Asian Studies

Asian Studies Seminar: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China

About the seminar

Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China

By Margaret Hillenbrand...

How do post-socialist states process the violence of their pasts? This paper looks at the missing histories of contemporary China, and argues that conventional narratives of amnesia and censorship do not adequately explain why certain events have failed to gain commemorative traction in the present.

Post-socialist China, I argue here, is a domain rife with public secrecy, with what Michael Taussig calls that which is “generally known, but cannot be articulated”, and in whose disavowal many collude. As a form of socio-political containment, public secrecy is intransigent and tough to tackle, since exposure – the most obvious strategy against the covert – scarcely works for that which is already widely known. This paper argues that the aesthetic realm in China offers creative modes of reckoning against the unforgotten-yet-unsayable. In particular, a category of aesthetic objects which I call photo-forms – works which riff on well-known historical photographs – serve as spaces in which public secrecy emerges as trackable, opposable sound.

Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford. She is the author of Literature, Modernity and the Practice of Resistance: Japanese and Taiwanese Fiction 1960 – 1990 (2007, Brill Academic Publishers) and Documenting China (2011, University of Washington Press). Her research and publications to date have focused on literary and visual culture in twentieth-century China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, and she is currently completing a book on the intermedial relationships between photography and a range of other aesthetic forms – literature, cinema, painting, and sculpture – in post-socialist China.

About the Asian Studies Seminar Series

Each semester, Asian Studies welcomes a fantastic range of guest speakers and colleagues to present an evening seminar on their research, spanning fields as diverse as film and media, literature, religion, society and politics.

Covering some of the most vibrant regions of the world today, Asian Studies at Edinburgh includes long-established programmes in Chinese and Japanese, expertise in Sino-Japanese relations, and Korean Studies.

Seminars take place on selected Tuesday evenings at 5pm, usually in the Project Room (1.06), 50 George Square. Check the calendar for dates and venues.

Entry is free and no booking is required. Everyone is welcome.

Are you interested in studying with us?

We are the only university in Scotland to offer full undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in both Chinese and Japanese, and one of the few institutions in the UK to provide a range of language and studies options in Korean and Sanskrit.

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Oct 17 2017 -

Asian Studies Seminar: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China

A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr Margaret Hillenbrand of the University of Oxford.

50 George Square, Project Room (1.06), University of Edinburgh