Spectacular China: Performing Pessoptimism in 21st Century China

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2019-04

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Abstract

This paper uses three Chinese cultural performances as a lens through which to study how China has navigated the global system of Western modernity in order to present a successful image in the Chinese state’s CCTV Chinese New Year Galas and 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. I draw from Guy Debord’s theory of the Spectacle to unpack the implicit ideologies which permeate these spectacular performances. Beyond understanding the events’ role as propaganda, my work attempts to read the state’s unnamed ideologies. The Spectacle of modernity reveals itself throughout the cultural performances in the forms of liberal democracy, universalism and capitalism. I read China’s ideology of modernity as an application of William Callahan’s theory of Chinese “pessoptimism,” indicative of an implicit standard of Westernization as modernity caused by China’s history of colonial humiliations at the hands of Western powers.

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Zhu, Samuel (2019). Spectacular China: Performing Pessoptimism in 21st Century China. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18560.


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