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Migrating Subjects: The Problem of the "Peasant" in Contemporary Chinese Art

Eschenburg, Madeline (2018) Migrating Subjects: The Problem of the "Peasant" in Contemporary Chinese Art. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation, Migrating Subjects: The Problem of the “peasant” in contemporary Chinese Art presents the narrative of contemporary artworks in China made about marginalized communities, as exemplified by migrant workers and rural inhabitants, from the 1990s to the present. These groups, often referred to as nongmin in popular discourse, were upheld as revolutionary heroes throughout much of the 20th century, but lost their cultural valence with the onset of China’s integration with global market mechanisms in the late 1970s. By examining artworks involving nongmin participation from the 1990s to the present, this study explores, for the first time, the ways in which Chinese artists have continued to make art with the goal of helping these communities against the background of contemporary artists’ own cultural marginalization in the early 1990s, their acceptance into the international art arena over the turn of the century, and their provisional embrace by the Chinese central government at the beginning of the 21st century. It considers the new relational possibilities introduced when a time-honored subject (the “peasant”) is approached through the direct participation of nongmin communities in comparison to imagistic renderings in traditional media. Through this historical narrative, I argue that the Chinese “peasant” in contemporary art, as in the early 20th century, continues to be considered a key factor for the indigenous development of a utopian Chinese society under the changing circumstances brought about by globalization.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Eschenburg, MadelineMCE21@pitt.eduMCE210000-0003-1692-4956
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGao, Mingluminglu@pitt.eduMinglu
Committee MemberSmith, Terrytes2@pitt.edutes2
Committee MemberLinduff, Katherynlinduff@pitt.edulinduff
Committee MemberMcCloskey,
Committee MemberLi,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 11 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 264
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: social practice art; contemporary Chinese art; urban-rural divide; rural China; urbanization; globalization
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 14:43
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 14:43


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