Industrial Polyphony: Voices and Sounds in the Poetry of Contemporary China's Worker

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Thursday, May 9, 2024
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche Hall 10383

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If for one moment we “forget” about what Covid-19 has meant and still means for the whole world, and we let our gaze focus on images of China of the very early Eighties, when Deng Xiaoping’s reform of the economy was still mostly on paper, it will be enough to then turn the look to images of the 21st century’s China to experience a kind of visual displacement. In a span of time considerably short if seen against the background of History, China has been capable to accomplish something like a full rotation and completely transform not only its appearance. On this talk, I shall not propose an analysis of the extent to which this transformation has taken place, but I shall try to describe what this process has meant for those who have been engaged on the front lines of these changes, but who do not usually appear: the Chinese workers. Interestingly enough, they make use of the most traditional means of expression in China, poetry, to give shape to their existential condition. Through their poetry, we learn about their aspirations, their suffering, and finally their disillusionment, but we also learn about their villages, about their families, about their way of thinking. When looking at their experience as something just concerning China, the risk is there to follow a narrative of peculiarity and to miss the resonances that the industrial polyphony, as played by the contemporary Chinese workers, produces with the workshops of other factories of other workers.

Giuseppa Tamburello, Associate Professor, Chinese Language and Literature, Department of Humanities, University of Palermo, Italy. Over the years, Giuseppa Tamburello has been busy establishing the Chinese studies sections both of the University of Lecce (now, Università del Salento) in 1997 and of the University of Palermo, her hometown, in 2006 and she is glad to see both of them growing. She has also been teaching at the University of Macerata. Since 2016, she is also visiting professor at Capital Normal University in Beijing, and at Sichuan University in Chengdu. Her research focus, that was mostly on modern and contemporary Chinese short stories, has progressively moved towards modern and contemporary Chinese poetry. About her research interests, she has written and published papers in Italian, English, French and Chinese. Among her most recent publications: Words in Poetry: Early and Late Poems by Haizi in Josefa Ros Velasco (ed.), The Contemporary Writer and Their Suicide, Springer, 2023 and Lavoratori migranti poeti della Cina contemporanea. Poesie (Migrant Workers, Poets of Contemporary China. Poems), Aracne, 2023. Currently, she is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Chinese studies of UC Berkeley.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies