Shredding for the Motherland: The Guitar in China

James A. Millward, Professor, Department of History,Georgetown University

The guitar is, arguably, the most popular musical instrument today, in China as elsewhere in the world.  China now produces most of the world's guitars.  Yet guitar-playing, in either popular or art music genres, came to China only within the past few decades.  In the early 20th century it appeared in jazz clubs or as props for Modern Girl pin-ups, but for reasons relating to its Western, romantic and bohemian associations the guitar remained little known beyond Shanghai and Guangzhou, was banned during the Cultural Revolution, even while it flourished in the Soviet Union through similar political epochs.  In the late 20th century the guitar reemerged in China and its iconography has largely realigned with global meanings, yet it remains a transculturated object, its complicated semiotics reflecting China's evolving self-image and place in the world.

James A. Millward (BA. Harvard 1982; M.A. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1985; Ph.D. Stanford 1993) is Professor of Intersocietal History at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, where he teaches Asian and world history. His research focuses on the modern history of Chinese frontiers with Inner and Central Asia, including Mongolia, Tibet and especially Xinjiang; he also researches global and silk road musical exchanges. Millward's publications include Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864 (Stanford, 1998), New Qing Imperial History: The Manchu Summer Palace at Chengde (RoutledgeCurzon 2004), and Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (Columbia, 2007).

Thursday, December 08, 2011 | 4:15 pm — 5:30 pm
Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

Center for East Asian Studies