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Lin, Da (2017) THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF KUN OPERA IN CHINA (1940S-2015). Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation is a political economic history of contemporary Kun opera (Kunju), a 600-year-old operatic genre that originated in Kunshan, China. Based on a range of broader narratives about political and economic change, ideological values, and nation-building in the People’s Republic of China, I argue that the production, circulation, and consumption of Kun opera must be analyzed in relation to the history of different political and economic structures. I show how Kun opera articulates with different forms of capital within the history of contemporary China (1940s to 2015): as political capital that only submits to a centralized power, as cultural capital that expresses a sense of symbolic distinction, and as economic capital that enables commodification and exchange. My research shows how Kun opera as a cultural activity reflects political and economic patterns in a society, and how the competition for political and economic interests conditions the dominant meanings and values of the genre.
I utilize Pierre Bourdieu’s “capital theory” to analyze the production and consumption of Kun opera in terms of economic, political, and cultural capital. I situate the production of Kun opera and the circulation of its meanings within three main political and economic conditions in contemporary China: (1) the establishment of state-ownership of troupes under maximal political administration (the late1940s-1982), (2) the financial crisis in the state subsidy system after the “Opening-up” period of political economic reforms (1983-2002), and (3) state-owned troupe’s delegated power of working with private investment in China’s growing cultural industry in the 21st century (2003-2015). Further, I explore various forms of labor that create different forms of capital, including performers’ artistic labor of producing operas, audiences’ labor of appreciating a performance, cultural entrepreneurs’ labor of trading Kun opera products, government officials’ labor of promoting (or censoring) the genre, and scholars’ labor of criticizing or consecrating certain plays. I show how these forms of labor have engaged with the production of meanings and values of contemporary Kun opera.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairYung,
Committee CoChairWeintraub,
Committee MemberHelbig,
Committee MemberLee, Tong
Date: 27 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 May 2017
Approval Date: 27 September 2017
Submission Date: 11 August 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 405
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Kun opera; Chinese theater art; cultural industry; political economy; cultural system reform
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 23:32
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2022 05:15


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