Chinese Urban Shi-nema: Cinematicity, Society, and Millennial China



Fleming DH & Harrison S (2020) Chinese Urban Shi-nema: Cinematicity, Society, and Millennial China. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chinese Urban Shi-nema is an interdisciplinary study that dives into what has been called the mise-en-scene of Capitalism’s Second Coming in China to examine what becomes of Chinese societies, cities, and subjectivities during an unprecedented period of urban and economic growth, as new forms of consumption culture also bed in. Setting itself in the wake of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo, this monograph uses a series of case studies from within a Chinese city, Ningbo, to illuminate how contemporary life in China has undergone and continues to experience a series of radical changes and transformations (at different levels of socio-political organization and action – ranging from the subjective, civic and social, to political and national). The city of Ningbo is used as part of a pars pro toto approach, using local studies into real-estate showrooms, a international prize-winning history museum, a Sino-foreign university campus, and modern lifestyle apartments and malls--to cast light on the broader network of social, cultural, technological and political changes that are sweeping up greater China today. As per our title, to help conceptualise such complex phenomena we engineer an original encounter between the Chinese concept of shi (势) – described by sinologist philosopher François Julien as the “inherent potentiality at work in configuration” – and that of contemporary urban cinema and “cinematicty” – a line of interdisciplinary work that gravitates around the liminal space situated in-between the cinema and the city, the city and the cinema. In each of the chapters the concrete urban arrangements we examine are compared to, and put into critical dialogue with, contemporaneous cinematic examples. Blending the philosophical with empirical data, each case study also marshals ethnographic material collected between 2008 and 2017 in Ningbo, to illuminate how China’s embrace of capitalism and opening up to global consumer flows and practices shapes modern Chinese life, cities, and subjectivities.

Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online01/12/2020
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publisher URL
Place of publicationLondon

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Dr David Fleming
Dr David Fleming

Senior Lecturer, Communications, Media and Culture