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Images of Tibet in Chinese Popular Culture (Arbeitstitel)


Betreuer: Prof. Dr. Klaus Mühlhahn

Tibet appears in Chinese popular culture in numerous shapes: as the location of events in novels and movies, as the site of news or as a travel destination, as a culture informing the happenings of fictional stories and documentaries. Whether on the screen, in print, or on posters, the province has served as a projection platform for political ideologies and escapist fantasies.

Yü (2015), Dodin and Räther (2001), and Karan (1981) have studied Tibet as a projection screen for western fantasies (Dodin and Räther) Chinese propaganda (Karan). Attention has been paid to the western fascination with Tibet (Anand 2008, Bishop 1999, Neuhaus 2012, Chen 2009, etc.) as well as the Tibet fever gripping the People’s Republic in the early 1990ies (Shen 2010 & 2015). Similarly, numerous academics looked at the portrayal of Tibet in the media. Geng and Guo (2015), Kou (2007), and Abramson (1998) researched the Tibet image produced in Hollywood, while He (2014), Herberer (2001), Kolås (1998), and Wei-Min Lee (2010) paid attention to the Chinese media.

Images in popular culture may be transmitted through text, spoken messages, moving or still pictures, music, and a variety of other modes that often rely on codes and symbols requiring specific cultural knowledge to be understood. Poster, book covers, or comparable materials combining text and image summarize central messages and themes of movies and books (but also television episodes and newsmagazines), while simultaneously seeking to fulfill their function as an advertisement form. This project looks to study these images and their signage, to deconstruct the communication strategies used in these images in regards to Tibet, and to analyze the relations between the modes and icons represented.