(Upcoming) Roundtable-Communicative Knowledge and Mobilisational Concept: Taking "suspension" as Example co-organised by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Max Planck Institute will be held online in 14-15 February 2022

Social and economic development in China is rapid, dynamic, and inclusive; yet it can transpire without a sense of direction or meaning. Under such conditions, Chinese migrants of various backgrounds suspend their engagement with the present—both foregoing daily enjoyment and avoiding confronting problems—to pivot into an elusive future. The notion of “suspension” was first coined by anthropologist Biao Xiang to capture both the structural conditions, and the experiences, of ordinary Chinese migrants. In summer 2021, Pacific Affairs published a special issue on “suspension”, ushering in this concept as a useful tool in the academic study of mobility and migration—both within and from China. At the same time, the concept has been picked up by the public as a metaphor for individuals’ own experiences.

The aim of this roundtable is to evoke a new theoretical, epistemological, and methodological stance in knowledge production through the case of “suspension.” The speakers at the roundtable consist of scholars, artists, and writers from various geographical and disciplinary backgrounds. They will discuss the empirical contours of “suspension” and explore how a notion like it can shed light on the deep contradictions in present-day China, and how it transcends the Chinese context to acquire theoretical potentials. Furthermore, speakers will utilise “suspension” to reflect on methodological and epistemological questions of knowledge production. By reflecting on our own engagement with the concept, we investigate a new ecology of knowledge production and dissemination as an alternative to the hegemonic order. We also hope to explore whether we can, and should, turn to the public as the source of inspiration and the primary audience.

Date and Time:

14 Feb 2022 (Mon) 4:00pm-6:30pm HKT; 9:00am-11:30am CET
15 Feb 2022 (Tue)  4:00pm-6:30pm HKT; 9:00am-11:30am CET

Platform: Online via zoom


Day 1

14 February 2022 (Monday)
4:00pm-6:30pm HKT / 9:00am-11:30am CET

Opening Speech – 4:00pm-4:15pm HKT / 9am:00-9:15am CET

• Life is complicated, What Matters is How You See it: Suspension and a Common-sense Anthropology, Prof. Biao Xiang, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Session 1: “Suspension” and Agency: Reconceptualising Ambivalent Experiences in and beyond China – 4:20pm-4:50pm HKT / 9:20am-9:50am CET

• The Ambiguous Character of Suspension, Dr. Wei Yang, Nanyang Technological University
• On the Ethical Labour of Suspension, Dr. Jiazhi Fengjiang, The University of Edinburgh
• Suspended. Between Aspiration and Precarity, Dr. Leya Mathew, Ahmedabad University

Session 2: “Suspension,” Structural Stagnation and the Paradoxes of Mobility: Reconceptualising – 4:50pm-5:20pm HKT / 9:50am-10:20am CET

• Finding Stability through Mobility: Chinese Workers in Ethiopia, Dr. Miriam Driessen, University of Oxford
• Suspension: Conflicting Mobilities among Highly Educated Rural-Urban Migrants in Wuhan, China, Dr. Willy Sier, Utrecht University
• Treadmill Mobilities: Conveying Dynamic Immobilities, Dr. Carwyn Morris, The University of Manchester

Discussion Session: 5:20pm-5:50pm HKT / 10:20am-10:50am CET

Q & A Session: 6:00pm-6:30pm HKT/ 10:50am-11:30am CET

Day 2

15 February 2022 (Tuesday)
4:00pm-6:30pm HKT / 9:00am-11:30am CET

Session 3: The Conceptual Map of “Suspension”: Theories, Boundaries, and Themes within Academia – 4:00pm-4:40pm HKT / 9:00am-09:40am CET

• The Concept of “Suspension”: Context and Perspectives, Prof. Raivo Vetik, Tallinn University
• Objects of Suspension, Dr. Sjoukje van der Meulen, Utrecht University
• Liminality, No More: Suspended in the Rural-Urban Dynamics, Dr. Tzu-Chi Ou, National Chengchi University
• Welfare Held in Suspension: How Factory Workers Participate in the Socialist Market Economy, Yueran Tian, Bielefeld University

Session 4: Public Engagements: “Suspension” as Communicative Knowledge –4:40pm-5:20pm HKT / 9:40am-10:20am CET

• “Question Theatre,” Social Theory and Public Engagement, Ziyue Wang, Artist

• Anthropology and Public Writing, Xueting Liu, Writer
• “Suspension,” Mimesis and Evocative Knowledge, Dr. Yang Zhan, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Discussion Session: 5:20pm-5:50pm HKT / 10:20am-10:50am CET

Q & A Session: 5:50pm-6:30pm HKT/ 10:50am-11:30am CET

For inquiries, please contact:
Dr. Xu Heng