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2013 events

Masses from the Margins: Collective Action and Imagined Solidarities at the Edges of Official Public Space in Contemporary China

Dr Anup Grewal, Lecturer in Chinese and Comparative Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, King's College London

Research seminar

4-6pm, Wednesday 26th February  

Room K-1.14, King's Building, Strand Campus

All are welcome to China Institute research seminars - no need to register


This presentation will consider the question of the transformative potential of actual participation in collective action or through confronting its imagery in different forms of media for the creation of political subjectivities and social solidarities. While a recent upsurge of official mobilisations of the language of the “revolutionary masses” in public spaces may hold the possibility of creative citizen appropriations, the State has generally revamped its efforts since the popular movements of the 1970s and 1980s to dominate, appropriate and severely limit the meaning of any actual popular demonstrations or their images -- local or international -- and has simultaneously sought to depoliticise public space. What is the relationship of the state’s current choreography of popular political collectivity to the wider political culture of contemporary China? This paper discusses formations of collectivity and solidarity in spaces that have an “edgy,” if not purely oppositional, relationship to official political culture. The main focus will be on the on practices such as writing and representing the “masses” and collective action in literary work, the formation of politically and culturally ‘alternative’ collectives, and examples from the new independent documentary movement.  The paper asks how these different arenas and media may revitalize longstanding forms of activist participant art positing transformative intersubjective encounters between different social subjects, and also create a space for the emergence of new social solidarities and the imagination of political collectivity. Throughout, the presentation will also grapple with the idea of the ‘margins’ and how we may conceptualise the idea of “masses from the margin”.


Dr Anup Grewal received her PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago in March 2012.  Before joining King’s, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Asian Modernities and Traditions Profile Area of Leiden University in the Netherlands. 

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