Speaking Truth to Power: Parrhesia and Perceptions of the Russo-Ukrainian War in Chinese Online Poetry and Visual Narratives, 2022-Present (81394)

Session Information:

Session: On Demand
Room: Virtual Video Presentation
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin felt confident in Xi Jinping’s support, cemented by pledges of a ‘no-limits friendship’. While the world looked to China for a resolution to the crisis, China’s official media touted Russian propaganda in their coverage of the war while censoring Ukrainian news and pro-Ukrainian perspectives. Despite the risks, Chinese artists, poets and netizens have been exploring the new social media as alternative avenues for creativity to express their views, posting visual art and literature such as poetry, painting and photography in support of Ukraine. This talk will analyse selected works to discover how they ‘speak truth to power’. The Euripidean concept of parrhesia, ‘speaking truth to power’—or literally ‘saying everything one has in mind’—denotes freedom of expression, transparency, duty, idle talk and gossip. Foucault (1983) has pointed out that truth-tellers face risk or danger but feel bound by duty to muster the courage and ‘speak truth to power’. Here I argue that China’s vernacular culture draws on its indigenous tradition of parrhesia, celebrating freedom of expression in visual or literary narratives, fuelled by the storytellers’ sense of duty to their country to ‘speak truth to power’. In the time-honoured tradition of the xiaoshuo—originally meaning small talk or gossip—the new artists and authors brave the risks to use social media as vehicles of expression for their indirect yet scathing critiques of power.

Daria Berg, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland
Qian Cui, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland

About the Presenter(s)
Daria Berg (D.Phil. Oxford) is Chair Professor (Ordinaria) of Chinese Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She has published extensively on Chinese visual art, literature, popular culture and cultural history.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00