A subscriber of the Anthropology Matters Newletter, I was wondering whether
you would agree to help me circulate the following call for
papers/panelists for the next European Association for Chinese Studies
conference? That would be extremely helpful.
In advance, many thanks for your consideration.
Lisa Richaud (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
CFP: EACS 2020, panel 'Locating negative affects in post-reform China'
Apologies for any cross-posting.
I am looking to put a panel together on negative affects in Post-Reform
China for the next meeting of the European Association for Chinese Studies
(EACS 2020) in Leipzig, 25-29 August 2020. A detailed rationale is provided
below. If interested, please, send your abstract (250 words) to Lisa
Richaud ([log in to unmask]), by 15 December 2019.
*Locating Negative Affects in China's Post-Reform Era: Public Culture,
Stranger Sociability, Political Potentials*
Joining the recent “affective turn” in China Studies (Sorace 2019; Wallis
2018; J. Yang 2014), this panel aims to bring together China scholars from
different disciplinary horizons to reflect on the expression and
performativity of *negative* affects and emotions in everyday life and
public culture. Here, negative affects are not only defined by their
attendant dysphoric or unpleasant quality. Crucially, negativity derives
from state-shaped emotional regimes, produced through explicit definitional
acts or staged atmospheres that promote certain affects and dismiss or
condemn others. For if there is such thing as a dominant public sphere in
China, its emotional tonality can be qualified as overwhelmingly positive,
as evidenced by the recent “happiness” campaigns or state-promoted
“positive energy” (Wielander and Hird 2018). This pervasive promotion of
positivity indexes the Chinese state's growing concern towards negative
affects (Sorace 2018), many of which are induced by a political context
marked by inequalities and brutal transformations (J. Yang 2015, 2017).
Beyond top-down processes, a growing body of work on grassroots and popular
practices has shown how social actors actively emphasize playfulness, fun,
joy as a major *raison d'être* of their activities (cf. the contributions
in Frangville and Gaffric in press; see also De Kloet 2019). One thinks, for
example, of how entertainment is central to the activities organized by
grassroots organizations with a focus on LGBT+ (Deklerck in press) or migrant
workers' rights (Florence in press). While such practices have often been
described as endowed with a political potential despite their seeming
innocence (e.g. Nakajima in press), one may question the possibility for
alternatives modes of action and imagination to emerge from these recurrent
performances of cheerful moods. Public display of fun and happiness, it
seems, tend to generate atmospheres which have become increasingly
difficult to disrupt (Richaud in press; see also Sum 2017). From this
perspective, positive affects are viewed as restricting, if not
foreclosing, the very transformative agency of these publics.
This panel takes the prevalence of positivity in post-reform China as an
invitation to investigate its opposites: the variety of negative ordinary
affects that can be viewed as ensuing from state-induced “situations of
restricted agency” (Ngai 2005: 2). What can we learn from the various forms
of negativity that morph out of the socio-political circumstances of
post-reform China, and how to tread a fine line between the risk of
romanticization and analytical dismissal (Ngai 2005)? Under what conditions
do the expression and performance of negative affects constitute “a
manifestation of autonomy from state directives” in the context of
pervasive “happiness” campaigns (Sum 2017)? Or is their work ambivalent, if
not problematic, especially when they come to be associated with specific
marginalized groups (Wallis 2018)? This panel invites prospective
contributors to reflect on these issues through one of the following
*Locating negative affects *In a political and social context marked by
emphases on positivity, what spaces are left for negativity to be
expressed, circulated, cultivated, and acted upon? How do Chinese citizens
experience negative affects, and what do these affects and emotions do,
when they fail to be redirected by, or merely fall under the radar of,
therapeutic governance? What are the spaces – physical as well as
discursive – through which they come to matter? What kind of cultural
repertoires are available and appropriated for people to make sense of
their emotional experiences, in ways that evade or contest, well-trodden
discourses of pathologization and self-responsibilization? While anger (Pun
and Lu 2010; J. Yang 2016) has understandably received a great deal of
scholarly attention due to its capacity to foster connections and create
dispositions to action, this panel seeks to expand the scope of research on
negative affects in present-day China, by attending to context-induced
experiences and representations of sadness, melancholy, depression, grief,
pain, despair, boredom, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, anxiety
and beyond, to include feelings that Sianne Ngai (2005) refers to as
“noncathartic” and “intentionally weak.”
*Negativity-based stranger sociability *How might negative affects bring
strangers together and create new modes of sociality? How are affective
publics formed and sustained in the Chinese authoritarian context? What is
the role of space – both physical and virtual – in the making of such
social relations? What kind of affective “we” emerges when grounded in
negativity? How do cultural artifacts such as films, music, or literary
work contribute to shaping social imaginaries of stranger sociability
(Warner 2002) centered around the collective experience of feelings of
despair, melancholy and depressed moods? Thinking through examples such as
Hu Bo's *An Elephant Sitting Still *(2018) or Lou Ye's *Summer Palace *(2006)
in which negative affects feature prominently (see Zuo 2019), what is
achieved through the circulation of cultural products? Conversely, beyond
obvious forms of control over WeChat and other technologies of social
connections, are there any mechanisms through which the Party-state –
understood as a heterogeneous entity – may restrict the possibility to
identify oneself as member of larger (counter) affective publics?
*Transformative agency and political potentials *If the playfulness and fun
one recurrently finds in grassroots practices run the risk of merely
reproducing existing frameworks of governmentality, can we locate new
disruptive potentials through shared expressions of negative affects? If
various forms of emotional affliction in present-day China can be
understood as the products of specific socio-political circumstances, what
are the mediations through which such affects may become recognized as
shared experiences having roots in broader, structural processes? Inspired
by recent discussions in the humanities and Cultural Studies on the
*productivit**y* of “negative feelings” (Cvetkovich 2012; Ngai 2005), this
panel will explore the possibility to transpose this line of thinking to
the Chinese context. In her book *Depression: A Public Feeling*, Ann
Cvetkovich proposes that “feeling bad might, in fact, be the ground for
transformation” (2012: 3), a “political resource” (Cvetkovich 2012: 2),
this panel will ask: under what conditions does such political potential
emerge in today's China? What kind of action becomes envisioned? To what
extent do shared experience and expressions of depression, anger, despair
and the like contribute to shaping imaginations of alternative futures? And
how does the government work to dampen any eruption of transformative
*Governing through negative affects?* Finally, while much research has
emphasized the role of positive affects in new modes of governance, can we
simultaneously identify state-endorsed negative affectivity? The circulation
of pain, for example, through cinematographic representations of the
Nanjing massacres (Schultz 2016), has been critical to the making of
nationalist politics. Can we find other cases, beyond these well-known
examples of how the party-state capitalizes on negative affects to
reproduce its legitimacy? With what kind of responses from ordinary
Although pluralism in methodologies and theoretical perspectives are
welcome, the contributions will retain a strong empirical basis.
Reflections on negative affects from a historical perspective are also
Cvetkovich, A. (2012). *Depression: A Public Feeling*. Durham: Duke
Deklerck, S. (in press). Chinese LGBT+ Activism – Playing, Organizing and
Playful Resistance. In: V. Frangville and G. Gaffric, eds., *China’s Youth
Cultures and Collective Spaces*. London: Routledge.
De Kloet, J. (2019). Kuaishou: Platformization of the Unlikely, the Banal
and the Ubiquitous. Paper presented at the 11th International Convention of
Asia Scholars (ICAS), Leiden, 15-19 July.
Florence, E. (in press). Struggling around the Politics of Recognition: The
Formation of Communities of Interpretations and of Emotions among a
Collective of Migrant Workers in 21st Century China. In: V. Frangville and
G. Gaffric, eds., *China’s Youth Cultures and Collective Spaces*. London:
Hird, D. (2018). Smile Yourself Happy: *Zheng Nengliang *and the Discursive
Construction of Happy Subjects. In: G. Wielander and D. Hird, eds., *Chinese
Discourses on Happiness*. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Nakajima, S. (in press). The Sociability of Millennials in Cyberspace: A
Comparative Analysis of Barrage Subtitling in Nico Nico Douga and bilibili. In:
V. Frangville and G. Gaffric, eds., *China’s Youth Cultures and Collective
Spaces*. London: Routledge.
Ngai, S. (2005). *Ugly Feelings*. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Pun, N. and Lu, H. (2010). Unfinished Proletarianization: Self, Anger, and
Class Action among the Second Generation of Peasant-Workers in Present-Day
China. *Modern China*, 36(5), pp. 493-519.
Richaud, L. (in press). Rethinking the Spatial Politics of Presence in
China's Youth Cultures. In: V. Frangville and G. Gaffric, eds., *China’s
Youth Cultures and Collective Spaces*. London: Routledge.
Schultz, C.K.N. (2016) Mediating Trauma: The Nanjing Massacre, *City of
Life and Death*, and Affect as Soft Power. In: F. Chan and A. Willis,
Cinemas: International Perspective*. New York: Routledge.
Sorace, C. (2019). Extracting Affect: Televised Cadre Confessions in
Culture*, 31(1), pp. 145-71.
Sum, C.Y. (2017). Suffering and Tears: Authenticity and Student
Volunteerism in Postreform China. *Ethos*, 45(3), pp. 409-429.
Wallis, C. (2018). Domestic Workers and the Affective Dimensions of
Communicative Empowerment. *Communication Culture & Critique*, 11(2), pp.
Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. *Public Culture*, 14(1), pp.
Wielander, G. and Hird, D. (eds.) (2018). *Chinese Discourses on Happiness*.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Yang, J. (ed.) (2014) *The Political Economy of Affect and Emotion in East
Asia*. Oxon: Routledge.
Yang, J. (2015). *Unknotting the Heart*. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Yang, J. (2016). The Politics and Regulation of Anger in Urban China. *Culture,
Medicine, and Psychiatry*, 40(1), pp. 100-123.
Yang, J. (2017). *Mental Health in China*:* Change, Tradition, and
Therapeutic Governance:* Cambridge: Polity Press.
Zuo, M. (2019). Dull Sex in a Messy Square: Traumatic Boredom in Lou Ye's
Summer Palace. *Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory*, 29(2),
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