Design Trust Seed Grant

Useless: Fashion, Media, and Consumer Culture in Contemporary China

My book draws on fiction film, documentary, and fashion design to track the emergence of middle-class and consumer culture in China’s encounter with global capitalism. The first part stages an analysis of a commodity chain of fashion involving production, consumption, and disposal on a transnational scale. The second part focuses on the representations of fashion and consumption in Chinese cinema in the 1960s (the socialist period), the 1980s (the economic reform period), and the 2000s (the globalization period). I argue that such visual representations can be regarded as a productive site for deciphering the symptoms of otherwise imperceptible political-economic, social, and historical contradictions of global China. Turning to the repressed undersides of consumption, the third part discusses production and labor, and disposal and waste. My book reorients our understanding of global Chinese culture, viewing it as underpinned by the contradictions in fashion design, media, and consumer culture.

About Calvin Hui

Calvin Hui is an Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies at the College of William and Mary (the second oldest college in the United States). In 2013, he received his PhD in Literature at Duke University. He also obtained graduate certificates in East Asian Studies and Feminist Studies. He is completing his first book manuscript, entitled Useless: Fashion, Media, and Consumer Culture in Contemporary China. His second book project focuses on contemporary China’s copycat (shanzhai) cultures. He also works on the Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s cinema, cultural Marxism, and critical theory. His peer-reviewed publications have appeared in Journal of Chinese Cinemas (2015), Verge: Studies of Global Asias (2016), and The Changing Landscape of China’s Consumerism (2014). His editor-reviewed publications have appeared in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Web Publications) (2018) and GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2018). He is an interdisciplinary scholar.