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You Must Create! Rethinking the Creativity Discourse in China

  • Jeroen de Kloet
Wednesday 4 October 2017
China Seminar
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The demand to be or become creative is currently haunting urban youth worldwide. In China’s wish to become a creator, rather than manufacturer, this demand is turned into government documents, policy plans and urban regeneration projects. The overcoded language of creativity, innovation and sustainability are part of a governmental logic in which not only the Chinese state but also the local, regional and global cultural industries are complicit. But what does it mean to be creative? And is being creative different in China than elsewhere? Are there possible line of flight to escape from creativity? While quite a large body of work analyses creativity as a governmental tool, producing a new class called the precariat, consisting of subjectivities that are used as a flexible labor force that is deeply implicated in neoliberalism, the question of what we consider to be creative is by and large ignored. In my talk, drawing from examples from calligraphy, cinema, art, television and shanzhai culture, I aim to sidetrack current debates on creativity as a governmental tool, and instead zoom in on this rather empirical question: what does it mean to be creative in China in 2017? I hope to show that in particular in the art of copying, an art that resonates uncomfortably with global stereotypes about China, one can glimpse traces of creativity that are all too often discredited and ignored. 

Jeroen de Kloet is Professor of Globalisation Studies and Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS) at the University of Amsterdam and PI of the project ChinaCreative funded by the European Research Council (ERC). His work focuses on cultural globalisation, in particular in the context of East Asia. In 2010 he published China with a Cut - Globalisation, Urban Youth and Popular Music (Amsterdam UP). He wrote, together with Yiu Fai Chow, Sonic Multiplicities: Hong Kong Pop and the Global Circulation of Sound and Image (Intellect, 2013), he edited together with Lena Scheen Spectacle and the City – Chinese Urbanities in Art and Popular Culture (Amsterdam UP, 2013) and with Robin Celikates, Esther Peeren and Thomas Poell Global Cultures of Contestation (Palgrave, 2018). He wrote, together with Anthony Fung, Youth Cultures in China (Polity, 2017).

See also www.jeroendekloet.nl and www.chinacreative.humanities.uva.nl

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