SIGNIFYING THE LOCAL: MEDIA PRODUCTIONS RENDERED IN LOCAL LANGUAGES IN MAINLAND CHINA SINCE 2000
My dissertation examines recent cultural productions rendered in local languages in the fields of television, film, fiction, popular music, and the Internet in mainland China since 2000, when the new national language law prescribed the standard Putonghua Mandarin as the principal language for broadcast media and movies. My dissertation sets out to examine this unsettled tension and to explore the rhetorical use of local language in different fields of cultural production. In television, local language functions as a humorous and satirical mechanism to evoke laughter that can foster a sense of local community and assert the local as the site of distinctive cultural production. In film and fiction, local language serves as an important marker of marginality, allowing filmmakers and writers rhetorically to position themselves in the margins to criticize the center and to repudiate the ideologies of modernism. In popular music, increasingly mediated by the Internet, local language has been explored by the urban educated youth to articulate a distinct youth identity in their negotiation with a globalizing and cosmopolitan culture. Drawing on cultural and literary theories, media studies, sociolinguistics, and dialectology, my interdisciplinary research focuses its analysis on many important but overlooked issues. I explore at length the rhetorical use of local languages to represent ?the marginal and the unassimilated? in the underground and independent films of Jia Zhangke and others; I apply Bakhtin?s theory of folk humor to the ambiguous laughter evoked by Zhao Benshan?s comic sketches that are deeply rooted in the Northeast folk performing art Errenzhuan; I explain how the laughter wrought through the presence of local language in the regional TV shows can help foster a sense of local community. My research on the significance of locality also contributes to the study of globalization. If globalization is seen as homogenization and centralization, the local language texts assert the value of pluralism and diversity, and at the same time resist the dominance of both global and national cultural colonization. The burgeoning regional television shows rendered in local languages and the proliferation of the use of local languages on the Internet attest to the urgency of re-imagining a distinct local community for the local inhabitants in the increasing uncertainty of defining locality. Both the global, national cultures and the traditional, indigenous cultural resources are appropriated for self-definition and self-development. On the dialectics of the global and the local, the global and the local do not pose as cultural polarities, but are interpenetrating, interacting, and mutually signifying.
Chinese language and literature; Contemporary Chinese popular culture; Chinese dialects; Contemporary Chinese mass media
dissertation or thesis