Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Program Officer, National Committee on United States-China Relations

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1997
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Michigan
Staging Traditional Chinese Opera in the Reform Era: Conflicting Local Identities in Modernization

My project analyzes the reinvention of "tradition" and the construction of local identity using the revival of Chinese opera in rural north China as a case study. I will examine how cultural "traditions" and meaning deployed in local operas are interpreted by rural audiences that over the last 50 years have experienced performance, and opera in particular, as a political propaganda project. While Beijing has relaxed control over culture with the end of the Cultural Revolution in 197 6, and even more so with liberalizing reforms implemented since 1979 by Deng Xiaoping, I will determine if the legacy of government control over opera influences the way audiences criticize, or enjoy, or negotiate new meaning in "traditional" operas. Understanding that there is a dialectical tension between local communities and state ideas of culture, this research will survey and analyze the production, consumption and reproduction of cultural meaning between opera performances and peasant audiences, situating this analysis within the context of national social and economic reforms that have had a profound effect in restructuring rural communities and their relationship to the communist state.