Youth and Consumer Culture in China (GCHN-SHU 246)

How can a hamburger symbolize progress, an animated character provide comfort, and rock music define one’s identity? In this course we will study the role of consumer culture in the lives of Chinese youth, both today and in the past. By examining popular commodities including sneakers, coffee, backpacking, and celebrity idols, we will think about how young people use these things to find friendship and love, to seek success and happiness, and to define who they are. As we consider why people like particular commodities, we will learn about class, gender, ethnicity, and modernity in China. Reading about the history of commodities in China, we will consider what is new about consumer culture, and why people’s tastes change over time. Alongside studies of specific commodities, we will read key theoretical texts about shopping, advertising, media, identity, and fantasy: these texts will help us understand how commodities can be imbued with tremendous power to shape our desires and create our identities. During the semester, each student will conduct qualitative research about a commodity, including online research and offline interviews with people who buy and sell this commodity. At the end of the semester, we will gather your research together to produce a handbook of Chinese youth and consumer culture. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Fulfillment: CORE SSPC/IPC; GCS Elective: The Politics, Economy, and Environment of China; Social Science focus Anthropology 200 level.

Global China Studies (Undergraduate)
4 credits – 14 Weeks