In this section, we publish brief pieces with core insights gained from our project(s) and ongoing deliberations by individual researchers about relevant concepts. We are expanding these thoughts in our previous and forthcoming publications too. Our intention in writing the READCHINA Interventions is to spark conversation and provoke thoughts, so we hope you enjoy reading them – and feel free to reach out to us with comments afterward!

01: What is a Reading Act?

Reading acts emphasize the event-like nature of reading. They are proposed as concept of research which focuses on the individual readers, groups of readers and the social, political, historical, intellectual, cultural and literary contexts under which readings take place; it also captures – if sources permit – to take the materiality of texts into the analysis.

02: Why Poach When You Can Wander?

The powerful metaphor of reading-as-poaching was proposed by Michel de Certeau as an alternative to the writing-reading dichotomy. The metaphor points to the appropriation of the text by the reader in opposition to the author, if necessary, by force. While the concept has proven highly inspiring, it bears today connotations that are hard to ignore. However, rather than discard is as a whole, we seek and explore a range of alternative ideas and metaphors both found in de Certeau's writings and proposed by us.

03: Chairman Mao’s Good Reader: Mise en abyme in The Diary of Lei Feng

Lei Feng is commonly known in China as a model soldier. To “learn from Lei Feng” meant to mold one’s own behavior on that of the model, to embody his spirit and do good oneself to the point of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Oftentimes, in visual media Lei Feng carries a rifle over his shoulder—and holds a copy of Mao Zedong’s Selected Works in his arm as his ideological weapon of sorts. This Intervention shows that reading figures prominently in the Lei Feng cult. The trope of reading is particularly powerful, as it creates a mise en abyme effect: The reading act represented in the narrative finds a mirror in the reading act of the diary reader; the narrative depicts a text which mirrors itself in the text that the reader of the diary holds in his or her hands.

04: What is a Reader? Common, Collective, Fictional, Second-Hand and Online Readers as Constructed Readers

It is a truism that reading practices require reading matters and agents who read: readers. In this intervention we look at the various readers we encounter in our case studies and point to a selection of methodological or conceptual considerations for research into readers and reading practices. Eve Yi Lin kickstarts the discussion by an in-depth look at the “common readers” she finds in contemporary commercial bookstores. Then, in brief responses, the other READCHINA members discuss “collective,” “fictional,” “second-hand,” and “online” readers.