Mai Corlin, "The Bishan Commune and the Practice of Socially Engaged Art in Rural China" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)


On the podcast today, I am joined by Mai Corlin, who is external researcher at the department of cross-cultural and regional studies in the University of Copenhagen. Mai will be talking about her new book, The Bishan Commune and the Practice of Socially Engaged Art in Rural China (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

Mai’s book examines the new rural reconstruction movement in Bishan village, Anhui province. She uses the Bishan Commune as a case study to explore the ways that art and culture can revive regional economies. The book´s focus is the socially engaged art projects in the Chinese countryside, with the artists and intellectuals who are involved, the villagers they meet and the local authorities with whom they negotiate. In recent years an increasing number of urban artists have turned towards the countryside in an attempt to revive rural areas perceived to be in a crisis. The vantage point of this book is the Bishan Commune. In 2010, Ou Ning drafted a notebook entitled Bishan Commune: How to Start Your Own Utopia. The notebook presents a utopian ideal of life based on anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s idea of mutual aid. In 2011 the Commune was established in Bishan Village in Anhui Province. The main questions of this book thus revolve around how an anarchist, utopian community unfolds to the backdrop of the political, social and historical landscape of rural China, or more directly: How do you start your own utopia in the Chinese countryside?

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Suvi Rautio

Dr. Suvi Rautio is an anthropologist of China.

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