Lunch Series Talk Friday, September 24 @12pm
Join at 12pm on September 24 for Chun-Yi Sum’s discussion “Politics of indifference: Mourning Wang Yue in late-socialist China.”
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This talk examines the changing sociological meaning of indifference in urban China after the tragic death of a two-year old girl in a road accident in 2011. My analysis suggests that, in China where the political state had tried to claim credit for all altruistic behaviors, anxiety about indifference allowed citizens to sidestep socialist ethics in conversations about civic mobilization. University students used the language of feeling and mourning to reinvent the protagonist, culprit, and victim in the accident, thereby developing new rationales for committing good deeds without acknowledging the moral leadership of the state. As opposed to the standard association of indifference with civic disengagement and social disintegration, this essay suggests that indifference has civic potential to connect. Like skepticism, cynicism, and disappointment that people might develop in response to the genre of socialist heroism, indifference could anchor civic articulation of alternative futures that were yet to take shape.
Chun-Yi Sum is Lecturer of Social Sciences at Boston University’s College of General Studies. She is also Book Review Editor of Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Dr. Sum’s research examines changing understandings about moral personhood and responsible citizenship in contemporary China. She works with both elite university students in the urban south and Mosuo (Na) youth in China’s southwestern borderlands to investigate how expressions of national belonging and civic participation evolve in the late-socialist economy.