Monday, 29 October 2012

Anti-CNN and 'April Youth' in China

In a recent article, Tao Zhang explores Anti-Western sentiment in youth-oriented Chinese on-line media. 

In the article, she starts by reflecting on how a pattern of nationalistic sentiment rather complicatedly articulated with anti-westernism has been an enduring feature of China’s political culture since its traumatic entry into industrial modernity during the 19th century. But as China, at the end of the 1970s, rushed to embrace market capitalism, it began a new phase in its complex encounter with the West. Caught within the contradictions of a globalized free market economy and continuing authoritarian political control, and exacerbated by the impact of the Internet in the 1990s, the cultural narrative linking national identity with a doctrinaire antipathy towards the West was put under increasing strain. She argues that this has not, however, resulted in the abandonment of anti-westernism as a cultural referent, but in the emergence of new, more complex forms. 

This chapter explores one manifestation of this: the so-called “cyber-nationalism” embraced since the 1990s by a relatively small but significant sector of educated Chinese young people both in China and overseas. She focuses on the example of one prominent Chinese youth website, “”, which was initially intended, ‘to expose the lies and distortions in the western media’ and its subsequent development into the far more comprehensive site, ‘’ styling itself, ‘the first ever Chinese youth portal’.

Starting by sketching the historical formation of anti-western sentiment in the context of China’s passage to modernity from the nineteenth century to the present, she then analyses the emergence of ‘’ and its development into “ Youth”, focusing on its critique of alleged western bias in the reporting of China’s affairs. She develops an argument that places this within the broader context of neo-nationalism amongst the globalized post-1980s generation – the so-called Chinese ‘angry youth’ (‘fengqing’).

Tao Zhang (2012), ‘ and 'April Youth': Anti-Western sentiment in youth-oriented Chinese on-line media’  in Hernandez, L., ed., China and the West: Encounters with the other in Culture, Arts, Politics and Everyday life
Cambridge Scholars 1-16

Monday, 22 October 2012

'How Gay is Football this Year?'

Liz Morrish recently gave a paper at the Queering Paradigms IV conference (with Helen Sauntson, University of Birmingham) exploring how 'desire' operates within women's Varsity football.
Their paper starts by considering arguments from Bucholtz and Hall (2004; 2005), Morrish and Leap (2006) Morrish and Sauntson (2007) about how sexual identity emerges in context, is done relationally (i.e. between interactants) and can be linguistically signalled in various ways. Differences in culture, class, gender and race all coalesce in the production of sexually dissident identity. Bucholtz and Hall’s (2004; 2005) ‘intersubjective tactics’ framework offers a clear framework of analysis for the study of language and sexual identity. The framework is informed by aspects of queer theory and sociolinguistic theory. The framework sits well within the sociolinguistic Communities of Practice framework advocated by Eckert ( 2000) and further developed by Eckert and Wenger (2005). Queer theory reminds us that identity is not fixed, but permeable. The framework focuses analysis on three different dimensions of intersubjective enactment of identity:  adequation and distinction; authentication and denaturalisation; authorisation and illegitimation -- through which identity is intersubjectively constructed in local contexts of language use.

In this paper, they applied the tactics of intersubjectivity framework to data from conversations within a women’s football team, comprising a number of straight, questioning, bisexual and newly out lesbians. In the data, desire is constantly evoked as a way of performing adeqaution and distinction, and in this, simultaneously doing the work of identity in this context. They suggest that in a context where sexual identity is highly salient, unfixed and eroticised, desire becomes the vehicle and proxy for the signalling of adequation, authentication and authorization. In this way, enthusiastic expressions of heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality reveal a celebration of sexual discovery in late adolescence, together with experimentation with the limits of tolerance. 

Liz Morrish (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Helen Sauntson (University of Birmingham UK), “How gay is football this year?” Desire as adequation and distinction in a women’s Varsity football team, Queering Paradigms IV conference (Rio di Janeiro), July 2012.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Research Workshop: Mediated Orientalism

Members of the Globalization and East Asian Cultures Research Group within the centre are holding a Research Workshop on Mediated Orientalism on Wednesday October 31st.

The term ‘orientalism’ was coined by Edward Said in 1978 and has become one of the most popular and controversial terms in literary, media and cultural studies. In recent years, there has been a tendency to reject the term because ‘we’ and ‘our multicultural and post-ideological society’ have moved beyond the East/West, or Orient/Occident binaries, and ‘we’ celebrate cultural differences. But is that so? Is the term ‘orientalism’ out of date and out of history? What about its counterpart ‘occidentalism’? Does the East/West or Orient/Occident binary still structure people’s understandings of cultural differences in various ways? Does orientalism have any positive and performative effects, if at all? Can orientalism be used as a political strategy and tactics for postcolonial resistance? What are the embodied and affective experiences of the orientalist desires, fantasies and dreams? Does an obsession with the ‘oriental’ style suggest our desires and fantasies for the incommensurable Other, which sometimes take an affective and libidinal form and which cannot be reduced to power relations? Or does it simply suggest some sort of racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and class distinctions? Is the denial of orientalism, or rather the blind celebration of multiculturalism and cultural differences, indicative of the neoliberal consumer capitalism that we inhabit? How is orientalism manifested in today’s media and popular culture? How does the old concept of orientalism still haunt the seemingly ever-changing and forever-new field of Media and Cultural Studies? This research workshop brings together staff and students to critically reflect on the contemporary pertinence of the term orientalism and the embodied historical past in the mediated present.

 3:00-3:30 talk ‘Useless Orientalism’ (speaker: Professor Patrick Williams, Nottingham Trent University)
3:30-4:00 pm talk ‘Yellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema’ (guest speaker: Dr. Jane Park, the University of Sydney, Australia)  
4:00-4:10 pm coffee/tea break
4:10-5:00 pm roundtable discussion: After Orientalism? (chair: Gary Needham; participants: all the participants in the workshop)

All participants who are interested in this topic are invited to join in the roundtable discussion.

The event is free of charge will take place in ABK107 on the Clifton campus of Nottingham Trent University. If you have any questions or queries and if you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Hongwei Bao.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Film Comedy and Migration

Monica Boria recently discussed her research on 'Contemporary Italian Film Comedy and Migration' at the International Society of Humor Studies conference in Krakow (June 2012). 

In her paper, she explored how, over the last twenty years the recurrent label of ‘Italian cinema of migration’ has been used to refer to those films that engage with migration to Italy, a phenomenon which has increasingly preoccupied Italian society since the 1980s. Italian filmmakers have predominantly adopted a realist approach and sombre tone, however, in the last few years, a more nuanced spectrum of genres and modalities have emerged, with comedy on the rise. In contrast with the realist films, these comedies appear to revolve mostly around Italian identities, which the juxtaposition with the immigrant ‘other’ makes stand out with ridicule. In reality, the picture is much more complex and what emerges from initial analyses of a body of approximately 15 films, is that the comedy mode, whether predicated on some national ‘filoni’ (such as popular comedies and ‘commedia all’italiana’) or hybrid genres (like comedy-drama, comedy musical) has produced mixed results. In some instances it has allowed directors to tread on new grounds successfully, in others it has made humour implode.

One of the questions she has addressed is how migration is represented through the lenses of humour and whether this mode has allowed for new visions and discourses to emerge. It is often said that comedy can allow directors to venture into grounds which would otherwise be off-limits. For some of these films this indeed appears to be the case: with Cose dell’altro mondo/Things from another world (2011) director Francesco Patierno has attracted fierce criticism from politicians of the separatist Northern League party for his portrayal of provincial northern Italy as openly racist. Gennaro Nunziante’s Che bella giornata/What a beautiful day (2011) satirizes on the alleged threat posed by Islam to Italy’s culture. Another aspect to consider is what kind of humour is employed and who is laughing at/with whom. Is, for instance, the humour surrounding the illegal Egyptian builder in Claudio Cupellini’s Lezioni di cioccolato/Chocolate Lessons (2007) a typical example of ethnic humour? Or is it in fact, in the story’s reversal of roles between employer and employee, a light satire of Italian sleazy business practices and decadent lifestyle? 

Finally, has the unprecedented presence of the immigrant on the scene of Italian comedy affected the mechanisms of the production of humour? In many comedies of the past the foreigner, with its tentative Italian and lack of awareness of Italian codes of conduct, often served as a trigger of quid-pro-quos and verbal humour that only served to bring forward a re-assertion of Italy’s values and identity (for example the cunning Italian vs the gullible American tourist). Is this kind of superiority humour employed in the new context offered by migration comedies?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Queer Art from Turkey

Earlier this year, Cuneyt Cakirlar presented his research on queer art from Turkey at an event on Turkish Society in the Neoliberal Age at the University of Oxford.

His paper focused on the contemporary art scene in Turkey which has gained a considerable international visibility in the last decade. The currently expanding traffic of art galleries, institutional investors and art collectors as well as the international networks in the country have made the scene as one of the most crucial territories of cultural capital, in which the artists and their collaborators working in neighboring fields of expertise (such as academics and activists) channel their critical voices through art. The neoliberal regimes and the political economy within this international travel of art-as-capital deserve critical focus. His research, however, focuses on in-depth analyses of art-works by the key queer figures from the contemporary art scene of Turkey. Being a part of a much more extended project, his talk addressed a critical space where the glocalization and/or internationalization of contemporary arts and that of queer (and/or LGBTT) practices intersect and nurture each other.
Cuneyt's use of “queer figures” refers not necessarily to certain active members of LGBT communities in Turkey but particularly to artists whose art engages with issues of gender and sexuality in creative and dissident ways. The current academic, artistic and cultural visibility of queer practices in Turkey opens up curious critical possibilities to articulate the problematic of cross-cultural translations as well as global form(ul)ations of sexual dissidence within the post-9/11, second-generation queer theory. The main aim of this project is to examine the art-practices of Kutluğ Ataman, Taner Ceylan, Nilbar Güreş, Murat Morova and Erinç Seymen by focusing on their transregional strategies of inhabiting the “queerly critical”. While their art-works may be said to engage with the hegemonic intersections between localism, nationalism, heteronormativity and masculinity in contemporary Turkey, they instrumentalize the transregional formations of criticism, theory and contemporaneity in dissident arts. Thus, though sceptical of an unproblematically performed de-contextualization of queer theories from its western referent, his discussion investigated the possible strategies of translating and transposing queer aesthetics into a practice that not merely insist on a local political context but also act as a methodological object in its potential to reciprocate the geopolitics of critical theory and that of the global contemporary art market.
His ongoing study proposes a critical agenda of reading these practices as theoretical and methodological objects of theory, aesthetics, visual culture and media that transposes a certain queer alterity to Turkish cultural memory – and vice versa – through a constant disidentificatory distance working on and against the local/global binary. While these artists “pursue the decisive strategy of scuffling with all dimensions of its geography-culture” (Kosova, 2009), their artistic agenda also demonstrates a curious self-awareness of cultural globalization within contemporary arts. Their art practice entails layers of critical appropriation which do neither escape nor entirely forego the globalizing imperatives of theory, politics and art-practice. The mode of critique within, and the queerness of, their methodologies, which is nurtured by the so-called global trends in contemporary art (such as actionism, performance, exposure, appropriation, parody/pastiche, intermediality, etc.) can be neither reduced to an Occidentalist internalization nor overinterpreted as self-localization that enacts an innate geographic alterity. 

“Queer Art from Turkey: Aesthetics of the Glocal, Erotics of Translation” Invited Lecture, Authority and Subversion: Turkish Society in the Neoliberal Age, organized by Kerem Öktem, Lauren Mignon and Celia Kerslake, University of Oxford, 9 May 2012.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Women and Party Election Broadcasts

At a recent conference at the Manchester People's Museum, Simon Cross gave a paper which came out of one of his latest research projects on party election broadcasts.
Simon's research was contextualized within a wider history of the British party election broadcast (PEB). From 1924, this history is inextricably linked with John Reith’s paternalistic vision that broadcasting should inform and educate public opinion in the new developing politics of mass participation. By the time the PEB on TV literally comes into focus in the 1950s, public broadcasting was still dominated by ‘Reithian values’ and programmes appealing to a mass audience. Despite the break with Reithian paternalism that followed the arrival of commercial television, he argues, the PEB on TV has survived into the 2000s though not without becoming entwined with forces of commercialisation including advertising’s emphasis on segmenting markets. His paper considered the durability of the PEB on TV, illustrating continuity and change in segmented appeals to women. By doing so, he located segmented appeals to women vis-à-vis changes in British TV such as the advent of regional broadcasting on commercial television and more recent fragmenting of terrestrial TV audiences. His research also examines the harmonisation of PEBs on TV and online.
Simon Cross, ‘“There Now Follows …”: Change and Continuity in Party Election Broadcasts. Parties, People and Elections: Political Communication since 1900. Manchester People’s Museum, Manchester 14 June 2012.