Unprecedented social change in China has intensified the contradictions faced by ordinary people in everyday life. They may find themselves drawing on a number of different moral frameworks, being caught between official and popular discourses, and encountering radically different representations of China's past and its future.
This volume deals with irony and cynicism in social life and local communities in China, and specifically in relation to the state of the People’s Republic of China. It collects ethnographies of irony and cynicism in social action, written by a group of anthropologists who specialise in China. They use the lenses of irony and cynicism - broadly defined to include resignation, resistance, humour, ambiguity and dialogue - to look anew at the contradictions faced by the Chinese people and at popular responses to them. The various contributions are concerned with both the interpretation of intentions in everyday social action and discourse, and the broader theoretical consequences of such interpretations for an understanding of the Chinese state.
As a study of irony and cynicism in modern China and their implication on the social and political aspects of everyday life, this book will be of huge interest to students and scholars of Chinese anthropology, social and cultural anthropology, Chinese culture and society and Chinese politics.
About the Author
Hans Steinmüller is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics, UK. He is the author of Communities of Complicity: Everyday Ethics in Rural China (2013).
Susanne Brandtstädter is a China anthropologist and Chair of the Anthropology of Globalization at the University of Cologne, Germany. She is the author of Falsificaciones, Derechos y Protestas (2015) and co-editor of Rights, Cultures, Subjects and Citizens (Routledge 2013).
Table of Contents
Introduction: Irony, Cynicism, and the Chinese State Hans Steinmüller 1. Moral Persons and Implicit Irony in Today’s China Stephan Feuchtwang 2. The Farmer, the Foreman and the Tinker: Irony and the Displacement of Meaning in Xiakou Village John Flower and Pamela Leonhard 3. Morality and Cynicism in a "Grey" World John Osburg 4. Chinese Migrant Workers’ Cynicism and the Politics of "Decent" Wage Jaesok Kim 5. The Ironies of "Political Agriculture": Bureaucratic Rationality and Moral Networks in Rural China Tan Tongxue 6. An Interactionist Perspective on Irony in the Street-level Bureaucracies of Beijing Judith Audin 7. The Rebel as Trickster and the Ironies of Resisting in Rural China Susanne Brandtstädter 8. Freedom in Irony and Dreams: Inhabiting the Realms of Ancestors and Opportunities in Southwest China Katherine Swancutt 9. Differentiating Cynicisms: Irony, Cynicism and New Media in Contemporary China Kevin Latham 10. Afterword: Ironic Reflections in a Cynical Age Michael Herzfeld