The state of the field symposium 2009

Chinese Media and Cultural Studies Group

September 4th-5th 2009
Mills Lecture Room 209
R.C. Mills Building (A26),
University of Sydney

A call for papers for publication is now open

A report on this event is available

This symposium invites CRN members with a confirmed and demonstrated interest in the field to present their ‘state of Chinese media and cultural studies’, with a special focus on their own areas of achievement, interest and projected development. We include all areas of media and culture where Chinese language is dominant or relevant (China PRC; Hong Kong SAR; Taiwan; and migrant ‘mediaspheres’ globally, or communities in the region). It is envisaged that the symposium will result in a clarification of what we think we do, where we have fault-lines or disciplinary differences (which may well be necessary and productive), and how we might characterise the field at this particular juncture – ie specifically as the CRN seeks to be re-funded or to continue in other ways.

In order to focus the discussion and to develop existing themes in the palette of CRN expertise, we suggest that the symposium is open to all members of the CRN who are interested in the relationship between area studies and cultural research, and who may also have immediate colleagues or students who would benefit or contribute to the discussion.

The structure of the symposium is given below and entails an articulation of why location matters in thinking through culture, but also invites debate on why recent significant paradigms of engagement with culture are not necessarily or usefully confined to pre-formulated ideas of geo-political and cultural space. We will therefore foreground innovative approaches to research in culture as well as re-visiting the long learning approach that underscores the importance of fieldwork, and especially ethnographic or anthropological engagement with place.


CRN members and associates issued an open invitation to offer short papers on the relationship between area studies, cultural research and the possible futures of location/ place-based analysis.

Up to 8 presenters with various perspectives on the ‘China question’ selected to speak on day one, with the second day dedicated to open discussion, in theme groups led by key theoretical innovators in cultural research in Australia and the region.


Friday 4 September 2009

10.00am Morning tea and coffee

10.00am - 10.25am Welcome and opening remarks: Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Haiqing Yu

10.30am - 11.00am Thinking about Chinese Media Studies: Speaker: Ying Zhu – Discussant: Wanning Sun

11.00am - 12.30pm Interventions

11.00am - 11.20am Olivia Khoo: Discussant: Elspeth Probyn

11.20am - 11.40am Michael Keane: Discussant: Penelope O’Donnell

11.40am – 11.50pm Haiqing Yu

11.50pm - 12.00pm Sue Turnbull

12.00pm - 12.30pm Feedback from Ying Zhu and open discussion with the audience

12.30pm Walk to the Video Conference Room VC 323, Arts Digital, Brennan MacCallum Building (A18), Level 3

12.45pm Lunch (at the Video Conference Room)

1.00pm - 2.30pm Video-link with Professor Lijun Zhang

2.30pm Walk back to Mills Building

3.00pm Open discussion with the audience

6.00pm Dinner ($35)
Venue: Spicy Sichuan Restaurant,
1-9 Glebe Point Road

Saturday 5 September 2009

10.00am Morning tea and coffee

10.15am - 11.00am Position papers: Larissa Hjorth, Jocelyn Chey, Jessica Davis: Discussant: Joyce Nip

11.00am - 12.30pm Open discussion and feedback: Chairs: Haiqing Yu and Stephanie H Donald


Call for Papers for special issue of Media International Australia:

Chinese media studies: The state of the field

This special issue invites papers to reflect on the state, scope, and prospects of a still relatively young and interdisciplinary field that we call ‘Chinese Media Studies’. The special issue will: (1) provide a snapshot of the state of the field from the perspective of both well established and emerging scholars; (2) define the meaning and scope of area studies in media and cultural research; (3) evaluate the value of work done to date by global scholars; and (4) suggest new directions and productive foci for future research.

We seek contributors from all areas in humanities and social sciences, who interrogate media and communications where Chinese language is dominant or relevant (China PRC, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, and Chinese migrant ‘mediaspheres’ or Chinese-speaking communities). We are interested in, among other issues, the following topics:

Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent to the editors by January 31, 2010 for advice on whether a full paper is required for the reviewing process. Full contributions of 4000-6000 words, prepared in MIA style, will then be required. Please contact the joint editors, Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Haiqing Yu (, by 30 April 2010.

Please note that MIA has a rigorous reviewing system and we would expect that only a small proportion of papers sent for review will be published.


Chinese provides a rich context for media studies and a great opportunity for media scholars to explore theories, ideas and models. In the one-and-half day symposium, scholars and students from China, Australia and US discussed a wide range of issues, which include:

These were issues raised by Stephanie Donald in her opening speech and echoed by symposium participants across the two days of discussion. Donald’s opening speech also summarised the necessity of interrogating the state of Chinese media studies within the broader context of media studies as a discipline in the Western academia, and its relationship with training, industry and government.

Ying Zhu’s keynote speech questioned the boundaries of Chinese media by pointing out the linguistic, geopolitical and organizational fluidity of ‘Chinese Media Studies’ as a field of research. This was further expounded by Olivia Khoo who, through contemplating the concepts of ‘Chinese’, ‘media’ and ‘studies’, argued for decentralizing ‘China’ and ‘Chineseness’ in Chinese media studies. The heterogeneity of the field of media studies in and about China, Chinese-speaking societies and communities, and Chinese themes, styles and influences in various sites of media production, circulation and consumption around the world—prompts us to question the status of Chinese media studies as the ‘other’ in the global media studies environment, its relation with area studies (esp. Asian studies and Chinese studies), and its contingency with non-traditional forms of media (such as music and language). As Sue Turnbull asked, is ‘Chinese media studies’ about its ‘Chineseness’ so as to enrich media studies, or is it part of media studies about China? All agreed that a greater effort is needed to enhance greater interdisciplinary connections between Chinese media studies and the broader media studies discipline in general.

Apart from interrogating the concept and state of the field, fourteen people also presented and/or comment on their works in the field of Chinese media studies. It was recognized that media studies is not just about media systems, policy, technology and practice; it is a disciplinary field integral to understanding of a whole range of issues related to individual societies. In the field of Chinese studies, scholars from a variety of disciplines have been contributing to our understanding of Chinese media and communication during China’s capitalist transformation and information revolution. From Dorothy Solinger (Contesting Citizenship in Urban China, 1999) to Jack Qiu (Working-Class Network Society, 2009) and Aihwa Ong (Neoliberalism as Exception, 2006)—to mention just a few examples—concepts such as class, citizenship, placemaking and community building continue to be invoked, while new concepts, practices and theories are proposed to explore the expanding field that can be loosely termed as Chinese media studies.

Ying Zhu’s pioneering work on the Chinese television industry, particularly her research on the rise of China Central Television as a global media titan, investigates the logics of corporate capitalism and authoritarian politics during China’s great transformation. This transformation can be viewed as part and parcel of ‘Asian Creative Transformations’ (ACT) coined by Micheal Keane et al. Keane aims to map the developmental model of China and Asia by bringing ‘policy’ back into effect studies of media on innovation, progress and social change and by further integrating policy with devices/networks and everyday media practices. The three levels of engagement cover a wide range of domains of analysis, from the top-down decision-making processes and the socio-technical infrastructure, to bottom-up effects of such processes and systems.

While a macro approach to Chinese media studies help one view the field as a ecosystem operating in globalised contexts, a micro approach fleshes out a unique organism of a particular aspect or level of significance, thus enriching our understanding of Chinese media from a localized perspective. Traditional topics such as identity, citizenship, community, journalism and class have gained new dimensions of significance in our era of digital communication and Web 2.0. They are pursued by Haiqing Yu, Larissa Hjorth, Joyce Nip, Jocelyn Chew and Jessica Davis in their individual and collective researches.

Yu’s research on sports media in China pays attention to its ramifications in mediated activism and community media studies. It resonates with Hjorth’s research on mobile media and social networking systems (SNS) and Nip’s research on citizen journalism and new social movement. All these researches on Chinese new media practices shed insight into the twenty-first century mediascape in China and Asia-Pacific. They provide theoretical frameworks to Lijun Zhang’s work on the tele-media service business in China. Via videolink, Zhang gives an introduction to VODone, an Internet content aggregator and provider involved in Internet-video production and broadcasting, advertising, mobile lottery and on-line gaming. VODone serves as an example of the convergence of old and new media in revolutionizing lifestyle media through consumer empowerment. What is behind the veneer of consumer empowerment, however, is the logic of creationist capitalism that harnesses consumers’ immaterial labour and emotional labour for corporate profits.

The mediatised people power manifests itself through humour historically through various forms of media, as Chey and Davis argue. Humour studies offers a flexible research paradigm that admits interdisciplinary researches from cultural, literary, historical, sociological, communication and media studies. Like other researches in the field, access to history has become means to problematise the present in humour studies. Humour in Chinese life, letters and media points to the diversification of mediums and their cross-cultural complexities in Chinese media studies.

Apart from the topics and issues discussed above, Wanning Sun, Elspeth Probyn, Penelope O’Donnell and Joyce Nip—discussants of the symposium—also discuss the implications of the evolving field of Chinese media studies for educators of higher education. Questions around the relationship of one’s research with one’s students and society/community reflect the roles of Chinese media studies in education, policy making and agenda setting in the mass media. They entail self-reflection as researchers and educators, individually and collectively.

The Symposium also discusses various approaches to media studies in general and Chinese media studies in particular. While traditional methods such as textual analysis, qualitative or qualitative analysis, and comparative studies continue to be used, an activist approach (Ying Zhu) and ‘embedded’ approach (Haiqing Yu) have been adopted to provide an insider’s perspective on issues and questions arise in Chinese media policies, technologies and practices. This requires commitment and effort through a sustained period of time.

Proposed outcomes of the Symposium: