National Movements: Socialist Postcoloniality and the Making of Chinese Dance


ACLS Fellowship Program


Asian Languages and Cultures


Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the central problem of Chinese cultural modernity has been how to reconcile becoming modern with remaining Chinese. This project examines that problem in the making of modern Chinese dance, a movement that, the study argues, reflects modern China’s position at the intersection of socialism and postcoloniality. By showing how modern Chinese dance performs ethnic, national, and cultural identity from the 1930s to the early twenty-first century, the study places Chinese dance in the transnational contexts of socialist culture and decolonization. Based on ethnographic field research combined with performance analysis and historical documentary research, this project offers the first comprehensive English-language study of dance in the People's Republic of China. It asks: How can we understand Chinese dance as “national movement," in both the sense of art that contributes to nation-building and as a set of physical movements that give form to national culture?