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Research projects

Shaping the Meaning of Chinese Music Subcultures

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Sam de Boise

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Research environments

Yiren Zhao’s research project is called Shaping the Meaning of Chinese Music Subcultures. This project focuses on the music-centered subcultures in the Chinese context, including metal, rap, rock, and punk styles.

The project is motivated by gaps between dominant Anglo-American subcultural theories and present Chinese individuals’ practices. In terms of the communist ideologies, historical trajectories and drastic economic leap in the recent Chinese context, Chinese individuals’ practices have demonstrated the diversity and hybridity that cannot be fitted in the Anglo-American theoretical frameworks such as the CCCS or post-subcultural theories, and are incompatible with a cliche frame that only emphasizes the political resistance. Moreover, the existing subcultural theories are deficient to explain how music affects individuals in their subcultural participation and everyday life, as a dynamic medium, as well as an embodied and culturally emergent process. In this light, Yiren’s thesis is conducted around the phrase of Chinese music subcultures, namely employing a China-centered theoretical framework to examine how Chinese individuals practice and interpret their subcultural participation around music.

Considering the large size of the country of China, Yiren’s project chooses Beijing, the capital city, as the field. By interviewing participants of metal, rap, rock, and punk styles in Beijing, her purpose is to figure out what are the meanings attached to music subcultures in the Chinese context and how are these shaped. In detail, her study focuses on how the meanings participants attach to music subcultures are generated in the interplay between the socio-cultural Chinese context, their individual experiences and through the affective properties of the music they engage with. The research questions will therefore address:

-          How do music subcultural participants in Beijing understand their participation in music subcultures?

-          How are the meanings they attribute to their participation shaped by the broader Chinese context?

-          How does music specifically relate to participants’ involvement in music subcultures?

At last, this project provides theoretical conclusions in terms of the contextual constitutions, individual constitutions, and musical constitutions of Chinese music subcultures based on the empirical materials.

Phd student

Yiren Zhao,