and culture are not just associated with regeneration; they may also be used to contest the meaning and identity of urban space, politicize questions of belonging, and/or resist the insistent displacement pressures that accompany accelerated urbanization.

Within this context, the proliferating artistic and cultural expressions themselves are also integral to the understanding of emerging China and its alternative urban imaginaries. Against the backdrop of cultural globalization and the homogenizing tendencies of the Western art market and international media circuits, Chinese arts and culture reassert the significance of internal visions, historical trajectories and endogenous capabilities. From the nascent cultural idioms of contemporary China we can draw insights into the negotiation of a shifting cultural identity and its relationship to new urban forms, political projections of the socialist state, and palimpsestic inscriptions of tumultuous Chinese cultural history.

We are convening a workshop that seeks to initiate a dialogue among postgraduates and early career researchers engaged in the explication of the reflexive relationship between culture and place in China from multiple disciplinary perspectives. We would like to invite six papers, each contributing to either or both of the following research orientations:

The role of arts and culture in the transformation of urban space in contemporary China;


The representation and re-imagination of the urban in contemporary Chinese artistic and cultural expression.

Furthermore, we encourage each participant to reflect on how interdisciplinary exchange can enrich these investigations. We hope that the workshop will strengthen research networks and inspire new and innovative perspectives and methodologies, and we intend to explore publication opportunities for a selection of the workshop's papers. We are able to offer a modest amount of funding to support the travel of postgraduates accepted from outside London.

We are pleased to announce that Professor Chris Berry (KCL Film Studies) will be reflecting on these research imperatives based on his own work on contemporary Chinese film. Additional invited speakers will be confirmed in the near future.

To propose a paper, please send an abstract of no more than 200 words by May 15th to Murray Mckenzie (murray.mckenzie.14@ucl.ac.uk) or Yixiang Sun (yixiang.sun.11@ucl.ac.uk). Please also contact us with any other inquires about the workshop. We do not require participants to submit written papers in advance.

This workshop is being produced with the support of the University College London Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies (JFIGS).

Further information: placingcultureinurbanchina.wordpress.com.