Presenter:Seio Nakajima (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University)
Presentation Theme:Re-imagining Civil Society in Contemporary Urban China: Actor-Network-Theory and Chinese Independent Film Consumption
Extending recent seminal studies that focus on networks of multiple actors in Chinese civil society instead of state-society dichotomy, this presentation explores independent film consumption in contemporary urban China. It shows how a collective entity composed of independent films, people, and discourses is assembled to become civil society, despite the continuing existence of government restrictions on independently produced films. Relying on data collected through ethnography set in the capital city of Beijing, I use the “three moves” suggested by Bruno Latour’s recent description of Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) to follow the actors themselves. I first “localize the global” concept of civil society and its attendant notion of state-society relations by discussing an independently organized film festival in which I participated and observed. Second, by discussing an empirical case of DVD stores, through which independent films circulate, I “redistribute the local” by detailing the processes in which particular local sites of the retail spaces of DVDs are connected to “actants” dispatched throughout the globe. Finally, I “connect sites” by putting to work the conceptual tools provided by Latour including “connectors,” “mediators,” and “plasma.” I conclude by arguing that ANT contributes to a seemingly modest, but essential political task of preventing the hasty closure of what is to be included in the collective, as well as how the collective is to be composed. In the case I examine, ANT clears the path for the future reassembling of civil society in contemporary urban China.
*This presentation is based on Seio Nakajima. 2013. “Re-imagining Civil Society in Contemporary Urban China: Actor-Network-Theory and Chinese Independent Film Consumption.” Qualitative Sociology 36: 383-402.