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Cut-out: music, profanity, and subcultural politics in 1990s China

Li, Zhongwei (2019) Cut-out: music, profanity, and subcultural politics in 1990s China. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines the subcultural politics of the “cut-out generation” in 1990s China. It is driven by a double aspiration, and aims to bridge gaps in two main fields of literature. The first aspiration is a historical one: I offer a fine historical account of the “cut-out generation” as a slice of 1990s Chinese society, which remained overlooked in Chinese studies. The second aspiration is a theoretical one: I interrogate existing theories and concepts in the larger field of cultural studies, including music and materiality, subculture and profanity, regime of value and structure of feeling, with evidence found in this Chinese case, and point toward a comprehensive framework for the analysis of subcultural politics. The methodological approach consists of 72 in-depth life history interview and archival analysis of a “cut-out archive”, both conducted through an “ethnographic imagination” lens. The thesis unpacks subcultural politics by looking into the materiality of subcultural objects, the sensuous interactions between people and things, and the dialectical interplay between a subculture and its historical, structural settings. It has three main empirical foci corresponding to each empirical chapter and organized under three theoretical themes: politics of value, dialectics of profanity, and structure of feeling. The first empirical chapter (politics of value) investigates three contested materialities of the cut-outs as plastic scrap, defective records, and “music info”, demonstrating in this way the different regimes of value which the cut-outs travelled through. The second one (dialectics of profanity) reveals how the cut-outs became a music object whose profanity was realized in various sensuous and creative relationships formed with Chinese consumers. The last empirical chapter (structure of feeling) provides a historicized analysis of the structure of feeling of the “cut-out generation”, which functioned as an affective infrastructure which both “emerged” from and “penetrated” the historical context of 1990s China.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Zhongwei Li
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Meng, Bingchun and Georgiou, Myria

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