China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
China’s future is a perennial topic of international media and scholarly attention, dominated by narratives of global ascendancy and economic expansion, mass urbanization and transregional frictions. Rather than reproducing these sketches of a homogenous futurity wedded to the trajectory of the Chinese nation-state, this panel proposes to investigate future-making in China as a constellation of communal, personal, and grassroots activities. Drawing upon films, TV documentaries, art practices and ethnographic studies, the four papers explore the ways in which diverse social agents in China imagine and produce futures that destabilize, pathologize, or complicate dominant images of China’s future. In what she terms as “respiratory urbanism,” Victoria Nguyen probes into emergent forms of collective life in China’s capital as Beijing residents actively perform playful practices against the stratification of breathing experiences. Turning to the urban fringes of Beijing, Tzu-Chi Ou discusses the role of grassroots service centers in creating utopian ideals of migrant worker communities and negotiating the temporariness of migrant experience. Switching to visual representations, Shiqi Lin focuses on the construction of variant futuristic visions as an innovative documentary strategy to articulate the volatile affective experience of urban displacement. By revisiting TV documentaries in the 1980s, Ying Qian examines how future-making is conditioned by transforming mediascapes and sociopolitical contexts. Attending to the rich layers of care, affect, desire, and play embedded in multiple horizons of futurity, this panel suggests taking futurity as a critical vantage point to disrupt the dichotomies between state and grassroots, future and history, reality and fiction.