, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 71–84 | Cite as

The reproduction of Benjamin’s theory of mechanical reproduction of art in China

  • Guo-Hua ZhuEmail author


This essay argues that Edward Said’s idea of “traveling theory” cannot form the argumentative basis for all theories due to its consideration of the exclusive phenomenon of creative variation in the traveling of theories. The author suggests studying the reception of Benjamin’s idea of the art of mechanical reproduction in China through an investigation of how the inertia of cultural traditions and political moods cooperate to form the receptive conditions. This essay contends that this process of reception can be roughly divided into two phases: the characteristic of the first phase is depoliticization, and that of the second phase is academicization. Based on different social and historical circumstances, the author points out that when Benjamin’s theoretical construction is read in a depoliticized way, it simply means a political strategy of passive resistance; when his political content attracts people’s attention, the way of talking about politics is already a depoliticized discursive practice, because as a balancing point of governmental interests and intellectuals’ interests, academic autonomy has already finished the transformation of academics’ political libido into academic libido, thus incorporating it into its own forces. To the author, if one correctly understands the reproduction of Benjamin’s theory in China in terms of an alternative political meaning, it would have a positive significance.


Traveling theory Benjamin Political/depoliticized reading China 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chinese Language and LiteratureEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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