Language and Literature
In recent years the Chinese state's vision of a future geopolitical order has continuously gained economic and political influence across the globe. Despite running primarily on an ethno-nationalist platform of Chinese “rejuvenation,” China's “dreams” go beyond economic interests and express a yearning to reshape the global political and cultural order. At the same time, nationalist projects within the various regions of China and neighboring countries are further compounding the issues faced by Sinophone communities. While the „China Dream” slogan of the Xi Jinping administration bespeaks China's intent to challenge the US's role as chief architect of the modern, globalized world order, it has also refueled academic and public interest in utopian thought such as Marxism, Confucian models of governance, utopian narratives such as Thomas Morus’s “Utopia” and Tao Yuanming’s “Peach Blossom Spring,” as well as science fiction literature. Because dream narratives are an important part of the classical Chinese literary imagination, where they function as a space for the exploration of personal and temporal boundaries, Sinophone literature and art has taken a keen interest in the utopian potential of classical Chinese dream narratives (such as Jia Baoyu’s phantasmagorical travels) and the utopian potential of literature and art more generally to address the diverse socio-political issues and anti-colonial struggles affecting Sinophone communities across the globe.
This panel studies Sinophone literature and art from China, Malaysia and Taiwan that challenges the current infatuation with nationalist and economic interest driven visions of the future. Based on Judith Butler’s seminal work “Gender Trouble,” we propose the concept of utopia trouble. As a working definition, we understand utopia trouble both as a form of creative resistance to political futurologies and as a project that invests literature and art with an “unanticipated agency” to enact positive change. We distinguish two main forms of utopian trouble. Firstly, we study contemporary utopian narratives as a form of critique of 20th century utopian visions and their underlying scientific models of political and technological development. Secondly, we interrogate the alternatives proposed in (feminist, ecocritcal) utopian culture production and the shuttling of these ideas within an emerging transnational network of Sinophone utopianisms. Ultimately, we argue that these literary and artistic voices of utopian resistance are currently creating a dynamic that forges new links between socio-political processes and cultural imaginaries of a better future.