Public Secrets, Public Spaces: Cinema and Civility in China

Stephanie Hemelryk Donald

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearchpeer-review


Cinema produces an imaginary space where audiences can make themselves visible in public, share ideas and criticisms, and establish their identity as part of a transitory but nonetheless satisfying cultural body. Public Secrets, Public Spaces explores the possibility of symbolic public space in the context of Chinese cinema. Focusing especially on women, children, and the dispossessed, Stephanie Donald looks at the ways public space is constructed and occupied, both in the Chinese cultural sphere and in the world of international audiences. Drawing on the debate over civil society, the author argues that traditional concepts of public sphere and civil society are unlikely to apply to contemporary China, yet there may be common elements that do move across and between cultural and political boundaries. Civility is one such element, built up of culturally specific virtues and relationships that form the public secrets of social survival. Public secrets are the unstated common-sense knowledges of everyday life, extraordinary to those who are not initiated into the routines of a particular cultural place and space. In traditional societies public secrets are organized through observable ritual, while in modern societies they are embedded in the cultural discourse of the routine and the everyday. As we see in this provocative book, film offers a rich medium for unearthing these secrets.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLanham MD USA
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
Number of pages224
ISBN (Print)9780847698769, 9780847698776
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

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