With its emergence as a global power, China aspires to move from a “made in China” towards a “created in China” country. Creativity and culture have become a crucial source for innovation and financial growth, but are also mobilised to promote a new and open China to both the citizenry as well as the outside world. They are part of what is termed China’s “soft power.”
What does creativity mean in the context of China, and what does it do? When both the state and profoundly globalised creative industries are so deeply implicated in the promotion of creativity, what are the possibilities of criticality, if any? Whereas creativity has been extensively researched in the fields of psychology, law and neurosciences, scholarship in the humanities has by and large side-tracked the thorny issue of creativity. Yet, the worldwide resurgence of the term under the banner of creative industries makes it all the more urgent to develop a theory of creativity. This project understands creativity as a textual, a social as well as a heritage practice. It aims to analyse claims of creativity in different cultural practices, and to analyse how emerging creativities in China are part of tactics of governmentality and disable or enable possibilities of criticality.
Using a comparative, multi-disciplinary, multi-method and multi-sited research design, five subprojects analyse (1) contemporary art, (2) calligraphy, (3) independent documentary cinema, (4) television from Hunan Satellite TV and (5) “fake” (shanzhai) art. By including both popular and high arts, by including both more Westernized as well as more specifically Chinese art forms, by including both the “real” as well as the “fake,” by studying different localities, and by mobilising methods from both the social sciences and the humanities, this project is pushing the notion of comparative research to a new level.
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