ERC Starting Grant 2021
Research proposal [Part B1]
Everyone’s a Curator:
Digitally Empowering Ethnic Minority Music Sustainability in China
Principle investigator: Lijuan Qian
Host institution: University College Cork
Proposal duration: 60 months
Researchers have recognized that culture bearers need to be more centrally involved in music sustainability, both for these programmes to prove practically effective and because it is ethically essential that community members determine what music might be shared with others, if any, and under what conditions. ECura innovatively designs a new research framework for applied ethnomusicology (and related areas) that capitalizes on newly emergent possibilities for sustaining intangible culture arising from the rising participation of ethnic minority members in digital social media platforms. It addresses a central question:
How can we empower ethnic minority groups to become the main actors in sustaining their indigenous cultural heritage via their wide participation in mobile digital media platforms? The action-based and collaborative research framework includes:
- Making tailored platform programs to better accommodate equal online participation
- Setting up a website as a crowdsourced database “recording” community culture
- Daily communication, community outreach, workshops to empower culture bearers
- Cultural and media studies approach to contextualize the observed processes
- Virtual ethnography on culture bearers’ social media activities
ECura has the potential to transform the ways ethnomusicologists, folklorists and others work with communities to sustain endangered cultural heritage. Its step of transforming culture bearers into the curators of their own digital materials is crucial. It focuses on three villages in Yunnan, China, allowing the acquisition of a deeply contextualized understandings of three contrasting cultural heritage settings and development of carefully shaped solutions to the challenges detected. Similar situations of cultural imperialism, the vanishing of indigenous culture, and the disempowering of the underprivileged in managing their own culture, occur worldwide. The new research framework will thus be transferable to a broad cross-section of endangered cultural heritages among minority communities in larger contemporary states who are adapting to rapid digitalisation globally.
Section a: Extended Synopsis of the scientific proposal
1. State of the art: Background
In contemporary Chinese life, across divergent positions, relationships and cultural initiatives, people regularly connect with one another via digital social media platforms (Park 2019; Hao 2014). By March 2020, Chinese smartphone video users had hit 897 million, among whom 70% (633 million) stream music and music videos (CNNIC 2020, 1, 48-49). This move toward connected viewing provides viewers access to a rich repertoire of content. It is also characterised by the transfer of some control from programmers to viewers and to those uploading and sharing content (Zhao 2017; Evens and Donders 2018, 243). Benefiting from the low costs of internet-enabled platforms and from automated licensing of user-generated and -created materials, participation is very affordable, even for low-income people in China, where such users now form a market majority (Peukert 2019, 191-192; CNNIC 2020, 27-28). For instance, in the so-called “impoverished villages” of Yunnan, the economically underdeveloped province known for its diverse ethnic minority communities, smartphone usage has reached around 70% (Luo Haiyan [Miao ethnicity], online personal communication, 4 Feb. 2021). Like many other Chinese online streaming users, most the villagers employ the short-video sharing apps Douyin (known as TikTok outside China) and Kuaishou (Kwai) to watch their favourite video clips and some are beginning to upload self-made videos recording their own cultural traditions. These video sharing apps are particularly appreciated by villagers with a very limited educational level, since, with a little assistance from their better-educated relatives, they can share and enjoy one another’s content without struggling to understand written materials or complex user interfaces (Long Chengpeng [Yi ethnicity], online personal communication, 10 Feb. 2021).
This emergent active participation in social media platforms in China by ethnic minority communities brings a new opportunity for them to participate in sustaining and promoting their endangered cultural heritage. This is the first time that community members on such a large scale have involved themselves as active participants in the sharing of their own cultural materials, a role hitherto reserved primarily for cultural experts, village leaders and governmental officers. Social media platforms allow them to communicate and interact directly with audiences from similar, related or even distant ethnic backgrounds, as opposed to an earlier, TV-broadcasting model where they could, at best, watch to see what from their cultural tradition had been selected, recorded, framed, and recoded by mainstream cultural interpreters via state oversight. New digital means thus minimize the direct filtering of mainstream culture brokers, particularly those from dominant social groups. Furthermore, they also permit the emergence—and enhance the visibility—of new cultural production by those occupying marginalised and minority positions, thus allowing a wider and more representative set of intangible cultural heritage to be shared relatively efficiently and inexpensively and preserved for the future.
2. State of the art: Models of cultural participation and music sustainability
UNESCO’s definition of protecting or safeguarding intangible cultural heritage indicates that, “to be kept alive, intangible cultural heritage must be relevant to the community, continuously recreated and transmitted from one generation to another” (2009, 3). In a representative codification of modes of performance (and its associated listening practices), Turino emphasizes the role participatory performance takes in the sustaining of communities (2009, 96), arguing further that participatory performance groupings form “relatively cooperative, egalitarian spaces that are about sociality, bonding, and fun, rather than hierarchy, competition, financial achievement, or the creation of art objects for listening” (112). Ingram, meanwhile, working on the “big song” tradition of the Kam people in Southwestern China, investigates how Kam choirs create new songs based on the villagers’ traditional knowledge, and they also form and experience a pan-Kam identity by learning and absorbing big songs repertoires from other Kam communities (2012, 64-65). The participatory cultures that form around music making include not only singing, instrumental performance and dance but also forms of socialization at music events and, in the present day, a rising online culture that involves liking, sharing and commenting around these digital-traditional artefacts. In a study of the online culture as relates to the Chinese folksong, Park (2019, 63) found that “video sharing sites are situated at the intersection of media creation and social networking, they embed people in a participatory culture in which they can create and share content, and simultaneously make new social connections.” Each of these examples addresses a vital aspect of music sustainability, which Cavicchi (2019, 135) summarises as resting on “a sense of personal mutual connection and cooperation”.
The importance of participation and connectivity in effectively sustaining cultural heritage is acknowledged in recently advanced theories in applied ethnomusicology, which recognize moreover that meaningful contributions can only be achieved through collaboration and dialogue with communities interested in sustaining their own cultural heritage (Titon 2015; Schippers 2015). Titon notes the potential for collaborative partnerships between tradition-bearers and outside supporters (such as ethnomusicologists) to “lead communities to take on stewardship” (Titon 2009, 134; 2019). He also emphasizes the vital contributions of stewardship, resilience and adaptive management in coping with continuous cultural and musical change (Titon 2016; 2019). This situation has a further specific character in China given the present great level of interest from the Chinese government in cultural heritage management (Rees 2012). But such state intervention often doesn’t take a holistic approach to collaboration or community participation. From this perspective, the rapid rise of mobile technology even in remote and impoverished areas brings emergent possibilities for culture bearers to stage and curate their own acts of music sustainability, and so for research on their aims and approaches in doing that and the barriers they face. In all, China offers an ideal site for new research that develops innovative new models of collaborative musical participation and interconnectivity.
3. State of the art: Structural and ideological inequalities in cultural sustainability
In the Chinese digital field, media usages are heavily structured by media monopolies and ultimately controlled by the state, which have meanwhile formed a largely mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship (Jiang and Fu 2018). Digital monopolies such as those of iQIYI, Youku, Tencent and ByteDance (the company that initiated the overwhelmingly popular video-sharing apps Douyin and Kwai) have become ever-more powerful in shaping how music is created, curated, shared, licensed and sold (Negus 2019, 367-368; Zhao 2017, 38; Wang 2021). It is necessary to consider how mainstream ideologies and the structures and opportunities they inform remain underpinned by the values of the middle- and upper-class citizens who run these media monopolies (Hassid 2008). In many cases, these privileged groups reveal both an inclusive and exclusive consciousness towards under-privileged social groups and their cultures in China (Qian 2017; 2020). Lei (2009) and Du (2017) show how China’s mass media cares about the equality of the rural population in general and abstract terms, but meanwhile encourages active stigmatization towards specific representatives of these marginalized groups.
In the arena of indigenous cultural heritage, outsiders from socially elite backgrounds may perceive themselves as well-intentioned supporters and collaborators, but their desire to provide leadership most often results in a curatorial practice that reshapes materials to conform to their own value systems. They often interfere with local practitioners, for instance by seeking to “develop” those whom they claim to represent or, conversely, by preventing change in the interests of sustaining cultural “purity” at all costs—interventions which can lead to the severe distortion and re-interpretation of indigenous cultural systems (Zhao 2011; Yang and Lei 2019). Even worse, China’s state-wide system of nominating representative indigenous culture transmitters proceeds through a hierarchical cultural system often overridden by an emphasis on tourism strategies (Rees 2012, 32-33). Even interventions by NGOs, whether local or international, can have very strong impacts as urban values and understandings transform local perspectives and expectations (Ndaliko 2016; PI’s own three-year experience of working with NGOs in China). For instance, in Yunnan—the primary site for ECura, key non-state programmes include the notable twenty-year Tufeng project run by musician Chen Zhe (1995-2015) (Zhang 2009; I have interviewed Chen in Beijing in 2009, 2016 and 2018) and the Yunnan Traditional Cultural Transmission Office (1993-2000) established by composer Tian Feng (Du 1997). Chen’s lengthy interventions among several ethnicities have built long-term partnerships and acted as a test-bed for several different models of cooperative cultural work. Both Chen and Tian’s projects, however, were based on an ideology of preserving culture “intact”, rather than allowing culture bearers to actively reshape their inheritances to adapt to the contemporary social world around them. As such, they are open to criticisms of the kind Zhao (2011) raises above, and the urgency of a new approach is clear.
A small number of recent research publications target the participation in Chinese cyberculture of disadvantaged groups, such as rural populations (McDonald 2016), ethnic minorities, migrant workers, women, and those from low-income urban social sectors. Wang (2016) provides a thick description on social media use among migrant workers. Her argument, similar to that of Svensson (2015), is representative of the situation of the majority of disadvantaged groups in China, which is that social norms and taboos prevent people from saying everything that they really think or do in daily life, and that such opportunities may even be diminishing. Looking at female users on social media such as Weibo and WeChat, Hou (2020) identified shifts from inclusivity to exclusivity and from diversity to universality since 2015 under the manipulation of mainstream media. Present digital options, then, are not always sufficient to provide a meaningful space for minority cultural sustenance.
Some other research, though, shows how those underprivileged have created spaces within this wider digital domain and system for the expression of their own values, even if only temporarily and at the margins. Yang and Lei (2019) investigate how underprivileged populations reinterpret media products according to their own understandings and contexts, when given the opportunity to do so. WeChat initially acted as a space that accommodated Uyghur cultural production and mediated discourse against the state’s violent interventions into Uyghur religious life between 2013 and 2014 (Harris 2020, 137). Qian (2020) provides a case study on the angry audience backlash that occurred online when a village musician was patronised by the urban judges and presenters of a TV talent show. With a focus on vernacular culture of several kinds, Stock (2016), Wang (2018), and Liu and Yang (2017) explore aesthetic trends in working-class culture, including the production of rustic and spoof music videos. These productions may be widely disparaged by elite cultural commentators but they have proven remarkably popular with certain viewerships and so have attracted much public attention, and commercial sponsorship in turn. Outside China and referring to the many ways traditional musicians have turned to digital means more generally, Yates-Lu observes Korean folk musicians use of livestreaming for self-promotion (2021). Tan investigates the various online platforms and virtual communities through which indigenous Taiwanese musicians promote their work (2017). Summit provides an example of how Jewish chanters collaborate digitally to sustain the Jewish musical tradition of chanting (2019), and Hilder, Stobart and Tan offer a study of several digital approaches taken by members of indigenous populations worldwide (2017). The present proposal builds on the insights offered in such work to construct and research a series of new, community-based and collaborative interventions that collectively form a novel arena for the sustaining of minority culture by engaging the culture bearers directly as participants at every level of the action.
- Research questions
The key philosophy for the ECura project stems from Manfred Max-Neef’s Human Scale Development. Max-Neef identifies nine fundamental human needs—subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, idleness, creation, identity and freedom—that closely match with what an indigenous ethnic minority (or any other) group require in order to be able to sustain their lives, culture and identity. He argues that “human needs, self-reliance and organic articulations are the pillars which support Human Scale Development. However, these pillars must be sustained on a solid foundation where people are to be the main actors (‘the protagonists’) in their future…. (Max-Neef et al. 1991, 8). In research that examines the impacts of international cultural NGOs on local people in Congo, Ndaliko follows Max-Neef’s model to argue that “the extent to which an organization supports or undermines the protagonism of people is an important determinant of truly sustainable development” (2016, 151). I take up this idea of the centrality of self-reliant protagonism in ECura, but here I adjust the terminology to “curatorship”, a choice that reflects the fact that traditional cultural practices range from those oriented primarily within the group in question to those performed collectively and presentationally to outsiders; at several points along this spectrum, an implied protagonist-antagonist dyad is not so much in play as one of curating the traces and resonances of live performance for others in particular ways in the digital domain.
ECura thus aims to develop a new research framework for applied ethnomusicology (and related areas) that capitalizes on newly emergent possibilities for sustaining intangible culture arising from the rising participation of ethnic minority members in digital social media platforms. This framework will be designed to rest upon balanced interdependence between the communities and their members and between communities and various categories of external supporters, including the “virtual”. It repositions culture-bearers as culture-creators, -sustainers and -curators—protagonists for their own cultural sustainability. It does so via an action-based method founded around the central research question: How can we empower ethnic minority groups to be the main actors in sustaining their indigenous cultural heritage via their wide and rising participation in mobile digital media platform domains?
In addressing this question, the project comprises four sub-questions:
• What barriers remain for ethnic minority members seeking full and equal participation in digital media platforms, and how can we overcome them through effective collaboration with outside-supporters including state authorities, representatives of the media industry, members of the urban cultural classes?
• How can ethnic minority culture-bearers be equipped with the key capacities of self-reliance (i.e., stewardship, viability, resilience and adaptability) so that they can effectively curate and sustain their culture under new digital circumstances?
• How can an indigenous community sustain its culture while its members are consistently sharing and dialoguing with partners across a diverse digital world?
• What longer-term technological assistance and cooperative supports are required to facilitate the active participation of ethnic minority members in sustaining endangered cultural heritage via globally accessible platforms?
5. Methodology: Research locations
The ECura project will be carried out in Yunnan, China. Yunnan is an economically underdeveloped, highly ethnic diversity province on the Southwest border of China. Based on my fieldwork experiences, I have selected three villages Mayou, Qifeng and Xiaoshuijin, inhabited by Yi, Bai and Miao minorities respectively. Mayou represents a community with a small group of masters of Yi musical traditions in respect of both performance skills and community knowledge. Qifeng village represents a locale where none of the individual musicians is treated as a high-level master, but the large-scale participation of villagers in a comprehensive set of Bai music practices shows how the village as a whole forms an eco-system for sustaining cultural heritage, Xiaoshuijin acts as a nexus of regional cultural creativity in a particular style. Each village community sustains traditional music practices of a considerable scope, has community leaders who organize various cultural activities, and has experience of working with external bodies offering resources and support. Economically, they are all listed as “impoverished villages” by the state, with an annual per capita income of €200-€500. In addition, each village has developed its own strategies in sustaining traditional culture. Contacts in each location have signalled interest in taking the new steps proposed here, should this application be awarded funding.
- 6. Methodology: New research framework
In exploring the new possibilities for members of ethnic minority communities to engage in digital participation as active curators sustaining their own cultural heritage, the ECura project will develop a new five-part research framework that leads to the answers to the four sub-questions of the project. Via this framework, these underprivileged groups will overcome observed obstacles, benefiting from technological advances in sustaining their endangered culture while developing self-awareness toward their needs, community identity and culture. Under this framework, ECura will study how the villagers in each location acquire self-reliance in managing their indigenous culture in a context of rising global digitalization.
a) Making tailored platform programs better accommodate equal online participation
• An applied approach is a vital part of this project, allowing us not only to benefit by extracting knowledge and experience from the communities in question but also to provide input that benefits the community, and that has potential for adoption and adaptation by other communities in similar situations elsewhere. To empower the initiative of ethnic minority members with regard to digital communication, and to address the linguistic and other obstacles they currently face in fully and equitably using online platforms toward their own ends, the project team will design tailored programs or user interfaces that can be used, as freeware, with such platforms as WeChat or Douyin, using indigenous language voice controls or an image-led user interface to replace touch-control panels using Chinese characters. Doing so, will accommodate the needs of the villagers who are illiterate (in Chinese) or who face other difficulties using these platforms fully, such as poor eyesight. Voice control and image/symbols in Yi, Bai and Miao will be applied.
b) Set up a website as a crowdsourced database “recording” community culture
• Establish a database for collection and storing of audio and video clips uploaded by the villagers themselves via various platforms such as WeChat, Bilibili and Tencent Video, and apps such as Douyin, Kwai and Papa, with a backup system that automatically sorts and stores the database. Necessary technology training and support to villagers will be provided.
• Set up a website so that all the gathered videos can be viewed and accessed by internet users worldwide. The project team will explore copyright and permissions issues for every video stored in the website, letting users know whom they should contact to request to use a video for commercial benefit.
• Integrate website content into wider commercial and cultural applications, as appropriate. The team will make a video documentary for each of the three villages. Each village will receive a copy of all content stored in the database from or related to its villagers. The ECura team and villagers will explore the commercial and cultural potential of the database, and remain open to unseen ideas and opportunities. Prior to the project’s completion, we aim to find a suitable long-term host website for the database.
c) Applied ethnography: daily communication, community outreach, workshops, etc, the team will
• keep in daily communication, both online and offline, with the villagers (via virtual means while the team are away from the village) in order to build up mutual trust and recognize obstacles arising in their access to and use of online communications and video sharing;
• informed by these insights, the team will hold various formal and informal workshops for villagers, tackling aspects of equal and full digital participation, including: self-colonization, ethical issues in online communication, copyright awareness, sourcing outside supports, pushing for updates in the state’s cultural heritage policies, resilience and adaptive management, learning successful cases from other communities, technical guidance in recording, and in uploading or sharing videos.
• investigate subgroups inside each village and encourage those in marginal positions to join the community’s cultural activities or lead their own, as appropriate;
• attend the villagers’ cultural (re)creation and transmission activities to learn about the knowledge, skills, values and meaning of these forms of cultural heritage.
• in all these communications and activities, the team will create opportunities for community members to express themselves, including: what do they themselves understand about their communities and culture; what do they want to achieve and what can they do in transmitting and sustaining their own culture; what kind of sources do they rely upon and what do they need; how can they best learn to collaborate with outsiders from a position of cultural confidence.
d) Cultural and media studies approach This aspect of the framework utilizes literature reviews and online observation to assess the attitudes and support/disinterest of differing state bodies (at local, regional, provincial and state levels), the media industry, and wider Han (majority) Chinese attitudes towards the actions and presence of ethnic minority culture-bearers in online spaces. In some cases, interviews or non-structured conversations will be used with selected people in these sectors. The team will investigate:
- changes and continuities in attitudes and methods of state policies on sustaining intangible culture;
- elite and popular narratives towards endangered culture, particularly that of minority ethnic populations;
- the technical support and barriers produced by social media companies, such as ByteDance and Bilibili, and how these shape the equal participation of community members;
- community members’ creativities, democracies and layers of consciousness as enabled and aroused through their participation in digital media platforms.
- e) Virtual ethnography on social media activities of community members
- To document the dynamic engagement of community members in social media platforms, the project team will widely investigate and record content and comments made on the platforms and apps frequently used by community members. This includes materials widely shared by villagers as well as those they themselves created, and moments where there were marked differences in opinion on popularity from those inside the village and those outside. Platforms, etc. to be analysed include:
- Online video platforms Youku, Bilibili, Tencent Video; channels in WeChat; apps Douyin and Kwai.
- Project collaborative team
To enable such a new research framework, and as a responsive cultural outsider, as PI I have set up a wide project team which is innovatively designed and well thought-through in order to maximise feasibility. The collaborative elements of this project are of foundational significance to its success. Academic experts from ethnomusicology and cultural studies: PI (70% FTE, 5 yrs.) postdoc (FTE, 56 m.) and PhD (FTE, 4 yrs.), each based in one village, will be assisted by 6 Advisory Board members specialising in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and computer science; cooperate with non-academic consultants, including 8 community leaders among three villages; 6 senior advisors from governmental, media industry, local academia, and NGO sectors; supported by a data technician and an outsourced tailored program writer.
- Impact analysis
ECura addresses a long-standing challenge in the field of endangered cultural sustainability: many culture bearers from socially marginalized groups are not equipped to sustain and transmit their cultural traditions under the impact of rapid social and economic transformations to their environment, life patterns and systems of belief. Rising global digitalization increases the risks of the disappearance of these indigenous cultures as it allows dominant cultures to expand their influence into these populations. Yet the new ubiquity of these digital means also allows them to be taken up as tools in support of cultural sustainability. ECura thus seizes upon an emerging opportunity in sustaining minority ethnicity intangible culture heritage through employment of social media and digital platforms and tackles challenges associated with realising this opportunity. To achieve its central goal, namely to empower members of underprivileged groups as the digital curators of their own culture and so achieve long-term sustainability by means of new digital possibilities, ECura develops an innovative new research framework that maximizes the support that digitalization provides to members of endangered cultural populations by:
• enabling culture bearers to acquire key capacities of self-reliance (stewardship, viability, resilience and adaptability) so that they are aware of and confident to deal with outside opportunities and challenges;
• enabling cultural-bearers to become self-reflexive and critical curators of their own endangered culture via their own digital media practices;
• making customised programs to support the full participation in digital media platforms of people currently marginalized by lacks in educational provision of reliance upon minority language use;
• providing the foundation of a long-term, globally connected and sustainable digital database, which culture bearers can exploit to support their own economic and cultural development.
The project has the potential to transform the ways ethnomusicologists, folklorists and others work with communities to sustain endangered cultural heritage. Its step of transforming culture bearers into the curators of their own digital materials is crucial, and is now more fully enabled by the present day’s technological possibilities than was hitherto possible. Achieving this requires an in-depth focus on the villages in question, so allowing the acquisition of a deep understanding of their situations and the development of carefully shaped solutions to the disparate challenges villagers face in sustaining various kinds of musical heritage. With a concrete basis in place, the new research framework proposed here will be transferable to a broad cross-section of endangered cultural heritages among minority communities globally, particularly for marginalised ethnic minority populations in larger contemporary states adapting to rapid digitalisation.
Section c: Early achievements track-record
Principle Investigator Profile
I am an ethnomusicologist whose main research centres on the interdisciplinary intersections of applied ethnomusicology, popular music studies, digital media studies and Chinese studies. I’ve conducted two major post-doctoral research programmes over the last five-and-a-half years, following my PhD (see Appendix Current research grants and any on-going applications). I’ve received multiple prestigious national/international level research funds through competition in UK, China, Ireland, and EU. After the competition of my PhD, I have published one monograph, one book in translation, 4 book chapters (2 are forthcoming), 5 peer-reviewed articles (4 in Chinese), 2 book reviews, 2 newspaper/magazine articles, 9 invited seminars, and 9 conference papers. All these early achievements, considering parenting and maternity leave for my 2 children, together bring me the key capacities necessary to carry out ECura: engaging in meaningful, high-quality new research, managing a big grant, sustaining good communication with local communities, and ensuring scholarly publication and impact.
Most Important Publications
- Kuanrong de zhuliu: Zhongguo bashi niandai de liuxing gequ. (A Tolerant Mainstream: The Pop Song in China in the 1980s). Guangxi Normal University Press.
This book originated from my PhD research ‘Pop Music Composition in China in the 1980s: An Elite Synthesis for the Mainstream’ (2011, University of Sheffield British Library EThOS: Pop song composition in China in the 1980s : an elite synthesis for the mainstream (bl.uk)). It focuses on Chinese popular music in recent historical dimensions, investigating the cultural outcomes of interactions between governmental, intellectual and popular culture in the key decade when China opened up to the rest of the world after the Cultural Revolution. Interviews and case study analysis formed its main methodologies. As one of the very few monographs on Chinese popular music, this book has received widely scholarly attention among Chinese readers and is also found in university libraries worldwide.
- ‘Which Identity Matters? Competing Ethnicity in Chinese TV Music Contests’. The World of Music (New Series). Vol. 6 (2): 57-82.
This article reviews the performance of ethnic minority singers and singer-songwriters in both Western-derived and locally devised talent show programmes in China from 2012–17, asking how these musicians manipulate their multi-layered identities in order to balance their identity articulations, audiences’ expectations and political pressures. The most distinctive of these successfully open up new spaces for debate about identity, personhood, tradition and power in contemporary China. Data is drawn from the analysis of the music in question and from the decisions of programme judges, and also from the avid commentaries made by show viewers online during and after each round is broadcast.
- ‘The Music of China’. On Music of the World. Classes 12, 13, 14 and 15. Herndon, VA. Connect for Education, Inc.
This contribution to an online textbook of over 50 pages is an up-to-date account of Chinese music for English speaking readers, mainly university students. The originality of the chapter includes its coverage of narratives from Hong Kong and Taiwan and approach to ancient and modern global contexts. Especially, I added materials from musicians of diverse ethnic minority populations from Yunnan to let their voices be heard as distinct from the mainstream cultural examples more typically found in textbooks on Chinese music.
- ‘‘Music, Class and Talent Shows: Class Division and Overlaps in New Digital Popular Music Formats in China.’ In Ian Peddie ed., The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Social Class, 525-542. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
This article is the first scholarly research on social stratification and pop music in China equivalent to commensurate research in other parts of the world. The data I took came from 1,043 questionnaires gathered from viewers of TV music talent shows in metropolitan cities, county towns, and rural villages across China. I also referred to online comments from various video platforms and the official websites of TV talent show programs, and various online community websites, as well as various online articles. I have aimed to give careful balance to individuals, official and commercial narratives, national and regional variations, as well as considering both elite and popular- oriented programs and audiences.
- (forthcoming) ‘Humanism in Red: A New Mainstream Narrative in the Pop Songs in 1980s’ China.’ In Jonathan Stock and Yu Hui eds., Oxford Handbook of the Music of China. Oxford University Press.
This article provides an insight into how the pop songs of the 1980s marked the rise of humanism in China, showing how did the pop musicians created a new narrative that offered comfort with regard to the painful memories and spiritual wounds of the past after the Cultural Revolution. The content assessed here helps address Western misapprehensions of the history of Chinese music, which can both overestimate the social impact of rock and under-recognize the progressive political content of certain mainstream songs in the mid- and late 1980s. It also suggests that it may be worth a close look at the mainstream popular musics of other periods and the ways it reflects (or denies) the ideologies of its creators and draws together (or apart) contrasting generations of listeners.
Major Grants and Funding
My first postdoctoral research (Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship 2015-17) investigated Chinese audiences’ perception and actions toward TV music talent show. I have published several essays and have finished the first draft of a monograph based on this research. My recent postdoctoral project (MSCA IRC COFUND 2017-21) is about ethnic minority women’s voice and their engagement in sustaining traditional culture. I am composing several journal articles from this applied research. These two projects both deal with people and cultural products in contemporary China. I built up these research areas from my PhD project (2007-11). My PhD (UK Government ORSAS & University of Sheffield Studentship 2007-11) which analysed Chinese pop music from a historical perspective. (Please see Appendix Current research grants and any on-going applications).
Seminar and Conference Papers
I have given scholarly talks at various university seminars and at international conferences across the world to ensure the impact of my research (see my CV).
Key Capacities to Carry on the ECura Project
Fieldwork experience in urban and rural settings
I worked for 2 years on the postdoctoral project “Making Sense of TV Music Talent Show, An Audience Ethnography” for which I gathered over 1,043 questionnaires among audience members from over 13 different Chinese cities and villages and conducted numerous interviews with participants from within the music and media industry. My PhD “Pop Song Composition in China in the 1980s: An Elite Synthesis for the Mainstream” involved interviews with over 10 influential pop musicians with whom I have kept in long-term contact ever since. My MA research explored the music perception of young people in general in contemporary China, for which I conducted over 340 questionnaires and 30 interviews with students among 7 universities in Shanghai in 2003-04. As such, I am richly experienced in music research in China, in both urban and rural settings, and in relation to both traditional and contemporary aspects of musical culture and the music industry.
Engagement in community work
During my recent postdoctoral project “Applying Cultural Heritage as a Means of Sustainable Development: Voices of Women Culture Bearers in Yunnan, China”, I spent over three years co-working with the Yunnan-based NGOs Eco-Women and Yuansheng Studio. I built up rich experience in community work, researching alongside NGOs and their community partners across 7 ethnic minority populations in Yi, Bai, Hani, Miao, Naxi, Bulang and Pumi settlements. I joined community activities in indigenous singing, dancing, instrumental performance, ritual practice and traditional festivals. I interviewed many “established” female musicians among the ethnicities I mentioned and drew lessens of how to use cultural heritage to achieve economic self-support from these individuals.
Much of my research utilizes material found online, including videos, comments and social media platform conversions. I have adapted to this research method, and kept abreast with the technologies that underpin it.
All my early achievements—project management, community engagement, publication and impact, etc.— bring me confidence that I successfully carry out an innovatively designed project, lead a team in collaborative and action-based research, transform indigenous culture bearers into the curators of their own digital materials in a community context, and thereby build globally transferable solutions to a long-standing challenge in the field of endangered cultural sustainability.
Cavicchi, Daniel. 2019. ‘Fandom’s Remix: Popular Music, Participation, and Sustainability’. In Cooley, Timothy J. ed. Cultural Sustainabilities: Music, Media, Language, Advocacy, 131-142. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC)中国互联网信息中心. 2020. The 45th China Statistical Report on Internet Development. 第45次中国互联网络发展状况统计报告.
Du, Qingyun. 1997. ‘Tian Feng and Yuannan Traditional Cultural Transmission Office田丰和云南民族文化传习馆.’ Remin Yinyue 人民音乐1997 (4): 25-29.
Du, Yunfei. 2017. ‘Wide Horse under the Mass Media Era: Chinese Rural Feminism’ (大传媒时代下的无缰野马 —‘中华田园女权’解读). Chuang zuo ping tan 创作评谭2017(3): 30-33.
Evens, Tom and Donders, Karen. 2018. Platform Power and Policy in Transforming Television Markets. Gewerbestrasse: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hao, Jianxiu, 2014. ‘“A Real China”: On User-Generated Videos? – Audio-Visual Narratives of Confucianism’. tripleC 12(1): 342-355.
Harris, Rachel. 2020. Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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