11 March: Cyberbabe, Cybervamp, Consumption Celebrity: Anni Baobei and the Web-based Spectacle of Female Self-Fashioning in Twenty-first Century China
AMT-CCK Series Lecture by Professor Dr. Daria Berg.
P.N. van Eyckhof 1
2311 BV Leiden
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Anni Baobei (Annie Baby, alias Li Jie, b. 1974) counts among the first new writers who started as an Internet sensation and became a ‘consumption celebrity’—in Guy Debord’s (1992) sense of the word—whose personae epitomise the many facets of consumer culture. She began publishing her works on the literary website Rongshu xia (Under the Banyan Tree) in 1998 and became one of China’s most famous and highest-paid writers. China boasts the world’s largest Internet population with 618 million netizens and a 46% penetration rate, rapidly increasing the number of Chinese citizens able to communicate through non-official channels. Using Anni Baobei as a case study, this lecture aims to analyse first, how China’s cybersphere creates a new type of celebrity; and second, how her online writings constitute a new kind of web-based media spectacle, negotiating government censorship by shunning political topics while catering to popular taste and consumer demands. Analysis will focus on the main characteristics of Anni Baobei’s writings, investigating how they debate Chinese women’s new dreams and nightmares in the twenty-first century. The media spectacle exists on three levels: first, as the public spectacle of female self-fashioning, casting the new woman writer as a media celebrity; second, as a literary reflection on economic reforms and globalisation; and third, as the epitome of the social rise of China’s new female cultural entrepreneur. This research is important because it sheds new light on China’s changing ideals of womanhood in the age of consumerism, digital media and globalisation. This lecture aims to contribute to our understanding of the cultural and social negotiations surrounding female self-fashioning and the changing notions of womanhood in China’s new mediasphere.
Daria Berg, D.Phil. Oxon, is Chair Professor of Chinese Culture and Society at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. She has published extensively on traditional and contemporary Chinese literature, history and culture. Her current research projects explore China's new media, women and gender in China, and China's cultural entrepreneurs.
This lecture is part of the series ‘Interdisciplinary Explorations of China’s Changing Gender Dynamics 1900-2015’, sponsored by Leiden University’s Asian Modernities and Traditions program, St. Gallen University (Switzerland), with support from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation.