Chinese Seminar Series: Taoism in Bits

02/02/2017, 12:00 - 13:00


A lecture with Professor Paul Bowman from the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, in a newly formed research cluster which welcomes Chinese New Year 2017 and showcases the Chinese research specialisms of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cardiff University.

This talk discusses the mid- to late twentieth century explosion in the circulation of ideas connected with Taoism and Zen (Chan) Buddhism in Western popular culture. It argues that the introduction of ostensibly Chinese (and Japanese) philosophical notions into Western contexts and consciousnesses was never a simple act of transparent cross-cultural communication, from East to West. Rather, it always involved huge imaginative leaps and complex processes of projection, translation and transformation. With reference to examples such as the hippy counterculture, the films and writings of Bruce Lee, the TV series Kung Fu, and others, the paper argues that Western popular cultural encounters with ideas, ideals and conceptual universes like those of Taoism were always ‘in bits’. However, it will insist that this is not a negative or bad thing, and that, in fact, thinking about the ways in which ideas and practices travel and how they transform, over time and place, across cultures and within cultures, can teach us a great deal about how culture and communication always ‘work’ – or don’t, and what we might make of such fragmentation and complexity.

Paul Bowman is a professor of cultural studies with specific interests and expertise in cultural theory. Paul started out with research into the intersections of ‘culture’ and ‘politics’, focusing on political theory and cultural theory. He later moved into the study of film, popular culture, East-West cultural encounters and post-colonial studies. He has recently been working to improve the development of the emergent field of martial arts studies, by publishing widely in the area, organising regular conferences and seminars, and establishing the academic journal Martial Arts Studies and the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. He is also an editor of a book series of martial arts studies research monographs.

In addition to working in martial arts studies, Paul is committed to interdisciplinary work in film, media and cultural studies. He has published widely in these areas, edited numerous journals, and is a founder and editor of JOMEC Journal. He also edited a cultural studies research monograph series called Disruptions, published by Rowman & Littlefield International.

He is committed to the open access sharing of academic research. To further this movement, he proposed the establishment of an open access press in 2012, and began working with key members of Cardiff University to institute a new university press. This has become Cardiff University Press, of which he currently acts as Editor-in-Chief.

He is on the editorial board or advisory panel of numerous journals of cultural studies, cultural theory, popular culture, martial arts studies, and embodied research. He currently teaches BA modules on film, cultural theory, martial arts and media culture, supervises MA dissertations on cross-cultural studies (with specific interest in East-West cultural communication), and PhDs on a range of areas, including film, gender, ethnicity, postcolonialism, globalisation, cultural identity and cultural politics. Within JOMEC, he is the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies and Director of the Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group.

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Glamorgan Council Chamber, Glamorgan Building
King Edward VII Avenue
CF10 3WT

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Chinese Seminar Series