Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Shanghaiing the future
by Krupar, Shiloh Renee, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2007, 375; 3311641
Abstract (Summary)

Shanghaiing the Future examines the production of spectacular spaces of the future in Shanghai, and how such spaces, with their visual technologies and discourses, function as curatorial enterprises and vehicles of political showmanship, reconfiguring the urban landscape and organizing mass audiences of consumer citizens. These spaces emerge out of and contribute to the dynamic changes occurring in China, involving privatized land use and museum management, and re-globalizing postsocialist culture. Each chapter explores an imaginative geography of the “city as future,” drafted by state-led cultural policies and curated in a complex of exhibitions in Shanghai that range in scale from architectural models to city-wide urban planning for hosting the 2010 World Expo. Specific sites covered in the study include several of Shanghai's most popular and high-profile museums and culture zones: the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Municipal History Museum, Exhibition of Shanghai Urban Development History, Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology, Xintiandi, and the Shanghai Film Park.

The imaginative geographies of the city as future networked and displayed in these culture institutions, mingling the built and the virtual, the interior and exterior, not only present Shanghai as the key to China's global cultural status and economic development but are also the spectacular means by which state power legitimates itself, materializes its authority, and aims to raise a prosperous culture and sophisticated citizenry in advance of and for the future. The project delineates some of the specific ways future landscapes and scenes work the city over, producing new spaces, sometimes collapsing on the city, and even colonizing everyday life in relations of complicity with state spectacle. Shanghaiing the Future also attempts to evoke and distill how Shanghai's spectacular spaces and their technologies of vision try to dazzle and discipline visitors, instruct them in how to see the city, rouse their desire to travel to futures colonized by the commodity, and perform collective nostalgia, eco-consciousness, and cosmopolitan urban expertise.

The analysis takes place through a popular subgenre of urban performance: the guided tour. A particular “ethno-figure,” based on the author's fieldwork experiences in Shanghai, allegorically forms the content of each chapter-tour. This representational strategy takes its inspiration from Walter Benjamin's deployment of particular figures, such as the ragpicker, as emblematic of the conditions of urban modernity. Recognizing the problematic colonial relations of viewing potentially produced by the tour format, the author utilizes visual self-implication, discursive over-identification, montage, and camouflage in order to show how spaces collaborate to produce knowledge, constrain the various roles and voices she performs during her research travels, and at times even bury her own legibility. The medium of performance also enables the author's critique of state hegemonic practices by exposing the cracks in the state's colonizing visions of the future and triumphant images of itself. In doing so, Shanghaiing the Future models a performative ethnography of spectacle and a creative/constructivist geographical practice that aesthetically and analytically articulates some of the emergent and residual cultural forms of postsocialism in urban China. This methodological contribution provides critical insights on re-globalizing urban development, spectacle and subjectivity, perception and the reordering of visuality, the dialectics of waste/value, urban space and the production of nature, display technology and urban design.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hart, Gillian
School: University of California, Berkeley
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Geography, Museums
Keywords: China, Global city, Imperial nostalgia, Performance, Postsocialist modernity, Shanghai, Spectacle, Urban China
Publication Number: 3311641
ISBN: 978-0-549-60987-2
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