China, geographical thought and the not quite poststructural revolution

Professor Carolyn Cartier, Human Geography and China Studies in the China Research Centre at the University of Technology

A China Studies Centre Distinguished Speaker lecture

Beginning in the late 1970s the broad paradigm shift from structural to poststructural theory moved through the international academy with far-reaching implications for research in the humanities and social sciences. Rooted in the social movements of the 1960s and new realities wrought by globalising change, the analytical promise of the poststructural shift challenged prevailing norms - the foundations of scientific practice, the nation-state institution, racial categories, and modernisation theory - to address power relations that limited social change.

Its acceptance has widely transformed university curricula and research priorities, yet the geographical diffusion of this poststructural revolution has been uneven, uneven within universities, among universities within national academies, and globally in the international academy. While it has linked scholarship in the industrialised world with postcolonial worlds, yielding unprecedented arcs of knowledge formation, its encounter with China, given the predicaments of China's twentieth century history, has been tentative and incomplete.

Now, China's national project to vault universities into world rankings is leading to questions about the commensurabilities of knowledge formation in the international academy, questions with implications for research design and publication and the future of scholarly practice. This talk introduces these issues from perspectives in geographical thought to consider how contemporary ideas in human geography travel in the scholarship on cities, regions and processes of territorialisation in contemporary China.

Image for Carolyn Cartier lecture

Professor Carolyn Cartier is an urban geographer and research designer working in social theory and China Studies. Her research program concerns understanding the process of urban development in China and Hong Kong from perspectives on spatial transformation behind the spectacle of rapid growth. Her work gives particular attention to the uses of theoretical geography for research on cities and regions in China and the complexities of research practise with neoliberalisation of the international academy.

Professor of Human Geography and China Studies in the China Research Centre at the University of Technology, Sydney, Carolyn Cartier was a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California before joining the Australian academy in 2009. She has been a Fulbright Fellow and is the author of Globalizing South China and co-editor of Chinese Diaspora: Place, Space, Mobility and Identity and Seductions of Place: Geographical Perspectives on Globalization and Touristed Landscapes. She is also an Adjunct Research Director for the China Urban theme at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.