Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Jennifer Rhee

Second Advisor

David Golumbia

Third Advisor

Calvin Hui

Fourth Advisor

Bob Paris

Fifth Advisor

Noah Simblist


This dissertation argues that the discourse of the historiography of Chinese media art is depoliticized and studies experimental ethnography and social practice, two forms of media art practices, to repoliticize the discourse by bringing the debates on ethnicity and social class back into its history. Combining art historical methods with ethnographic methods and reviewing the critiques of Foucauldian discourse analysis, recent scholarship on publicness, and the Chinese New Left theory, a strain of Marxism with influences from post-colonialism, post-structuralism, and cultural studies, the dissertation examines the origin and development of Chinese media art, particularly the “Image Movements in Hangzhou” (1980s-2000s), in the historical contexts of the traumas of the 1989 Tiananmen Incidents and the depoliticized politics after the postsocialist reforms when the Chinese Communist Party prioritized technological advancement, economic development, and social stability over political and ideological debates. The dissertation further argues that the primary purposes of the self-institutionalized and self-historicized discourse of Chinese media art, which prioritized technological and aesthetic aspects over sociopolitical implications, were to legitimize itself in both the global art institution and in the domestic official art system. To counter this impulse, the dissertation claims the ethnography in the Anthropocene through studying the practices of visual and sensory ethnography in relation to ethnic minorities in the China-Vietnam border area and conceives a new social imaginary of class across the new poor and new works through investigating their artistic, cultural, and social practices with media technologies.


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