Concrete Sublime and Somatic Intensity

Visualising Water Engineering in Socialist China

During the 1950s, the construction of large-scale water engineering infrastructure emerged as a crucial undertaking for the socialist state. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of engineers, Party cadres, and workers, this monumental task brought about revolutionary transformations to the landscape of China. Concurrently, a multitude of artists were commissioned to visit these projects and capture their essence. By closely examining and analysing some of these works of art, this essay aims to highlight the profound technological grandeur and immense labour intensity expressed in them, while also shedding light on some of the aspects that remained invisible within the state-sanctioned visual representations of these projects.

A Conversation about Futurity, Critique, and Political Imagination

This discussion is a dialogue about changes in how we, and others, have approached China and futurity. It has two movements: 1) A Conversation about Futures Past, and 2) Five Propositions on the Future Perfect. We begin with a conversation about some of the scholarly and popular discourses that framed our understandings of China and […]

Lest We Forget: The Disappeared Women of 2023

为什么我们会被定罪…如果仅仅是因为我们出于同情到了纪念现场,那么这个社会还有多少可以容纳我们情绪的空间。 If attending a mourning event out of sympathy is a crime, how much room is left in this society for sharing our feelings? —Cao Zhixin, referring to the demonstrations in the wake of a fire in Ürümqi that killed at least 10 people in November 2022   Following almost three years of increasingly stringent […]

Reproductive Realities in Modern China: A Conversation with Sarah Mellors Rodriguez

While China’s reproductive policies have long been studied as a mechanism of biopolitical control, the everyday reproductive experiences of Chinese people are often eclipsed. Spanning more than a century, Sarah Mellors Rodriguez’s important monograph Reproductive Realities in Modern China: Birth Control and Abortion, 1911–2021 (Cambridge University Press, 2023) fills this gap by examining how Chinese […]

Setting Knowledge Free: Towards an Ethical Open Access

There is widespread agreement that academia has a publishing problem. After decades of large commercial publishers like Springer Nature and Elsevier extracting higher profits than the major tech companies while simultaneously keeping publicly financed research behind expensive paywalls (Buranyi 2017), in recent years universities and funders have attempted to renegotiate publishing agreements to ensure that […]

Dear Jude: A Tribute to Jude Howell (1956–2022)

For people who study Chinese civil society, the work of Professor Jude Howell is a familiar staple. For many, it’s an inspiration. For those who had the great luck of knowing Jude, her kindness, good humour, and generosity were every bit as uplifting as her work. Through a fortuitous phone call from Professor Wang Ming, […]

Lest We Forget: The Missing Chinese Activists of 2021

Back in December 2019, we published a series of portraits of labour and feminist activists who disappeared into China’s legal system in what was a particularly brutal year for activism in China. At that time, a wave of arrests had just engulfed dozens of activists across several sectors and cities, and several of them were […]

Xi Jinping’s Third Road: A Response

I rarely disagree with my friend and colleague, the always insightful Ling Li, but I cannot go along with her most recent analysis of Party leadership and the succession issue (Li 2021). She suggests that Xi Jinping may reactivate the office of Chairman of the Party Central Committee at the twentieth Party Congress in 2022. […]

Inciting Subversion by Association: 120 Days in Detention

On 16 February 2020, just a few hours after her partner Xu Zhiyong, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, was detained, women’s rights and labour activist Li Qiaochu went missing. China’s state security bodies would hold her incommunicado for four months under the system known as ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ on suspicion of […]

Bilingual Education in Inner Mongolia: An Explainer

China today is in the midst of closing out a three-quarters of a century experiment. That experiment was in minority-language education for certain select ethnic groups: Mongols, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Kazakhs, and Koreans. A heritage of both China’s decentralised past and the Soviet model, minority-language education is now being replaced by a new model of ‘bilingual […]

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