China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In the neoliberal era, the masses are understood more as passive consumers than active participants, much less producers of their culture. However, the boundaries between producers and consumers might be more porous than critical accounts of neoliberalization have imagined. This panel, following the popular cue of “The People Have Spoken,” delves into the cultural history of sonic productions in modern China, incorporating a transmedial and interdisciplinary approach that seeks to hear the sounds of the Chinese revolutionary tradition as ways of generating lessons for this volatile world and its future. By emphasizing various sonic aspects of mass culture and leftist politics, the papers investigate the shifting power of speaking, hearing, and being heard between progressive intellectuals and the masses. Miao Feng unveils the praxis of a mass music and language by the educator Tao Xingzhi in the context of 1930s world economic crisis and Chinese national calamity. Tie Xiao examines voicing/silencing in Ai Qing’s early poems, a paradox that lurks at the heart of modern intellectuals’ imaginings of popular voices. Ling Zhang explores collective singing as a rebellious gesture in 1960s Chinese film musicals that carried “cultural diplomacy” across the “bamboo curtain” to the Southeast Asia during the Cold War. Yurou Zhong takes the workers as cultural and artistic producers and explores the formation of a “new worker” subjectivity by close-listening to the music of contemporary Chinese migrant workers. Carving out transnational and transregional acoustic territories, this panel transcends the Chinese context towards revelations with an Asian and global relevance.