Base de données des enseignements et séminaires de l'EHESS

The Public Sphere in 20th century China

  • Sebastian Veg, directeur d'études de l'EHESS ( CCJ-CECMC )

    Cet enseignant est référent pour cette UE

S'il s'agit de l'enseignement principal d'un enseignant, le nom de celui-ci est indiqué en gras.

Lundi de 16 h à 19 h (salle 681, 6e étage, bât. Le France, 190-198 av de France 75013 Paris), du 13 février 2017 au 27 mars 2017. Séance supplémentaire le 22 mai (salle 7, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris). La séance du 20 mars se déroulera en salle 015 (RdC, bât. Le France)

Despite the repeated assertion of authoritarianism, Chinese society since the late Qing and throughout the 20th century has demonstrated an intense intellectual activity. Although it has not led to an institutionalized democracy or a stable civil society distinct from the state, the development of the media and the circulation of ideas has been in many ways remarkable. The study of the public sphere in modern and contemporary China experienced a short-lived peak after the English translation of Habermas’ seminal study The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere in 1989. Historians pointed to the emergence of social spaces in the second half of the 19th century, often associated with the local gentry. Cultural and media studies scholars examined the growth of print capitalism, mainly in and around Shanghai in connection with China’s first modern newspapers in the late 19th century. Subsequently, as China turned away from political reform in the 1990s and its authoritarian regime appeared more and more « resilient », the concept of civil society was increasingly sidelined in academic inquiry, despite a limited revival in the field of internet, new media and NGO studies in the 2000s. The time may be ripe to undertake a more systematic reassessment of the question of the public sphere in different historical contexts in China, ranging from the relatively liberal 1920s to the illiberal 1930s or 1980s, and the totalitarian late 1950s and 1960s, as well as the offshore public spheres of Tokyo or Hong Kong.

Class readings:
For each class, seminar participants are asked to read at least 2 articles or chapters from the suggested readings below.
The texts are available via Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kbw7ekcpu2b7ic7/AACAfj4uJg7PidI3wUWrhQEIa?dl=0

13 février : Habermas and the debate about the late Qing local public sphere

Theoretical texts:

  • Habermas, Jürgen, “The Public Sphere” in Steven Seidman, ed., Jürgen Habermas on Society and Politics: a Reader, Beacon Press, 1989, pp. 231-236.
  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities, London: Verso, 2006, pp. 22-46.

Historical texts:

  • Huang, Philip C.C., “ ‘Public Sphere’/’Civil Society’ in China? The Third Realm between State and Society”. Modern China, vol. 19, No. 2 (April 1993), pp. 216-240.
  • Wakeman, Frederic. 1998. “Boundaries of the Public Sphere in Ming and Qing China.” Daedalus, vol. 127, No. 3 (Summer 1998), pp. 167-188.
  • Rowe, William. “The Public Sphere in Modern China.” Modern China, vol. 16, No. 3 (July 1990), pp. 309-329.

20 février : From Modern press to May fourth

Late Qing:

  • Judge, Joan, 2006. “The Power of Print? Print Capitalism and the News Media in Late Qing and Republican China.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 66:1 (June 2006), pp. 233-254.
  • Wagner, Rudolf G. 1995. “The Role of the Foreign Community in the Chinese Public Sphere,” The China Quarterly, No. 142 (Jun., 1995), pp. 423-443.

May 4th:

  • Xu Jilin, “Public Sphere in Neoteric China: Forms, Functions and Self-Understandings - a case study of Shanghai,” in Deng Zhenglai, ed., State and Civil Society. The Chinese Perspective, Singapore, World Scientific, 2011, pp. 241-270.
  • Wang Xiaoming, "A Journal and a 'Society:' On the May Fourth Literary Tradition," Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. Vol. 11, No. 2 (FALL, 1999), pp. 1-39.

27 février :  Local public spheres under the Republic

  • Strand, David. 1990. “Protest in Beijing: Civil Society and Public Sphere in China”, Problems of Communism 39 , p. 1-19.
  • Wang, Di, “Public Life” and “A political site,” The teahouse: small business, everyday culture, and public politics in Chengdu, 1900-1950. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008, pp. 113-134 and p. 224-247

6 mars :  Lien Lingling (Academia Sinica): “Who Taught us to be Modern Women?” Data Analysis of Writers in Chinese Women’s Magazines

  • Judge, Joan, “Republican Ladies,” Republican Lens. Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press, UC Press, 2015, pp. 1-78.
  • Nivard, Jacqueline, "Women and the Women's Press: The Case of the Ladies' Journal (Funu zazhi), 1915-1931," Republican China, 10:1B (November 1984), pp. 37-55. 

13 mars : The social sphere under Mao and beyond


  • Kershaw, Ian. “The ‘Everyday’ and the ‘Exceptional.’ The Shaping of Popular Opinion, 1933-1939” in Hitler, the Germans and the Final Solution, Yale UP, 2008, pp. 119-138.
  • Rittersporn, Gabor, Malte Rolf, Jan C. Behrends, “Open Spaces and Public Realm. Thoughts on the Public Sphere in Soviet Type Systems.” in id (eds), Sphären von Öffentlichkeit in Gesellschaften sowjetischen Typs: Public Spheres in Soviet-Type Societies. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2003. pp. 423-452.

Mao era:

  • Johnson, Matthew, “Beneath the Propaganda State: Official and Unofficial Cultural Landscapes in Shanghai, 1949-1965” in Brown, Jeremy and Matthew Johnson, eds., Maoism at the grassroots: everyday life in China's era of high socialism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2015, pp. 199-229.
  • Song Yongyi, “A Glance at the Underground Reading Movement during the Cultural Revolution” Journal of Contemporary China, Vol. 16, No. 51, 2007, p. 325-333.

Post-Mao era:

  • Bonnin, Michel and Yves Chevrier, “The Intellectual and the State: Social Dynamics of Intellectual Autonomy during the Post-Mao Era,” The China Quarterly, No. 127, September 1991, pp. 569-593.
  • Calhoun, Craig, “Tienanmen, Television and the Public Sphere: Internationalization of Culture and the Beijing Spring of 1989”, Public Culture 2, 1989, p. 54-70.

20 mars : Rogier Creemers (University of Leiden), « Cyber China 2.0 : Nailing Jell-O To The Wall »
During the past few years, China has reinvigorated its efforts to regain the initiative in the public sphere. In particular the restructuring of the Internet governance landscape has terminated a number of trends that China scholars and observers deemed unstoppable, and has altered the logic for public discourse and state-society relationships. From social media to e-commerce and surveillance, the Chinese state is building new methods that better position it for the challenges it foresees for the coming decades. This lecture will survey these developments, and discuss their implications for our understanding of the durability of China’s political system, changing global politics and the influence of technology in political life.

Biography : Rogier Creemers is a researcher in the Law and Governance of China at Leiden University. He holds Master degrees in Sinology and International Relations, and a doctorate in Law. His main research interests are how technology influences how China is governed, with a particular focus on cybersecurity and regulation. His work has been published, amongst others, in the China Journal and the Journal of Contemporary China. He also edits China Copyright and Media, a database of primary source materials. 

Background reading :

  • Yang, Guobin. 2003. "The Internet and the Rise of a Transnational Chinese Cultural Sphere." Media, Culture & Society 25(4): 469-490.
  • Liu, Qing and Barrett McCormick. 2011. “The Media and the Public sphere in contemporary China”, boundary 2, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 101-134.

27  mars :  Hong Kong as an alternative public sphere

  • Lam, Wai-man. 2004. Understanding the political culture of Hong Kong : the paradox of activism and depoliticization. Armonk: ME Sharpe, pp. 109-186.
  • Law, Wing-sang. 2009. Collaborative colonial power: the making of the Hong Kong Chinese. Hong Kong: HKU Press, p. 151-176.
  • Hung Ho-fung and Iam-chong Ip, “Hong Kong's Democratic Movement and the Making of China's Offshore Civil Society,” Asian Survey, Vol. 52.3 (May/June 2012), pp. 504-527. 

Please note: this talk will place in salle 7, 105 bd. Raspail, 16h-18h.

22 mai : Andrew Jones (University of California Berkeley): “Mediated Folk: The 'Discovery' of Chen Da in 1967. The politics of the ethnomusicological 'discovery' of an iconic figure in Taiwanese folk music.”

  • Xu Changhui 許常惠, “Taibei jietou tingge ji” 台北街頭聽歌記, Zhongguo yinyue wang nali qu? Taipei, 1983.
  • Chanan, Michael, Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and Its Effects on Music, London, Verso, 1995.
  • Jones, Andrew F., "Pirates of the China Seas," forthcoming manuscript.

Suivi et validation pour le master : Hebdomadaire semestriel (24 h = 6 ECTS)

Mentions & spécialités :

Domaine de l'affiche : Histoire - Histoire et civilisations de l'Asie

Intitulés généraux :

  • Sebastian Veg- Littérature et démocratie en Chine au XXe siècle : une histoire non institutionnelle du politique
  • Renseignements :

    this research seminar will use textual, literary and film sources to highlight the contribution of intellectual and cultural history to understanding the question of the public sphere. It is aimed mainly at graduate students with some prior knowledge of Chinese history and politics. It will be taught in English.

    Direction de travaux d'étudiants :

    dans le domaine de l'histoire intellectuelle et culturelle de la Chine au XXe siècle.

    Réception :

    sur rendez-vous par courriel.

    Niveau requis :

    ce séminaire aura lieu en anglais et nécessite donc une excellente maîtrise de cette langue ; la maîtrise du chinois est souhaitable, mais pas obligatoire.

    Adresse(s) électronique(s) de contact : veg(at)ehess.fr

    Dernière modification de cette fiche par le service des enseignements (sg12@ehess.fr) : 15 mars 2017.

    Contact : service des enseignements ✉ sg12@ehess.fr ☎ 01 49 54 23 17 ou 01 49 54 23 28
    Réalisation : Direction des Systèmes d'Information
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