Chinese pop culture course comes to Trinity in 2018

As students in a multicultural age, we are bombarded with media produced from all corners of the globe. This growing web of pop culture is by no means limited to the United States. A new course is coming to Trinity to analyze just how the cultural products of the world are affecting a different country: China.

China Pop in Globalization is an upper-division Special Topics in Communication Media course to be offered in the 2018 spring semester. The class will be led by Zhaoxi Liu, assistant professor of communication.

“The goal of this class is threefold,” Liu said. “First, to allow Trinity students to gain a deeper understanding of pop culture in China and also of the culture and society of today’s China in general. Second, the class intends to examine global influences on Chinese culture such as Hollywood, Bollywood, K-pop and J-pop. Amid all these global influences, did Chinese pop lose its Chinese identity? Third, the class aims at providing an in-depth case study of cultural globalization. Using Chinese pop as a specific case the class analyzes how indigenous and global cultural elements interact, how tradition and modernity negotiate and what globalization means for the culture of a centuries-old nation.”

While this course may seem more like a sociology seminar or an East Asian studies class than a communication course, Liu plans to emphasize the role of mass media in these concepts.

“The course focuses on mass media, their content and meaning. It is more of a cultural critique of media and cultural globalization as manifest in China,” Liu said. “Of course, it is very likely that some course material, such as some readings, will come from art, sociology and anthropology — which makes the course even more interesting due to such interdisciplinary aspects. But the main focus is still media messages and their meanings, which is an inquiry of communication studies.”

Liu was born and raised in Kunming, China and has worked as a journalist in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United States. Her research areas include the cultural meaning of news and mass media content, journalism as an occupation and a culture, comparative studies of journalism and mass media, as well as media systems and changes in China. Her interests and experiences were key to bringing this course into Trinity’s catalog.

“I offer this class mostly out of my own research interests. In addition, I have been teaching a First-Year Experience class, Being Young in Asia, which touches upon pop culture in China,” Liu said. “Students in that class were very interested in learning about Chinese pop culture. This new course would provide more through an extensive study of Chinese pop culture.”

Through study abroad summer programs in China, Liu has observed the enthusiasm Trinity students have for learning about Chinese culture. She believes there is a significant demand for a class that takes a deeper and broader look at pop culture outside of what is familiar here in the United States.

In terms of class structure, Liu moves from abstract concepts to more specific ones and from communication theories to concrete case studies.

“Students will read theoretical discussions about cultural globalization and then apply those ideas to analyze specific cases of China pop, such as TV drama, Chinese rock stars, Chinese movies, reality TV shows and even trends in Chinese food. That way, students gain theoretical guidance and analytical tools from the readings, but also get to survey some of the most prominent pop stars and media products in recent China,” Liu said.

While the course fulfills the media studies requirement for communication majors, Liu believes that anybody interested in Chinese culture or globalization will find this course fun, exciting and insightful.

“I hope students walk away with a new appreciation and deeper understanding of China’s pop culture which also helps them to understand Chinese culture in general, a better understanding of the process and dynamics of cultural globalization, and hopefully they also have a lot of fun,” Liu said.

China Pop in Culture, COMM 3325, will be offered Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30–3:45 p.m. during the spring 2018 semester.