Jennifer Hubbert is Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Her research has largely focused on public cultural forms in China, examining representations of the state, state–society relations, and citizenship. Jennifer’s work on the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo has been published in Modern China, positions: east asia cultures critique, and Verge: Studies in Global Asia, among others. Her recent book, China in the World: An Anthropology of Confucius Institutes, Soft Power and Globalization (University of Hawai`i Press, 2019), examines the globalisation of Confucius Institutes. She is currently launching a new project on the culture of guns among women in the United States.
Amid a global pandemic and worsening repression in contemporary China, what does it mean to be nostalgic? This essay explores this question through two disparate but intimately connected lenses. First, it examines changing registers of nostalgia in China over the past several decades, analysing the role of the Party-State and how it is imagined in their production. Second, it examines what nostalgia might mean for scholars who study state–society relations and the production of nostalgia in China, when they confront the potential of not being able to return to China to conduct research, and the ethics of that research should they continue to engage.
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