Guobin Yang | Regulating the Chinese Internet in the Name of Civility

Censorship in the name of civility or civilization is a common practice in the history of media and speech expression. Why the language of civility has become especially prevalent in Chinese official discourse about the internet in recent years, however, invites scrutiny. In appearance, this discourse of civility is used to curb allegedly uncivil online behavior. Closer examination reveals that civility is the linchpin concept of an emerging institution of censorship and control. After tracing the origins and evolution of this discourse, this talk examines how a set of pedagogies of civility is developed and applied to the management of online speech, what these pedagogies teach and who teaches them, what they attempt to mask, and how they may be subverted. It is argued that the effects of these pedagogies derive less from civility as a virtue than civility as an institution of power. In this respect, the discourse of civility bears strong affinity to the discourse of tolerance studied by Wendy Brown.

YangGuobin Yang
Professor of Communication and Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
University of California, Davis School of Law, King Hall Rm 1301

Guobin Yang is Associate Professor of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication and Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a faculty member of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China and Center for East Asian Studies. His research areas cover digital media, political communication, global communication, social movements, cultural sociology, and the sociology of China.

Professor Yang’s books include China’s Contested Internet (2015), The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Columbia University Press, 2009  winner of the best book award of the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010), Violence, Dissent, and Memory: China’s Red Guard Generation, 1966-2016 (under contract, Columbia University Press), and Dragon-Carving and the Literary Mind (Library of Chinese Classics in English Translation, Beijing, 2003).

He received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Writing and Research Grant” (2003), and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. (2003-2004). Previously he taught as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and as an associate professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College of Columbia University. He has a Ph.D. in English Literature with a specialty in Literary Translation from Beijing Foreign Studies University (1993) and a second Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University (2000).