Visiting professor at Maison des Sciences Humaines de l’ULB

October 5 and 6, 2017, I will be a visiting professor at The Université libre de Bruxelles, the Maison des Sciences Humaines, where I will teach on Chinese youth cultures, drawing on my book with Anthony Fung.

No Time to Waste – Chinese Youth and the Politics of Precarity


China’s ambition to become a creative and innovative nation, at the forefront of global digital cultures, is rapidly producing a creative class. This class, like their peers elsewhere, meets in hip café’s to work with their Apple laptops on yet the newest startup and they gather in factories that are turned into creative districts to curate an exhibition (cf. Keane). While being based in China, their lifestyle resonates clearly with the creative class elsewhere in the world. In current debates, this class is often considered the new precariat, the young people that suffer from intense neoliberalization, with freedom and self-expression being the new opium that estranges them from issues like labor rights and income security (cf McRobbie, Standing). In a place where neoliberalism is merely an exception rather than the rule (cf. Ong), how does this new precariat navigate everyday life, what are their creative aspirations? How do they talk back towards notions of being young, of being precarious, of being creative, and of being Chinese? In my talk I will show how in the context of China precarity also entails an ethics of possibility (cf. Appadurai), offering lines of flight out of hegemonic notions of creativity, notions that value individual talent and unique inspiration. I will focus in particular on contemporary Chinese urban youth, drawing on fieldwork in Beijing over the past years.