Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences International Symposium on “Utopia and Utopianism in the Contemporary Chinese Context: Texts, Ideas, Spaces”

Jointly organized by:    Hong Kong Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences
                                    French Centre for Research on Contemporary China

Organizing Committee

Angela Ki Che Leung, Chair Professor of History, Joseph Needham-Philip Mao Professor in Chinese History, Science & Civilisation, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong
Sebastian Veg, Director of the French Center for Research on Contemporary China, Professor, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University; Hung Leung Hau Ling Distinguished Fellow in Humanities at HKU
Yinde Zhang, Researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China, professor at the Research Center for the Comparative Literature, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3


The disintegration of socialist ideology, the devastations caused by the ultra-liberal economy and the threat of ecological and geopolitical disasters, explain the general disenchantment and discredit of utopia today. It has become difficult to ignore the growing body of dystopian literature published recently in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the rest of the Sinophone world. Undoubtedly, these spatial and temporal projections of dystopia carry dark allegories about History and the present, suggesting that they take an ironic view of the current harmonious dreams of a powerful State. However, at the same time their critical awareness can be drowned out by apocalyptic fatalism or cynicism. The end of Utopia and the retreat from politics have become a new vulgate.

Reversing the perspective, this symposium therefore proposes to reflect anew on the idea of utopia, both analyzing how it has been debated, while at the same time emphasizing the persistence of utopianism and, particularly, its irreducible socially critical and politically imaginative function. For this purpose, three levels, text, thought and society, are suggested as areas of discussion. Participants would examine how various genres, discourses, ways of expression, including literature, social sciences and visuals arts, independently and in interaction, have framed the debate on utopias in the Chinese context, drawing on a large corpus that runs from the modern period up to the present day. The conference aims at historicizing and problematizing both the essential and contingent aspects of utopia, paying particular attention to the political commitment to utopianism and the possibilities it provides in terms of building social spaces.

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