Self and society in China under "Orwell 2.0"
In China today, neo-Orwellian state surveillance monitors everyone, tracking people by face recognition, DNA databases, AI-driven spying on all their communications, and much more. The presence of state power in everyday life has been realized far beyond anything previously seen on Earth. What is a "self" in this society, and what are the consequences for social science theories of the self? In this presentation I discuss these questions in light of both the fearsome spectacles of forced confessions, when prisoners are forced to self-present and self-incriminate on state TV with police-scripted confessions of personal depravity -- and also, the simultaneous development of a narcissistic cyberworld with self-streaming and all the rest, much like in the West. I also ask: Does the crowd enable the system, by going along with it? In this, I am inspired by Hannah Arendt's powerful reminder that Kafka, in Der Prozess, was writing as much about "K"s enabling friends, neighbors, and the crowd surrounding him, as about the inner doubts and torments of "K" the inidividual.
Magnus Fiskesjö's research spans ethno-politics and interethnic relations, archaeology, cultural heritage, museums and modernity in China. Among his recent publications are “The Return of the Show Trial: China's Televised ‘Confessions,’” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Volume 15, Issue 13, Number 1. (June 25, 2017).