SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Taniguchi, Makiko (2006) Jackie Chan fights Lei Feng?: An anthropological consideration of the televisual representation of heroes in contemporary urban China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (14MB)


This thesis examines the discourse of heroes, and, particularly, articulatory practices involved in the televisual representation of heroes, in the changing context of contemporary urban China. Historically, the Chinese Communist Party has - like earlier Chinese regimes - actively promoted 'heroes' as exemplars of sanctioned politico-moral action. Especially during the 60s, the CCP sought to define and generate heroes as ideal 'socialist' subjects (e.g. Lei Feng). In the post-Mao era, massive social changes have resulted from the economic reforms, China's opening to the West, and the seemingly inexorable rise of commercialisation and consumerism. There is disenchantment with China's utopian socialist vision. We might suppose that communist heroes promoted by the state have been withdrawn from the spotlight, and replaced by popular figures who "represent the will of the people", sports or film stars (e.g. Jackie Chan). Television seems to have shifted from 'mouthpiece of the party' to competitor in the entertainment market, shaped by audience share and profitability. I problematise this narrative as overly simplistic in presupposing rupture between the pre- and postreform China. I also seek to provide an anthropologically-informed critique of approaches employed in media studies - how warranted are these approaches for a non-Westem context like China? My thesis involves more than a mechanical application of media studies to what I observed in more than two years fieldwork. Anthropological attention to television is innovative and, perhaps, 'trendy'. But television is an increasingly significant phenomenon in China. Watching television is the most popular leisure activity, and television continues to assume heightened importance in people's everyday lives. My research does not just concern how people watch and discuss television, for I participated in a television production course at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, and subsequently had direct experience of working in television production. Through positioning my research on television and heroes I have spoken to debates on the efficacy and partiality of ethnography. Thus, my apparently narrow focus has had as its ambition an anthropological (re-)consideration of: social changes in contemporary PRC; some approaches prevalent in media studies; and the aspects of fieldwork endeavour itself.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item