Telling Chinese Stories

30 April 2012

Since 2008 the People's Republic of China has increasingly focused on 'telling the China story', notes Professor Geremie Barmé - China expert, filmmaker and presenter of tomorrow's Sydney Ideas lecture.

In fact, from the dying days of the Qing dynasty, the thinker and reformist Liang Qichao wrote about the need for China to have a new history, one that would both reflect its changed realities and help make it a modern nation.

Any of those who engage with the Chinese world encounter the stories told about China says Barmé, the director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.

"There is the monolithic narrative of the party-state, the multiple stories of individuals, companies, communities, and then there are the array of accounts and told about China, some that try to deepen understanding, others that evoke."

History and national narratives express aspirations as well as political agendas. Australia too is a country that tells itself stories. At around the time that the Chinese Communist Party's General Secretary Hu Jintao announced the 'Eight Glories Eight Shames' (ba rong ba chi) as part of the new socialist values strategy in 2006, the then Liberal Coalition Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Education Minister Brendan Nelson championed a list of nine 'Values for Australian Schooling'. They were part of a response to our local 'history wars'.

Barmé's lecture will look at how these Chinese stories have come to be told, by whom and for whom, and what this may mean for those who pay attention.

In this lecture Barmé will also introduce The China Story, a publishing and Internet project being launched by the Australian Centre on China in the World.

Geremie R Barmé is an historian, cultural critic, filmmaker, translator and web-journal editor. He works on Chinese cultural and intellectual history from the early modern period (1600s) to the present. From 2006 to 2011 he held an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship and, in 2010, he became the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at the Australian National University.

His last book was The Forbidden City (London: Profile Books and Harvard University Press, 2008, reprinted 2012), and he is preparing a work on what he calls New Sinology.

Event details

What: Telling China Stories, a Sydney Ideas lecture, co-presented with the China Studies Centre

When: 6pm, Tuesday 1 May

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: This event is free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Seating is unreserved and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

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Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584

Email: 7b3b0204445c565b5d351717313425372c1c2d0f36681822