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Keynote 2: Imagining Social Change by Andrew B. Kipnis (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Huang Yongping (1954-2019) - La Carte du Monde 2000

Huang Yongping (1954-2019) - La Carte du Monde 2000

This paper begins with a brief discussion of four ways of imagining social change: replacement, transformation, transition, and reconfiguration. Focusing on transformation and transition, the paper then asks: if examining or experiencing a particular social transformation, how can we understand the presence of things past? How do practices, logics, ideals, and things from the past inform, influence, or simply exist in the “new” social context? Understanding forms of continuity is simply the flip side of the coin of understanding change. Conceptualizing continuity intimately relates to imagining social transformation. The paper proposes two modes of understanding continuity: haunting and recombinant transformation. The paper ends by working through an example of the place of the past in the present: location based social control in the Great Leap Famine, the birth planning policy, and the recent Covid related lockdowns in Shanghai. How do the ideas of haunting and recombinant transformation differentially illuminate this continuity?


Andrew B. Kipnis has  recently moved to The Chinese University of Hong Kong after nearly twenty years at the Australian National University. His research involves social, cultural and political change in contemporary China. He is currently working on several projects, including a comparative study of urbanization, kinship and the commercialization of ritual. He has recently completed a book on urbanization in a mid-sized Chinese city, an edited volume titled Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche and a textbook on Contemporary Chinese Society. He has also written books on educational desire and governing, a book on the implications for anthropological theory of issues that arise in the governing of socialist states and a book on patterns of gift giving and social exchange in rural China. From 2006-2015, he was co-editor of The China Journal.