Bard News & Events

Press Release


Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— On Tuesday, April 4, Bard in China hosts a lecture on consumerism and nationalism in 1930s China. Columbia University professor Eugenia Lean will present “Global Commodity, Local Desire: Creating a Need for Lux Soap in 1930s China.” The lecture is presented by Bard in China and Bard’s Asian Studies Program, with support from the Freeman Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative. The lecture is free and open to the public, and take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in room 115 of the Olin Language Center on the Bard College campus. By the early 20th century, Unilever was a transnational (British-Dutch) corporation that promoted and distributed its Lux soap and related products around the world. But, the process of producing a desire for its products in local markets required adapting global strategies to specific cultures and consumer environments. By focusing on advertisement campaigns for Lux soap, launched in 1930s Republican China, this lecture examines some of these complex cultural mechanisms at work. Lean will discuss how Unilever manipulated a local fascination with China’s burgeoning star culture and the growing taste for “luxury” mass-produced objects to create consumer desire for a global product at a moment of heightened nationalism (most evidently manifest in the era’s National Products Movement). In addition to inquiring into the historically specific notions of health and beauty deployed to create such effective ties, this talk will also examine how the logic of global capitalism was itself sold in a local site. Lean, assistant professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, has lectured extensively on cultural issues in 1930s China and is the author of Politics of Passion: The Case of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Public Sympathy in 1930s China, which examines how a high-profile crime of passion helped give rise to the moral and political authority of “public sympathy” in Republican-era China. Lean is a member of the American Historical Association and the Association for Asian Studies. She has Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Chinese history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a B.A. in international relations form Stanford University. For more information about the lecture and screening, please call 845-758-7388 or e-mail # # # (03.01.06)


back to top

This event was last updated on 04-05-2006