Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Role Models, Foreign Friends and Hurt Feelings - Politics of Celebrity in China

Wed, February 28, 2018 | CLA 1.302E (Glickman Center)

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Role Models, Foreign Friends and Hurt Feelings - Politics of Celebrity in China

Dr Jonathan Sullivan
Director, China Policy Institute
Director, China Soccer Observatory
Associate Professor
School of Politics and IR
University of Nottingham
Role models, foreign friends and hurt feelings – Politics of celebrity in China
A visit to a Chinese city of any size—looking up at downtown billboards, riding public transport, shopping at a mall—is to be in the presence of a Chinese celebrity endorsing a product, lifestyle or other symbols of “the good life”. Celebrity in China is big business, feeding off and nourishing the advertising-led business model that underpins the commercialized media system and internet. It is also a powerful instrument in the Party-State’s discursive and symbolic repertoire, used to promote regime goals and solidify new governmentalities through signalling accepted modes of behaviour for mass emulation. The multi-dimensional celebrity persona, and the public interest it stimulates in off-stage lives, requires an academic focus on the workings of celebrity separate to the products that celebrities create in their professional roles. The potential to connect with large numbers of ordinary people, and the emergence of an informal celebrity-making scene in cyberspace symptomatic of changing attitudes towards fame among Chinese people, marks the special status of celebrity within China’s constrained socio-political ecology. In this talk I will show how China’s celebrity industry emerged, discuss changing attitudes to fame, and demonstrate how “celebrity capital” is instrumentalized by the state. 

Sponsored by: Academic Enrichment Fund, Program of Taiwan Studies, Julian Suez Fellowship, Center for East Asian Studies and Department of Asian Studies

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