Rise of China’s Culture Industries

A new book by Professor Lily Chumley examines the emergence of China’s creative economy as “culture workers,” tasked with developing new imaginaries to stimulate consumption in the post-socialist marketplace, burst onto the art, design, film, architecture, fashion, and advertising scene. In Creativity Class: Art School and Culture Work in Postsocialist China (Princeton University Press), Chumley traces thirty years of state efforts to cultivate these culture industries. Interventions in higher education, urban planning, and public discourse, demonstrate the Chinese government's role in shaping new forms of creative labor and aesthetic commodities.

Chumley draws on years of fieldwork in China's premier art schools, seeking to understand the elaborate "performance of creativity" and the value produced through innovation. The book includes ethnography, oral histories, and analyses of contemporary Chinese art, popular media, and propaganda.

Read the first chapter of Creativity Class online.

Watch a short video produced by the Asia Society, in which Lily Chumley speaks about the role occupied by Chinese artists and designers in relation to the state.

Lily Chumley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, Steinhardt. She is an anthropologist with interest in semiotics and political economy, and has active research projects on education, the culture industries, and consumer finance in China. Her book, Creativity Class: Art School and Culture Work in Postsocialist China, is based on over two years of fieldwork in Chinese art institutes and test-prep schools supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The book is based on a dissertation that won the Richard Saller Prize Prize for the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. She has published papers in Anthropological Quarterly and Anthropological Theory. She is co-organizer of the working group Oikos: Gender, Kinship, Money, Economy at the Institute for Public Knowledge.