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Latham, Kevin (2016) 'Differentiating Cynicisms: Irony, cynicism and new media in contemporary China.' In: Steinmüller, Hans and Brandtstädter, Susanne, (eds.), Irony, Cynicism and the Chinese State. London: Routledge, pp. 155-173. (Routledge Contemporary China Series)

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In this chapter, I will argue that cynicisms of different kinds have played a crucial role in shaping Internet use and regulation in China but that such cynicisms also rely upon the deployment of irony as a device that makes the expression of cynicism possible. We find that irony is often the by-product of cynical understandings and practices of Internet use, creative production for Internet and the regulatory practices that constitute it. What is more, once we understand this point we can also come to realise why often-asked questions of democratisation associated with the Internet are out of place in the Chinese context. To start this exploration we need to consider the relation between cynicism and irony – a theme to be developed throughout this paper. Drawing upon the work of Edmund Burke, Steinmüller leads us to a useful distinction between irony and cynicism, although he also acknowledges that we are often dealing more with a spectrum of related and overlapping practices rather than clearly defined or delineated categories: [W]hile cynicism refers to various perspectives, it is obvious to those who understand that one perspective is favoured and the other one dismissed. If irony tends towards an ‘as-well-as’ logic, cynicism tends towards an ‘either-or’ logic. While irony implies openness and a productive tension, cynicism implies closure and denial.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: China, media, internet, cynicism, irony
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISBN: 9781138943148
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 17 May 2016 17:18

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