Sustainable Chinese Aesthetics
Several years ago at an academic conference a colleague
declared that our research interests are born of trauma.
Despite an a≈nity for Jungian introspection, I dis-
missed this idea out of hand. The process of writing this
book made me reconsider. Did my adolescent experi-
ence of uprooting from my urban neighborhood com-
munity to a sterile new suburban development beg for
expression? Perhaps my renewed sense of community
while teaching in a Nanning work unit awakened an
earlier sense of loss. Did my intense identification with
the hopes and anguishes of the 1989 demonstrations
speak to something in the collective unconscious? Yet
there was more. This study was also galvanized by every-
day, but equally significant, experience: my ‘‘humanities-
deficient’’ engineering education, for example, and my
brief career in the automobile industry. I began to per-
ceive, however inchoately, flaws in Roger and Me trickle-
down economics and in bloated corporate business in-
terests. I observed colleagues at computers gleefully
tuned in to news reports, delighting in ‘‘Operation Des-
ert Storm,’’ the first major conflict involving the United
States since Vietnam. I sensed a parochial nationalism
and faith in pseudorationalism that eluded more press-
ing historical, cultural, and environmental questions.
Observing similar trends in Chinese society led to my
central research question: how is capitalist urban de-
velopment changing Chinese culture? What seemed
key to answering this question was the study of aes-
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