Prof. Dr. Barbara Mittler
Tel.: (+49-6221) 54 77 65/ 74 87 / 76 38
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Welcome to this website which shall provide you with information on my life (curriculum vitae), works (publications), papers and talks (papers and talks) as well as one of my favourite pastimes (teaching materials). I have been a member of this Institute since 1994, first employed through a project sponsored by the German Research Foundation, later (since 1996) as an Assistant Professor, yet later again (since 1999) as an Associate Professor. Starting in October 2002, I was on research leave, originally for three years, on a Heisenberg Scholarship by the German Research Foundation. During this time, I was affiliated with the Institute of Chinese Studies and the Center for Gender Studies at Marburg University, as well as the Centre d'Etudes de la Chine moderne et contemporaine in Paris. Since the summer of 2004, I have been holding the Modern China Chair.
Once upon a time, I really wanted to become a practicing musician, which is why I wrote a dissertation dealing with Chinese avantgarde music (Dangerous Tunes: The Politics of Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China since 1949), photocopied a huge collection of New Chinese Music for the library of our Institute (C. C. Liu Collection) and continue to organize talks, concerts and conferences (Chime-Conference) concerned with music from China (Creative Couples - Transcultural Media, Creative Dissonances). A variation of my Habilitation Thesis (A Newspaper for China? Power, Identity and Change in Shanghai's News Media (1872-1912)) has been published by Harvard University Press' Asia Center Series. The book is based on an analysis of articles taken from a Shanghai newspaper, the Shenbao, founded in 1872 by an English businessman, Ernest Major. The book is an attempt to show how the foreign medium newspaper was transformed to fit the taste of its Chinese readerships, by incorporating the Chinese court gazette on its pages, by using authoritative quotations from the Chinese Classics, or by adapting Chinese literary forms, such as that of the zhiguai-xiaoshuo short story or the examination essay (baguwen). The book also addresses the question of the implied readerships of this newspaper by surveying the role of women and of the inhabitants of Shanghai. Finally, it asks whether or not this particular Shanghai newspaper, and many of the newspapers that followed in its wake, were indeed responsible for the development of a Chinese nationalism in Shanghai. The book thus questions the fundamental assumption reiterated since the publication of Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities that newspapers were indeed powerful agents in the formation of (Chinese) nationalism and the (Chinese) public sphere.
I have just completed a rewriting of the history of cultural production during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in a manuscript entitled A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture. It is generally assumed that the Cultural Revolution was nothing but a period of cultural stagnation. The 8 so-called model works (yangbanxi)--of which, indeed, there were 18 (cf. list of the 18 yangbanxi)--are taken as paradigmatic for the entirety of Cultural Revolution Culture (cf. my article "To be or not to be" , and Mittler 2003: Cultural Revolution Model Works and the Politics of Modernization in China: an Analysis of Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy The World of Music. Special Issue, Traditional Music and Composition 2003.2: 53-81 ). They are condemned as an aberration in terms of cultural development. And yet, the comfortable presumption that the Cultural Revolution was simply a distorted and atypical phase of political extremism, distinct from the years before and after that "unfortunate period," is misleading, most certainly as concerns artistic production. The yangbanxi are everything else but the product of an iconoclastic, and xenophobic era as which the Cultural Revolution is so often described. Instead, they are manifestations of a hybrid taste which calls for the transformation of Chinese tradition according to Western standards, a taste which for a century has led to the creation of a Chinese culture of Western imprint. The model works are thus not to be considered the perversion of the Maoist experiment of re-inventing a new, Chinese but revolutionary, culture, instead, they have their rightful place in a long series of attempted syntheses of Western and Chinese heritage. It is one of the aims of my book, as well as of an edited volume from a 2001 conference "Rethinking Cultural Revolution Culture" which is in its final stages now, to show that the model works and many of the other cultural products (such as poetry, short stories, novels, posters, songs, music, paintings, film) created accordingly during the Cultural Revolution are indeed much less a deviant than the norm of orthodox cultural production in revolutionary China.
See also: All Current Projects
One of the larger projects I am involved in recently, is a study of women's magazines in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan from their beginnings in the final years of the 19th century to the present day. The project is concerned with uncovering the changing meanings of two conspicuous figures in these magazines, the so-called new (wo)men. The project has involved a number of research seminars introducing and reading Chinese women's magazines (with a course taught in the summer of 2001 on Linglong and in the summer of 2003 on women's magazines in the Republic, and another on women's magazines since the late Qing, co-taught with Zhu Junzhou in the summer 2009, see Website on women's magazines, as well as courses on Zhongguo Funü 2007 and on contemporary women's magazines in the winter of 2004/05). The project has recently been awarded a TransCOOP-Award by the Humboldt Foundation and is now conducted together with with Prof. Joan Judge at York University and Prof. Grace Fong at McGill University under the title "A New Approach to the Popular Press in China: Gender and Cultural Production, 1904-1937". A relational database has come into being under the auspices of the Cluster ( women's magazine database).
I am also engaged in a number of smaller endeavours, as part of the DFG research group Monies, Markets and Finance, and as part of a project within the Laboratoire Europe'en Associe' dealing with the writing of visual history ( Visual Cultures in East Asia). Within the cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe, Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows", I am speaker of Research Area B "Public Spheres" and engaged in a number of projects, from the discourse of large dams, to satire, global musics, nationalisms, visuality, heroes and encyclopedias (Staff page at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia & Europe in a Global Context"). For more Information take a look at the list of my current and past projects.
Please visit the Taiwan Lecture Series.