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Traditional opera consumption as the new game of distinction for the Chinese middle class

Ma, Haili 2019. Traditional opera consumption as the new game of distinction for the Chinese middle class. International Journal of Cultural Studies 22 (3) , pp. 400-416. 10.1177/1367877918759711

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Utilizing theories of Becker’s art worlds, Veblen’s conspicuous consumption and Bourdieu’s capital forms, this article critically examines the formation of a new art world of the traditional Chinese opera Kunqu, with university students turned middle class as identified consumers. It argues that the art world has been developed through the innovation of artists working within the tight ideological control of the market. Only artists who support party-state ideological evolution, allowing access to ‘central bank’ capital in the forms of university curriculum, opera house and land use, may continue to experiment and innovate before a new audience taste is nurtured and a new art world is developed. This paper suggests that the rise of Kunqu reflects the political castration of the new millennium Chinese middle class, with their value and identity resting on a fantasized historical leisure class distinction and associated conspicuous consumption. The establishment of a new Kunqu art world exemplifies the characteristics of the Chinese art market, which is developed under party-state ‘central bank’ monopoly, for continued Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideological evolution and legitimacy.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1367-8779
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 January 2018
Date of Acceptance: 26 January 2018
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2020 21:34

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