A Chinese History of Pornographic Modernity
This chapter documents the shaping power of everyday economic markets on cultural politics in China. It examines how sellers, producers, and consumers of sexual representations shifted the boundaries of what counts as erotically transgressive: in other words, which kinds of depictions of sexuality should be condemned and controlled. The chapter then asserts that, about a century ago, China and many other societies around the world entered a new and ongoing pornographic stage in the history of such boundary drawing. In China, this phase built on, but is distinct from, an earlier vocabulary of licentiousness. Ultimately, the chapter argues, from a Chinese empirical basis, that key early-twentieth-century changes in conceptions of eroticism around the world were at least as rooted in the activities of historically anonymous people making, selling, and buying depictions of desire and sexuality as they were generated by intellectual discourse, elite cultural production, and state initiatives around sexuality and media.
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