Ruling the Sichuan’s Stage: Reading China’s Sociocultural Transformation from the 18th to the 20th Century through the Perspective of Opera

In this presentation Dr Chabrowski will address three main themes developed in his recent book, Ruling the Stage: Social and Cultural History of Opera in Sichuan from the Qing to the People’s Republic of China (Brill, 2022). Firstly, he will discuss the changing social role of opera in Sichuan across the last two centuries, underlining its role in the (broadly conceived) social welfare of the rural and urban communities. Secondly, Dr Chabrowski will focus on the fundamental role of opera in transmitting ‘traditional’ culture into the modernizing urban environment of the early 20th century. Finally, he will address the question of the politics of controlling opera, which formed a part of the culture war that shaped modern China. The main point to be developed in the talk is that researching Chinese opera outside the fields of literary and musicological studies permits addressing some key issues in the history of this country. They include such problems as the transformation of communities and their cultures, the expansion of market economies, the transmission of cultural imaginations and self-perceptions, the restructuring of religious life, the changing power relations between the government and the society, and the culture conflicts that underwrite the modern Chinese statehood.

Igor Iwo Chabrowski (PhD, 2013, the European University Institute, Department of History and Civilization) is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of History, University of Warsaw (since 2018). Previously he worked at the University of Oxford (2013-14) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2015-18).