China and Inner Asia
The present juncture of massive displacement, migration, and ecological crisis, as well as government efforts toward rural revitalization, constitutes a timely moment to reexamine a key nexus of literary and media, political and social imagination throughout modern and contemporary China: the peasant and the countryside, soil and roots. Ideas of the relationships among native place (xiang), soil (tu), and questions of belonging have long been constituted out of experiences of displacement as well as acts of translation and circulation. This panel puts in critical dialogue attitudes from the early 20th century and from the present toward the rural landscape and its inhabitants, especially ways in which intellectuals, artists, or policy-makers aimed to conceptualize or change the countryside––a place of economic disparity, environmental transformation, and fertile imagination. Xiaolu Ma examines Zhou Zuoren’s notion of “commoner’s literature” by investigating his translation of a text by Tolstoy. Keru Cai explores Xiao Hong’s negotiation of the social or experiential gap between the semi-autobiographical narrator and other characters in her xiangtu fiction. William Schaefer surveys Muge’s and Wang Youshen’s uses of square medium formats to frame together soil, displacement, and photographic processes. And Yi Gu traces the rise of lavender fields in China as a complicated contemporary imagination of soil. Together, we explore how literary production, image- and art-making, and political and ethnographic research are ways of engaging with ongoing questions of peasant and land, belonging and representation––and indeed, how native soil and roots are, paradoxically, matters formed through translation, circulation, and displacement.
Virtual Paper Presenter: Xiaolu Ma – Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Virtual Paper Presenter: Keru Cai – University of Oxford
Virtual Paper Presenter: William Schaefer – Durham University
Virtual Paper Presenter: Yi Gu – University of Toronto