|Undoing Commonness: Language and Social Change in Contemporary China|
Thursday, March 02, 2017
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall， UCLA
Talk by Qing Zhang, University of Arizona
“Letting some people and regions get rich first,” a declarative by Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago, offers perhaps the most potent example for the power of language in social change in contemporary China. This talk argues for an integrated approach to language and social change as mutually constitutive. Building on research that tracks the emergence of Cosmopolitan Mandarin (CM), a new linguistic style alternative to the conventional Standard Mandarin, also known as “common speech,” I demonstrate that CM constitutes an emergent stylistic resource for dismantling the Maoist socialist stylistic regime that valued conformity and egalitarianism. By examining the formation, use, and social evaluation of CM, I demonstrate that it brings about social change in two ways. First, through its use by particularly groups of social actors to produce new distinction, CM participates in the increasing socioeconomic diversification of Chinese society. Second, through its valorizations vis-à-vis the conventional standard language, CM participates in shaping the configuration of a postsocialist stylistic regime. Qing Zhang is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and affiliated faculty member in East Asian Studies and Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona. Her research examines the constitutive role of language in contexts of sociopolitical change and globalization.
Egoist Individual, Moralist Self, and Relational Person: A Tripartite Approach to Changing Chinese Personhood
Thursday, March 02, 2017
12:15 PM - 1:45 PM
352 Haines Hall, UCLA
Talk by Yunxiang Yan, Professor of Anthropology and the Director of UCLA Center for Chinese Studies
Aiming at an ethnographic account of changing Chinese personhoods, this paper suggests a tripartite approach that examines the egoist individual (bodily desires), the moralist self (psychological and ethical self-control), and the relational person (social practice of connectedness) as the three components of the Chinese subjectivity. The fight by the moralist self against the egoist individual for the purpose of becoming a proper relational person stands out as the biding theme of the cultural construction of personhood in Chinese culture, which unfolds as a long birth-to-death process of becoming, instead of a given structure of being. Chinese personhood as a process of becoming, however, has also been undergoing radical changes in the context of the national pursuit for modernity and globalization since 1900 and thus manifests itself in real life in both dynamic and plural forms. Yunxiang Yan is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. He earned his B.A. in Chinese Literature from Peking University in 1982 and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1993. He is the author of The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village (Stanford University Press, 1996), Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999 (Stanford University Press, 2003), and The Individualization of Chinese Society (Berg publishers, 2009).