AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 732

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Session 732: Youth Cultures

Alternative Voice and Local Youth Identity in Chinese Local-Language Rap Music
Jin Liu, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

This essay sets out to examine the emerging trend of Chinese rap songs that are rendered in nonstandard local languages or dialects in mainland China in the age of the Internet. It first disputes the common criticism, based on limited data, of Chinese rap as lacking social and political commentary. Through a close reading of the rich local-language rap song texts combined with fieldwork interviews, this essay argues that unlike the standard-Mandarin-dominated, mainstream popular love songs, local-language rap songs are characterized by strong social messages, which thus enable Chinese youth to construct an alternative subcultural space outside that defined by adult culture and hierarchical institutions. Furthermore, rendered in regional languages, these rap songs are infused with distinctive local knowledge and the sensibilities of a specific place. The songs articulate a distinct musicalized, collective local identity for urban youth, by mobilizing the generic convention of hip-hop in representing one’s ’hood. In most studies of globalization and localization, the local appears to be interchangeable with the national. Yet this study addresses the further localization that occurs within the nation state. From this perspective, the function of the nation-state seems more and more identified with globalization and its concomitant homogenization and centralization. Finally, on one hand, this essay recognizes a dialectical relationship between the global and the local, which do not necessarily pose as cultural polarities but are interpenetrating, interacting, and mutually signifying. However, on the other hand, although local-language rap songs assert the value of pluralism and diversity and defy China as a unified, homogeneous nation-state, this essay problematizes the local identities constructed through copying and imitation. The eager desire to compete with each other in asserting a local identity might belie a rising anxiety of placelessness in this dramatically globalized and standardized world.

The Freshest Kids in China: Street Dance Culture in the Middle Kingdom
Zhi Zhao, Fudan University, China

Hip hop, an urban youth culture consisting of four individual art forms (rapping, DJing, breakdancing/b-boying, and graffiti), emerged out of the poverty and vast unemployment of the South Bronx during the 1960s; by 2010, transnational flows of media and peoples have shaped hip hop into a global phenomenon, with practitioners of these four artistic elements in all corners of the world. In China, breakdancing has been assimilated into the greater network of street dance (街舞) culture in China, alongside other American-born dance styles such as popping, locking, house, waacking, and hip hop dance. The street dance community in China has its roots in the early 1980s, but has developed rapidly over the course of the past decade, facilitated by the increased presence of global networks via transnational media conglomerates and the world wide web. The development of the street dance community in China has various implications for both Chinese and global youth culture; by observing and documenting the lives and histories of these pioneers of Chinese youth culture, one can hope to gain greater insight into the process of cultural transmission, imitation, and adaptation, as well as the process by which youth trends and subcultures are created, fashioned, and sustained. This ethnography will explore the stories and lives of the vibrant individuals that make up this community within a specific space and time, as well as the institutions (schools of dance, commercial forces, government institutions, media, universities, etc.) that have helped to shape this community.

The Stephen Chow Phenomenon: Fan Culture on Chinese Campus
Li Zeng, Illinois State University, USA

This paper investigates one of the most significant cultural phenomena in Mainland China in the last fifteen years. In 1997, Da Hua Xi You (A Chinese Odyssey) (dir. Liu Zhengwei, 1994), starring Stephen Chow, a famous Hong Kong comedy actor, suddenly became the most discussed film among college students. “Dahua fans” established websites to discuss the film and share their own creative works inspired by it, and Da Hua Xi You achieved cult status. While Dahua fandom continues today, the cultism surrounding the film has evolved into Stephen Chow fandom. Dahua websites have been replaced by Stephen Chow Fans websites, which provide substantial information on Chow’s personal life and career, updates on his recent film projects, media coverage of Chow, as well as forums for fans to discuss his films and other relevant issues. Based on my research and observation of Stephen Chow fandom over the past ten years, this paper argues that Dahua fandom was an ironic response to elitist culture, that Stephen Chow’s “nonsensical” comedy appeals to Chinese youths' rebellion against stringent education, and that fans' websites have provided a dynamic space for young people to exchange their ideas about life and work and express their creative visions. This paper also argues that fans are actively involved in defining and shaping Stephen Chow’s star image and have significantly contributed to Chow’s success in Mainland China.

The Effect of Cultural Orientations of Individuals on Communication Predispositions and Intercultural Sensitivity
Aki M. Kuioka, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

This study examines the relationships between individuals with different cultural orientations (bicultural, independent, interdependent, and marginal) proposed by Kim, Hunter, Miyahara, Horvath, Bresnahan, and Yoon (1996) and perceived communication predispositions (e.g., communication apprehension and argumentativeness) and intercultural sensitivity. The study offers hypotheses that bicultural individuals operating within the independent cultural orientation may adapt a lower degree of communication apprehension and higher degree of argumentativeness than individuals with other cultural orientations which are considered an ideal approach from the Euro-American perspective. It is also expected that individuals with bicultural orientations may develop a higher degree of intercultural sensitivity. The results indicate that bicultural individuals showed the greatest level of argumentativeness followed by individuals with interdependent, independent and marginal cultural orientations. Contrary to the prediction, individuals with independent cultural orientation showed the lowest level of communication apprehension followed by individuals with bicultural, interdependent and marginal cultural orientations. Moreover, the findings of this research indicate individuals with bicultural and independent cultural orientation show the greatest level of intercultural sensitivity and a slightly greater level than individuals with interdependent cultural orientations. Marginal cultural orientations show the lowest level of intercultural sensitivity.

Seeing the End: Substitution, Death, Success
S. Chris Brown, KITLV, USA

On the streets of Surabaya, kids playing with a camera stage scenes where they appear as someone else. Model or movie-star, mobster or mogul; anyone but a child of the street. Like any children playing dress-up, they try on fanciful alter-egos for size, and discard them again at the drop of a hat. With the same whimsy they photographed each other in more dire simulated circumstances: lying abject on the pavement, a circle of raised fists menacing them, or head thrown back as if from the blow of a rock poised in another kid’s hand. Some even arranged themselves wrapped in a funereal shroud, posed as corpses. These tableaux, while disturbing, fit into a pattern established in myriad practices of substitution on Java, including paradigmatically deferrals of self effected through the use of different language registers, where one’s first tongue is replaced by a “refined” substitute. Akin to such linguistic practices (but in a far less refined idiom), these photographs remove the self of the urchin from the picture (through the image of death or destruction), and make an opening for something, or rather someone, else—a persona of “success” which can only emerge in place of the missing street child. This paper looks at how these kids’ photographic practices, and a number of other photographic practices on Java, enlist logics of substitution in order to effect transformations in the photographic subjects themselves.