Authenticating Geographies and Temporalities: Representations of Chinese Rock in China

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Since the mid-1980s the Chinese rock singer Cui Jian has stirred up the arguably tranquil waters of Chinese popular music. In his wake, a rock culture emerged in China, especially Beijing. Whereas earlier generations of Chinese rock were characterized by rather clearly rebellious poses, poses that resonate the spirit of the Great Cultural Debate that characterized Chinese culture over the 1980s, the more recent music scenes employ a wider range of visual tactics. Threading through various generations and scenes within Beijing rock culture, however, has been a quest for authenticity. In this article I will present an overview of the authenticating aspirations of Beijing rock culture. I will start off by sketching a brief history of Chinese rock, and argue that, compared to the Western claim to the origin—and therefore to the continual making—of rock, Chinese rock musicians must bear the burden of providing authenticating proof in order to avoid being labeled mere copycats.

Apart from the West versus Rest distinction, a second dichotomy that propels the politics of rock in China is Beijing rock versus pop from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Rock is constructed as the authentic voice of a new generation, whereas pop is interpreted as an overtly commercialized sound produced by the music industry. These dichotomies underlie the five authenticating tactics that I distinguish: representing what I call the rebellious, the ancient China, the communist China, the scenic, and, finally, the new China. This article will provide ample visual evidence of these authenticating tactics, and analyze critically the politics behind these tactics. I will in particular interrogate the insistence on articulations of time and place that prevail in (discourses on) Chinese rock culture and argue for a cultural studies approach that resists rather than reifies either time or place.

General information

Author Jeroen de Kloet
English title Authenticating Geographies and Temporalities: Representations of Chinese Rock in China
Publication Journal Visual Anthropology
Date of publication 2005 exactly on 2005/03/03

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Detailed information

DOI: 10.1080/08949460590914877

Publication Frequency: 5 issues per year

Published in: journal Visual Anthropology, Volume 18, Issue 2 & 3 March 2005 , pages 229 - 255

Subject: Visual Anthropology;

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