Call for papers: Practices of Reading in the People’s Republic of China
Freiburg (Germany), Dec. 9-11, 2020
Research into literary and intellectual life typically focuses on analyses of texts and their production. The reader, practices of reading and the meanings and interpretations that (ordinary) readers arrive at very often are missing from the picture. This conference aims at filling this gap in research by focusing on practices of reading in the People’s Republic of China.
The conference “Practices of Reading in the People’s Republic of China” is hosted by the ERC-funded project ‘The Politics of Reading in the People’s Republic of China (READCHINA)’. READCHINA investigates into the politics and practices of reading in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), their interpretation and their impact on social and intellectual change. The main objective is a reinvestigation of literary history, intellectual history and cultural policy of the PRC from the perspective of the ordinary reader, who time and again aimed at testing or transgressing the boundaries of the rigid system. READCHINA includes research on fictional figures in popular literature; audiences of entertainment Internet fiction; organized forms and participants’ responses at rituals of collective reading participants; anonymous bookstore frequenters; and second-hand book readers and dealers. We explore reading as a tactic of common readers from the grassroots.
We invite scholars to the University of Freiburg to reinvestigate reading from multiple perspectives. We seek contributions presenting new approaches on the research of contents, subjects, media and agency of reading, and aim at exploring the social, political and historical functions of reading from the 1940s to contemporary China. We intend for the conference to be grouped in eight thematically independent but interrelated sections:
1) ‘Packaging Knowledge for Specific Readers’ looks at how reading is shaped and transformed by the established knowledge systems – and how reading in turn shaped and transformed systems of knowledge;
2) ‘Rethinking the Function of Fictional Reading’ explores how literary reading influenced and interacted with social activities;
3) ‘Reading beyond Texts via Multiple Media’ is concerned with reading in a broader sense, not only through texts, but via different media including sounds and images;
4) ‘Reading and Space’ looks at both physical places where actual reading behaviour happens – such as in bookstores or reading groups – and the literary space of reading;
5) ‘Reading in a Transitional Linguistic System’ focuses on how the vernacular language reform in 20th century China impacted reading in different historical contexts;
6) ‘Gendered reading in the PRC’ asks about the impact of gender on reading, on norms of reading and on depictions of readers in textual and visual sources;
7) ‘Reading in Political Movements’ studies how reading was used and organised for political purposes;
8) ‘Studying Reading in a Digitised Time’ discusses potential new perspectives that digitised media and methods bring to reading practices and to the research of reading.
Together all the panels aim at answering a broad range of questions, including but not limited to the following:
- How do individuals, or groups of individuals, adapt to, oppose or appropriate official politics by creating their own, private politics of reading?
- In how far is (or was) reading an individual or a group activity, a private or public undertaking?
- Where are (or were) practices of reading situated within a triangle made up of the poles of leisure, mandatory and forbidden reading?
- How open or clandestine are (or were) practices of reading, are (or were) they legal or illegal? In how far is (or was) reading employed as a means of distinction?
- In how far does this relate back to the ways that texts are written, distributed, marketed, and interpreted officially?
- When reading becomes part of official policies, what happens to the everyday lives of readers?
- How do different media, different materiality of reading materials impact on reading practices and on the interpretation thereof?
Among the confirmed participants of the conference are Robert Culp, Jie Li, Barbara Mittler, Eddie U, Peidong Sun, Nicolai Volland, Wen-hsin Yeh, and Haiyan Zhou.
If you are interested in participating, please send a word file including your name, affiliation, short biography, title of your paper and an 200-300 word abstract of your presentation to the conference organizers Lena Henningsen and Lara Y. Yang by March 30, 2020. We have limited funding for travel and accommodation allowances, in particular for junior scholars. Please indicate whether you would need this. For further questions, please contact Lena Henningsen.