Working the field: career pathways amongst artists and writers in Shanghai

Xin Gu, Justin O'Connor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


This chapter explores the social space available for creative subjects in China, based on interviews with artists and writers in Shanghai. We argue that the space for creative autonomy is configured differently in China to the way it is presented within Western creative labour studies. Autonomy in China rests on a sense of serving the public good rather than on Romanticism’s free creativity, and links to a state project are long-standing. Building on Bourdieu’s notion of the creative field, we suggest that the state adds a distinct parallel polarity to that of restricted versus commercial production. Outside of both commerce and state-sanctioned art there is a very precarious space of independent cultural activity, less to do with censorship than the absence of a socially sanctioned space for an ‘artistic’ subject.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPathways into creative working lives
EditorsStephanie Taylor, Susan Luckman
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic) 9783030382469
ISBN (Print)9783030382452
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameCreating Working Lives
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • Cultural labour
  • creative economy
  • Bourdieusian
  • creative autonomy
  • cultural field
  • Chinese artists
  • Literary studies
  • creative subjectivity
  • creative work

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