The Good Life in Late Socialist Asia: Aspirations, Politics and Possibilities
Date: 16 - 18 September 2019
Convenors: Minh Nguyen (Bielefeld, GER), Phill Wilcox (Bielefeld, GER)
In mid-September 2019, 40 scholars from universities in ten countries came together in Bielefeld to consider societal changes across Vietnam, Laos and China. The workshop aimed to bring scholars together to think about societal changes all across these three examples of late socialism, asking what ideas of the good life mean and how these are negotiated, lived and performed in daily life. Part of the rationale for the event was to consider how the replacement of central planning with marketisation across the economies of these three countries have moved emphasis from socialist promises of universal care and prosperity through work to ideas of well-being and prosperity as individual priorities in contemporary life.
Li Zhang from UC Davis began the conference with an excellent keynote speech entitled 'In Search of the Good Life in China and Beyond'. This set the tone for the following three days, in which participants listened to 28 papers over nine panels. The idea that the good life is a matter of struggle, of process and the desire for what is deemed a better life was demonstrated clearly across all the different contexts. These considered different themes of life across late socialist Asia. Topics included papers on infrastructure, environment, family life, youth, mobility, governance, religion and consumption.
All the papers demonstrated some clear similarities both thematically and in context, which are perhaps unsurprising in countries that have certain structural features in common. Simultaneously, the papers also demonstrated differences in how people negotiate the changing landscapes and contexts around them and are shaped by societal changes. Each panel received detailed comments and feedback from expert discussants and were chaired efficiently. It was particularly positive to see so many staff members from Bielefeld University offering their services as session chairs. Papers were followed by stimulating questions and answers, and discussions often continued well after the end of sessions and into breaks.
The workshop coincided with the launch of the new ERC Project led by Minh Nguyen entitled 'Welfare Struggles', and the second day concluded with a special session by the new staff team who will work on this project. Research for this project will take place in China and Vietnam, and this forum also allowed the research team to make valuable connections for future fieldwork.
The very final session of the Good Life Workshop allowed the convenors to outline initial ideas for publications following the event. At the time of writing this report, plans are ongoing for the publication of papers from the workshop as special issues in two journals.
Minh Nguyen, Phill Wilcox
Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer
Ruth Ayaß (Bielefeld, GER), Ian Baird (Madison, USA), Susanne Ellen Brandstädter (Köln, GER), Charlotte Bruckermann (Bergen, NOR), Boqing Cheng (Nanjing, Jiangsu, CHN), Annuska Derks (Zürich, SUI), Elizabeth Elliott (Vientiane, LAO), Kirsten Endres (Halle (Saale), GER), I-Chieh Fang (Hsinchu, TPE), Jiazhi Fengjiang (London, GBR), Jun He (Kunming, CHN), Ėva Rozália Hölzle (Bielefeld, GER), Roy Huijsmans (The Hague, NED), Alexandra Kaasch (Bielefeld, GER), Anna Maria Katz (Bielefeld, GER), Andrew Byron Kipnis (Hong Kong, HKG), Michael Kleinod (Bonn, GER), Sandra Kurfürst (Köln, GER), Wensi Lan (Kunming, Yunnan, CHN), Zhinong Li (Kunming, Yunnan, CHN), Jake Lin (Bielefeld, GER), Hy Van Luong (Toronto, CAN), Ngoc Luong (Bielefeld, GER), Marius Meinhof (Dresden, GER), Duc Loc Nguyen (Ho Chi Minh City, VIE), Giang Nguyen-Thu (Philadelphia, USA), Pál NyÍri (Amsterdam, NED), Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (Bielefeld, GER), Jonathan Rigg (Bristol, GBR), Seb Rumsby (Coventry, GBR), Guido Sprenger (Heidelberg, GER), Oliver Tappe (Köln, GER), Yueran Tian (Bielefeld, GER), Ruijing Wang (Shapingba, Chongqing, CHN), Zhenwei Wang (Bielefeld, GER), Lan Wei (Shanghai City, CHN), Roberta Zavoretti (Köln, GER), Fan Zhang (Beijing, CHN), Li Zhang (Davis, USA), Peiqin Zhou (Nanjing, Jiangsu, CHN)