Contesting British Chinese Culture (September 2011)

Contesting 'British Chinese' Culture: Forms, Histories, Identities

Minghella Building, Department of Film, Theatre & Television, Whiteknights Campus, University of Reading, UK

24th - 25th September 2011

The aim of this conference is to examine diverse contestations and constructions of 'British Chinese'Ashley03 culture/'Chinese culture in Britain' by facilitating dialogue among academics and practitioners across disciplines and art forms. How can the perceived homogeneity of 'British Chinese' culture be challenged to reflect the diversity of identities and experiences in the UK diaspora? Who plays a part in constructing these strands of culture and for whom are they constructed? What is the relationship between communal forms of identity and the individual identities of artists? To what extent do ethno-national discourses impact upon the making of work? Such contestations over culture are well known in other contexts (e.g. 'black British', 'BrAsian', Asian-American), but the debates over 'British Chinese' culture has yet to make significant impact in the public debate with no published books on this subject to date. This conference seeks to bring together academics and practitioners for the first time, from any discipline, to move debates forward on the contested nature of British Chinese culture.

DAY 1: Saturday 24th September

9.30 Registration and Coffee

10.00: Welcome

Ashley Thorpe (University of Reading), Diana Yeh (Sociological Review Fellow, Keele)

10.10: Keynote Lecture: Greg Benton (Autonomous University of Barcelona)


Chinese Identities in Britain: Divided Past, Protean Present

(Co-author of The Chinese in Britain, 1800-Present)

Abstract: Gregor Benton will look at the complex history of settlement and the diverse origins (in China and elsewhere) of Chinese in the UK now and in the past, and how the community has changed over time. His contribution will focus on the varied provenance, mixed ethnic and sub-ethnic allegiances, class divisions, generational divisions, language divisions, and international and intercontinental intra-diasporic exchanges of Chinese who were born in or have settled in or spent time in Britain. What are the special features of "Chinatown" in the UK? What institutions purport to serve the Chinese "community" in the UK, and how can one account for their apparent fragility and transience? He will pay particular attention to constructions of the identity of ethnic Chinese young people, focusing on the role played in it by variations in occupation, education, and national status, as well as differences of generation and differences between Chinese born in the UK or raised there as children and those born elsewhere. He will explore the role played by racism in the majority community and by the state in shaping Chinese ethnic and cultural identity, and the attitude of Chinese born or raised in the UK towards citizenship and nationality. In this context, he will consider the impact and relevance of state-sponsored multiculturalism, as well as the phenomenon of interculturality and trans-ethnic hybridisation. He will also look at the meaning of the rise of China for Chinese outside China, including in the UK.

11.10: Coffee/Tea Break

11.30: PANEL 1: Contesting Identities (Chair: Greg Benton)

Miri Song (University of Kent)

What are the identity options of 'Mixed' Chinese / White Britons today?

Jiaqi Hou (University of Manchester)

Social Fragmentation, Cultural Diversity, and Political Participation: The British Chinese and the 2010 General Election

Tamsin Barber (Oxford Brookes University)

Oriental identities and the 'Oriental' category in Britain: The case of young British-born Vietnamese in London

13.00-14.00 Lunch Ashley02(including a screening of the film Ping Pong in the Cinema)

14.00 Panel 2: Contesting Histories (Chair: Lia Wen-Ching Liang)

Sarah Cheang (Royal College of Art)                                   

Bodies, Fashion, China and Britain, 1890-1930

Shengfang Chou (University of Warwick)                         

Rethinking Chinatown: The Flâneur and 'Chinasteet' in Limehouse, 1900-1930

Anne Witchard (University of Westminster)                              

Lao She, London and China's Literary Revolution

15.30: PANEL 3: The Personal vs the National (Chair: Diana Yeh)

Katie Hill (Sotheby's Institute and University of Nottingham)

Going for a Walk: Culture, Form and Practice in British-Chinese Art

susan pui san lok (artist)

Golden: Nostalgia, Aspiration, Diaspora

Anthony Key (artist)

From South China to South London (A Journey in Search of Home through Fine Art Practice)

17:00: Coffee / Tea Break

17.20: Performances and Screenings in The Bob Kayley Theatre

(i) Performance by Kathy Hall, London Jing Kun Opera Association

The Foolish Dream (Chi Meng)

(ii) Videos by art collective Mad for Real

(iii) Play readings Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing and Patrick Marber Closer by Irene Ng and David Lee Jones

18:05: Coffee/ Tea Break

18.30-20.00: Public Lecture: Isaac Julien

Location: The Bulmershe Theatre

Day II: Sunday 25th September 2011

9.30: Coffee/Tea

10.00: Keynote Lecture: Daphne Lei (University of California, Irvine)

Performative Chineseness: Contesting Chinese Opera in the National, Transnational, Diasporic and Global Contexts

(Author of Alternative Chinese Opera in the Age of Globalization)

Abstract: Performing Chinese opera is performing Chinese, by Chinese and non-Chinese. In the West, Chinese opera has been presented as the token for Chineseness-old and exotic, beautiful, enigmatic and yet intolerable; for Chinese, opera performances are the perfect sites for imagination, construction and apparition of a Chinese nation, at home and in diaspora. Both Chineseness and Chinese opera are complicated and problematic concepts with fluid definitions; however, it is through the notion of performance that identity becomes possible and even stable. This talk will focus on Chinese identity performance in opera at the national, transnational, diasporic and global levels, with case studies in yueju (Cantonese opera), jingju (Beijing opera), kunqu (Kun opera) in different geopolitical and historical sites. This talk will also discuss the UNESCO's "oral and intangible heritage of humanities" status as the global contesting ground for traditional arts in the new millennium.

11.00: Roundtable: Practitioners (Chair: susan pui san lok)

Yuen Fong Ling, artist

Kathy Hall, actor, London Jing Kun Opera Association

Gayle Chong Kwan, artist

Veronica Needa, True Heart Theatre

Irene Ng, actor

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00: PANEL 4: Institutions (Chair: Katie Hill)

Andy Willis (University of Salford), with Felicia Chan (University of Manchester)

Manchester's Chinese Arts Centre: A Case Study in Strategic Cultural Intervention

Dr. Simone Knox (University of Reading)

All That's Missing is the Opium Den Scene: Sherlock, Contemporary Quality Television Drama and Representations of Chineseness

Followed by a roundtable discussion:

Gayle Chong Kwan, artist

Jonathan Chu, dancer, Kingston University

Sally Lai, Chief Executive of Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

Tessa Jackson, Chief Executive of the Institute of International Visual Arts (iniva)

David Tse, Chinatown Arts Space

15.00: Coffee/Tea Break

15.30: Two sessions will take place in parallel:

PANEL 5A: Place and Identity (Chair: Ashley Thorpe)

Location: Bulmershe Theatre

Dr. Lia Wen-Ching Liang (National Tsing Hua University)

Limehouse Nights (2010) and "Oriental" Plays in the Early Twentieth Century

Bill Aitchison (theatre and performance artist)

The Customer is Always Wrong: Residency and Performance in China

Felicia Chan (University of Manchester), with Andy Willis (University of Salford)

British Chinese cinema: the struggle for recognition, even on the margins

Amanda Rogers (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Touring Transnationality: wAve, Boom and intersecting mobilities

Panel 5B: Embodied Identities (Chair: Simone Knox)

Location: The Bob Kayley Theatre

Yuen Fong Ling (artist)

A Body of Relations: Reconfiguring the Life Class

Eona Bell (Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics)

Chinese knots and Chinese Scots: gender and handicrafts in the reproduction of culture

Kimho Ip (International Research Centre, "Interweaving Performance Cultures", Freie Universitaet Berlin)

To accept a dislocated tradition - Cantonese opera and its music as peripheral performing arts in the UK

Jonathan Chu (Kingston University)

Inherent Culture in Physical Movement

17.30 Closing Forum Discussion

18.15 Conference ends

Copyright Gayle Chong Kwan. From the photographic series 'Senscape Scotland' (2009)

Copyright Jonathan Chu

Copyright Gayle Chong Kwan.

'Manipulated Memory Tasting Booth' (2006 - ongoing)


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