Seminar: Dr Meng Ren (Newcastle University)

Dr Meng Ren
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - 16:00
Bewegung Room, Logic House

Title: From American ‘Paper Tiger’ to Chinese ‘Mulan’: Chinese Performing Arts during the Korean War 
The Korean War (1950-53) was the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s first international crisis after its establishment in 1949. During the war, the Chinese government adopted various forms of propaganda to construct a specific political culture to unite the people for the purpose of building the “New China” while facing both domestic and international crises. Chinese performing arts were a crucial part of this political culture. This talk draws on work in progress as well as previous examinations of selected genres of Chinese performing arts during the Korean War, namely crosstalk (or comic dialog), revolutionary song, and regional opera, as they represent the wartime propagandistic strategies pertaining to Chinese political culture that transformed the nation into a propaganda state in the early 1950s. Through archival research of historical documents and ethnographic interviews of oral history, my study explores how the new government strategically shaped Chinese performing arts to consolidate its power while cultivating a collective spirit of self-sacrifice among the general population. With a case study of Mulan in Chinese opera, my paper also traces the changing significance of the Mulan story in twentieth-century China, since the story acts as a barometer for the cultural and political climate at the time of its production.
Dr Meng Ren is currently a Leverhulme Fellow and lecturer of ethnomusicology at the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University. Having previously obtained his BA in German and Music and his MA in Musicology at NUI Maynooth/Maynooth University, Meng received his PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2019, alongside with a PhD Certificate in Culture Studies and Graduate Certificates in Advanced Asian Studies, Global Studies, and West European Studies. He also holds a master’s degree in international higher education from New York University. Dr Ren has previously taught and worked in student advising at the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, Long Island University, and University of Glasgow. As a multilingual ethnomusicologist, Meng has conducted funded fieldwork in China, Taiwan, the United States, and Colombia. His research expertise and interests include politics and identities in music making, sound and emotion, multiculturalism, Chinese performing arts, and intangible cultural heritage. His most recent publication will be a chapter ‘the Aesthetic Politics of Western Sounds in Chinese Opera’ in an edited volume Sound, Noise and the Everyday: Soundscapes in China (Peter Lang Publishing, 2024). Dr Ren’s projects received several prestigious grants including the Andrew Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, and the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.