The novel Northern Girls (2004) written by Sheng Keyi, warrants consideration as avant-garde fiction, as it unravels new themes, new gendered identities, and new narratives in its own distinct way. However, Sheng has moved beyond the first generation of “avant-garde” writers in the PRC, in her portrayal of the vast army of rural migrant workers, known as the floating population (流动人口; liúdòng rénkǒu). While discussing the novel, the speaker will locate the work in the larger context of the political and socio-economic changes. Set against the backdrop of the reform and opening-up in China, Northern Girls is a strong critique of the Chinese government’s position on migrant workers, official policies, and issues pertaining to the reproductive rights of women. Sheng Keyi’s work is experimental and it not only challenges pre-conceived notions in the literary world, but it also pushes the boundaries of the norm or the status quo. Northern Girls defies and challenges the dominant, ever-more authoritarian party-state that tightly controls the production of “creative writing.”
About the Speaker
Snigdha Konar is a Research Associate at the Institute of Chinese Studies. She holds a PhD from the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies at the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University. She was a recipient of the Chinese Government Scholarship 2015-2016 (MHRD, Govt of India) and completed a Certificate Course in Chinese Studies Research and a Certificate Course in Advanced Chinese from the Beijing Language and Culture University. Her research interests include Chinese language and literature, gender and social issues. She has written an article, “Gender, Language and Representation: A Study of Chinese Language” for an edited volume titled, Gender in Language and Expression (Routledge, forthcoming).
About the Chair
Manju Rani Hara is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her doctoral thesis was on Literary Activism in China in the 1980s and 1990s: A Case Study of Wang Anyi and Wang Shuo. Her research interests are modern and contemporary Chinese literature, Chinese society and culture, gender relations and Chinese media.
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