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Title: The debate on the spirit of the humanities in China, 1993-1995
Author: Strafella, Giorgio
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 3807
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis analyses the "debate on the spirit of the Humanities", a discussion on cultural and political issues that unfolded throughout mainland China from 1993 to 1995. It examines a corpus of articles from a critical discursive perspective, integrating a close reading of the texts with critical theory and historical contextualisation. The study also relies on insights from interviews with participants in the debate. Its structure draws on Raymond William' "keywords approach". While the literature depicts the debate as an elitist reaction to mass culture, this thesis shows that participants focussed on the definition of their jobs as scholars, authors and intellectuals. The core issue at stake was their relationships with the market, the state and "the nation". This study investigates how they represented China's transformation in the 1990s and identifies recurrent discursive strategies that reveal a process of depoliticisation. It argues that because they viewed "marketisation" and "commodification" as inevitable processes, they focussed on the ethical choices in their own field. It explores the conflicting ideals about humanist work that emerge from their reflections. It shows the importance placed on criticality, but also suggests that the sense of moral superiority towards the rest of society that often underlies their ideals bears similarity to the style of governance of the CCP leadership. The thesis also analyses the role of geographical concepts in the debate and highlights the dominance of the "China/west" binary opposition. It reveals that the participants employed this binary as the main criterion to categorise theoretical resources and links this observation with the subsumption of class discourse in post-1992 China. Finally, the analysis shows the argumentative use of patriotism in support of opposed standpoints. In conclusion, this thesis sheds new light on intellectual discourse in China during a crucial phase of its contemporary history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available