Other Spaces, Other Bodies: Exploring the Literary Reconfigurations of the Chinese Prisonscape


Dr. Serena De Marchi (Stockholm University)

Date and Time

December 10, 2020, 2 - 4 pm


In his novel The Four Books, writer Yan Lianke characterizes the carceral experience of the Chinese re-education camp describing it as “a scar on an old tree, which eventually becomes an eye through which we see the world.” In other words, prison is a scar, a corporeal memory of a wound, that is lived and perceived through the body, which carries its visible and invisible marks. That scar, however, at some point becomes an eye, that is, an observational point of view, a perspective that shapes a certain understanding of reality. We see the present through the wound of the past. But how did this transformation happen? How did the scar become the eye?
With this presentation, my aim is to precisely address this corporeal and symbolic metamorphosis. Through the analysis of prison texts from and about modern China – including autobiographies, memoirs, novels, and reportages – I will discuss the possible mappings of hese carceral experiences into what I have called a prisonscape, that is, a perceptual landscape of observation, an “imagined world” (Appadurai) which is made up of laws and regulations (penal theory), implementations (penal practice), lived experiences, as well as narrative reconfigurations.


The lecture will be given online via Zoom (link tba later).


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Chinese Studies