January 25, 2007 – Wang Hui: “’Modern China’ and the History of Chinese Thought”

“’Modern China’ and the History of Chinese Thought”
Thursday, January 25 / 4 PM / Cowell Conference Room

“Depoliticized Politics, Multiple Components of Hegemony, and the Eclipse of the Sixties”
Friday, January 26 / 4– 6 PM / Merrill College, Baobab Lounge

WANG HUI is one of contemporary China’s foremost intellectuals and scholars, and has emerged as a critical voice in the tradition of the great twentieth-century revolutionary social critic Lu Xun, on whom he has written extensively. Professor of History at Qinghua University in Beijing and the author and editor of many books, Wang Hui is also editor of Dushu (Reading), China’s premier journal of ideas. The English-language translation of his book of essays China’s New Order: Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition (Harvard, 2003 and 2006) brought his work to a wider audience, and established his reputation outside of China as a significant analyst and critic of contemporary capitalism in China. A recent profile in the New York Times Magazine gave further prominence to his critical positions.

In 2004, Wang Hui’s four-volume Zhongguo xiandai sixiangde xingqi (The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought) was published in Beijing. It is a major reinterpretation of the history of Chinese thought from pre-imperial times through the present, and has had an enormous influence on contemporary discussions of national identity, politics, and the nature of state, region, and empire. Wang Hui’s lecture at UCSC draws from this book to interrogate the constructions of both “China” and its “modernity.”

Although China’s New Order contains important reflections on the Tianammen movement of 1989 and its aftermath, it would be inaccurate to describe Wang Hui as a dissident. The current Chinese leadership, through a range of social initiatives aimed at China’s growing inequality, has registered the force and truth of Wang Hui’s critiques, although the regime’s capacity to address these problems remains uncertain. Indeed, it is to the character of contemporary politics, and of political possibility in the present, that Wang Hui has devoted recent attention, as in the topic of our seminar, centered on an essay published this winter in English translation in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. “Depoliticizing Politics” raises the spectre of the end of politics under the turn to neo-liberal capitalism in China, and traces this depoliticizing tendency to the end of the Cultural Revolution.

The lecture is open to everyone. Those planning to attend the seminar should read Wang Hui’s essay in advance, available by request from cult@ucsc.edu

These events are part of a year-long lecture/seminar series in the final year of the Rockefeller-funded Other Globalizations program at the Center for Cultural Studies.