An international workshop organised by the Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Manchester, to be held in Manchester, UK, on 6-7 May 2011.
“How that in all this mightie kingdom there is no poore folks walking in the streets nor in the temple a begging, and the order that the King hath given for the meantayning of them that cannot worke”, Juan González de Mendoza wrote expertly about China in 1585. This, the world’s first comprehensive account of China, became a must-read for many -- the Jesuits in particular -- who headed to China and many more who would never set foot in the country. It not only shaped but also dictated European imagination of the Middle Kingdom. Yet Mendoza had grossly misrepresented China, just as Zhang Yimou has done in his work which single-handedly launched Chinese film onto the world stage by exoticising the Chinese past to the taste and standard of Hollywood. If we dispute the accounts of Europeans as foreigners, even though some of them lived in China, what about the works of China-born and Chinese-speaking artists like Zhang Yimou?
The criticism levied on Mendoza and Zhang invites more criticism. Is there a particular China that we can and should find and represent, given that the country is made up of different regions and very different cultures? What then are the politics, art, and science of representing China? How can we more accurately represent a country that is diverse and complex? This is important because the “production” of China has become an industry that can influence not just political leaders and ordinary consumers in the West, but also thousands of students who undertake the study of China today.
This conference therefore seeks to highlight the politics and significance of representing China. It aims at revising historical as well as theoretical frameworks that have produced misunderstandings about and continue to dictate the study of China inside and outside the country. It also probes the ways in which we can better represent a diverse and complex China.
We invite papers that investigate how China was and is perceived and presented. We welcome historians, social scientists, and specialists in cultural studies into an interdisciplinary dialogue that will help the world to better comprehend China on the following aspects:
1. How foreigners and Chinese themselves have seen/represented China
2. What the politics and economics of representing China are
3. How to reconcile the different Chinas they depict
4. The art and science of representing a diverse and complex China
5. The ways in which we can help the world better comprehend China
Inquiries and abstracts of no more than 200 words, plus 5 lines of biographical information, should be sent to Karen.Wang@manchester.ac.uk before 30 January 2011. Those accepted to present at the conference will be notified by 15 February 2011. Accommodation and food will be provided during the conference but paper presenters must look for their own funding for travel.
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