455.3 Art worlds in transitional societies: An actor-network theory (ANT) perspective on art and social change in China

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:40 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Ling-Yun TANG , Sociology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Actor-Network Theory (ANT), a theory most closely associated with the study of science and technology, has potential theoretical and methodological applicability to the sociology of art.  ANT posits that both human and non-human actors (such as artifacts, technology, and documents) possess agency, and argues that their interactions shape action and meaning.  This study examines how ANT can contribute to an analysis of the development of commercial art galleries in mainland China.  Examining the interactions among China’s growing networks of artists, dealers, collectors, galleries, and art in the context of rapid social transformation and economic reform, it highlights the role that such networks play in the demolition of socialist-era spaces and meanings, as well as their contribution to discourses and practices of creativity in the global economy.  By providing a framework for studying how the new art world networks emerge and evolve, an ANT approach can expand conceptualizations of art and creativity during periods of rapid social historical transformation.  At the same time, the paper highlights some of the limits in previous attempts to use ANT to study social phenomena and suggests ways to remedy these deficiencies while preserving the insights of the approach for the sociology of art.