Winter 2017


February 22nd, 4:45-6PM: Patricia Chen, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology

Abstract: Talk of Rights: The Rise and Fall of Collective Bargaining in Southern China.  I consider how worker-led collective bargaining has been implemented. Little institutional infrastructure exists to support workers in collective bargaining and there is little reason for management to voluntarily submit to such negotiations with workers. The ability of workers to put worker-led collective bargaining into practice, then, would appear to be extremely unlikely. Yet there are a number of instances in which workers were able to bring management to the bargaining table and resolved their disputes. I analyze two cases of successful bargaining in 2012 and 2013. In first case, the implementation of collective bargaining required civil society actors and local state actors to cooperate in a contentious symbiosis. As well, workers and activists did not parrot state discourse promoting social harmony or individualized legal rights, but rather used frames that explicitly recognized their conflict with management’s interests and the need for collective solidarity to pressure the state into providing assistance. In the second case, workers used street protests to pressure state actors to intervene on their behalf.

March 15: Zhizhou (Leo) Wang, Grotius Research Scholar, Law School. Meeting at  4-6PM, SSWB 1644.

Abstract: as the Chinese economy slows down, corporate bankruptcies are surging. However, this is not the first time the national bankruptcy docket expanded dramatically due to economic woes. About two decades ago when the Chinese economy experienced a painful transition, a steep climb of corporate bankruptcy cases was also seen. Despite the similarities of the two currents, the Chinese judiciary’s attitude towards bankruptcy differed significantly. During the previous bankruptcy wave, the Supreme People’s Court was highly concerned about insolvent firms swarming the court and struggled to lift the bar against commencing bankruptcy proceedings. In contrast, the Court today is a zealous promoter of the bankruptcy statute and is fostering unprecedented judicial activism in the Chinese bankruptcy regime. In this presentation, I attempt to account for the contrasting judicial attitudes towards bankruptcy and explore the reasons behind the recent change. Rejecting the temptation to understand the changing attitude as the Chinese judiciary’s immediate response to the reform call made by the ruling party in the face of a looming economic crisis, I argue that it is the result of a more internal mechanism within the judiciary where the court leaders assess the external pressure, consider the resources and capital the judiciary possesses, and weigh benefits against potential risks. In short, changing their attitude towards bankruptcy is a self-interested choice made by Chinese courts.

March 22nd: Angie Baecker, Ph.D. candidate in ALC School of Social Work Building 2609 at 4-6PM.

In this presentation, I explore the figure of the barefoot doctor, paramedical workers installed at the village level across the P.R.C. from the late 1950s to early 1980s. Integrated into national policy beginning in 1968, barefoot doctors quickly became a storied feature of the socialist Chinese healthcare system, and depictions of them constituted a powerful cultural phenomenon of the time. Although previous scholarship has evaluated the success of the barefoot doctors as a feature of the national healthcare system, I focus on their representation in popular culture, examining literature, art, and films that depict them. In these works, I find that the barefoot doctor is situated in new cultures of labor and vocation that emerged during the Cultural Revolution out of on-going attempts to fuse mental and manual labor. I focus in particular on the 1975 films Hongyu and Chunmiao, each of which depict the transformation of a young peasant into a barefoot doctor. Through examination of these films, I ask, what are the entrenched cultural expectations for knowledge and authority in the revolutionary context, and how do the films construct medical and moral authority for their title characters? By exploring these questions, I hope to excavate the cultural logic of the period through the figure of the barefoot doctor, asking what were the culturally specific ways in which medicine, science, and authority were constructed during the Cultural Revolution.