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Key Concepts in the Age of Crossing Boundaries : the Question of Leisure in Culture, Arts and Aesthetics

ANR Research Project (Agence Nationale de la Recherche)

  • Project leader : Yolaine Escande (CRAL)

  • co-leader: Johanna Liu Ch’ien-Mei (CRAL associate member, University of Toronto)


  • CRAL members: Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Esteban Buch, François Flahault, Philippe Roussin, Monique Sicard, Yves Hersant, Yolaine Escande

  • University of Toronto, CRAL associate members: Johanna Liu Ch’ien-Mei, Vincent Shen Tsing-song

  • Taipei Soochow University PAA (Project on Art and Aesthetics): Christoph Chang Chi-Jen, Yeh Hai-yen, Tsai Ming-che, Liu Yuan-tsun, Chao Maolin, Lin Shuwen, Lin Chi-ming, Liu Kuang-neng


The research project Key concepts in the Age of Crossing Boundaries: consists in a comparative study of terminology in different arts and in discourses on “aesthetic function”, with the objective to examine the mutual contamination of categorical schemes in the age of globalization of discourses on arts. It also allows to concretely study misunderstandings related to translations of key terms, that reflect diverse categorical schemes crystallized in languages themselves. The aim is not to correct translations that already exist but to use this knowledge of term changes by a recontextualization in order to understand better the diversity of actual experience that accompanies the superficial standardization.

This project develops the international exchanges that CNRS promote by continuing the collaborative research led by CRAL between Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris and Taipei Soochow University (SU), financed both by CNRS and by Taiwan NSC since 2001. Today, it is reinforced by a collaboration with the University of Toronto, Department of East Asian Studies, initiated and led by CRAL. This project is constituent of the “Aesthetics” axis of CRAL’s long-time researches and it prolongs the APN program « Chinese Arts and Western Aesthetics » (2001-04).

The first phase of the project is focused on The Question of Leisure in Culture, Arts and Aesthetics. The aim of this research project is to study the issue of leisure in the context of traditional theoretical reflections in Western and Eastern cultures and their new features under the impact of globalization in the contemporary glocalism. This project integrates the “Social Sciences and Humanities” research objectives and it also fits the CNRS interdisciplinary priority researches on non-european civilizations and societies.

This project is new, under three aspects : 1) it proposes a reflection that has never been led in the aesthetic field, by focusing on the concept of leisure, from view points of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, art and literary theories. 2) it goes far beyond pure sinological or aesthetic concerns, by its interdisciplinary method that integrates different fields of researches. 3) this “leisure” project materializes an institutional exchange, and an intercontinental research between Taipei SU PAA (Asia, Taiwan), CRAL (Europe, Paris), and University of Toronto (North America, Canada).

Thus, this project will focus on the studies of aesthetic meaning and artistic value of leisure culture, that generally are let aside in intellectual discourse, still influenced by the belief in the modernist opposition between art and distraction, although the development of a consumerist economy of leisure after the 2d World War. That is to say, the concept of leisure will be taken as a category of aesthetics and art, rather than an instrument of investment. The increasing exchanges caused by the prosperity linked to leisure industry induce a great number of cultural meaningful misunderstandings that need to be profoundly examined. The studies of this proposal are very different from current issues debated in the studies of leisure industries, or leisure management, which are the main current studies of leisure in Taiwan since the 1990s.

This research project, submitted to ANR and accepted, has been  launched in 2006 and will run until 2010 ; it will concern the relationship between leisure, art and aesthetics in the age of globalization ; it should open up a new perspective for cultural comparatism, trying to understand art not only on its own terms but also in its relationship to neighbouring fields of human practice.


The research project will be twofold

  • A study of Western traditional leisure conception (Flahault, Schaeffer) as well as of Chinese classical leisure dimension (J. Liu, Yeh) Some of the questions will be how does youxian / xiuxian differ from leisure as distraction or entertainment ? In what sense are Chinese aesthetic practices entering into the concept of leisure different from the  Western ones ? Conversely, in so far as during the  contemporary period in China, some artistic practices – for example painting and literature – have become professionnalized  in a western fashion, is it still possible to consider them as  belonging to the realm of “leisure”?

  • A study of the  question of “leisure” in the context of  the globalized economy of arts of today, where artistic practices,  aesthetic theories and non artistic cultural traditions interfere and interact mutually. What is  the role of leisure in  contemporary cultural life (Escande), in cinema (Lin, Liu Kuang-neng), in music (Buch, Chang), literature (Roussin), or  photography (Sicard) ?

The methodologies will encompass philosophy and anthropology (Yeh, Flahault, Schaeffer, Lin, Shen), sociology of arts (Tsai) but also philology, history of arts (J. Liu, Escande), all under the aesthetic point of view.

Expected results

  • seminars at the EHESS, at Soochow University and at University of Toronto

  • International symposium : June 2009, Taipei 

  • workshops : June 2006 Taipei, June 2007, Paris ; June 2008,Toronto

  • Researchers and students exchanges

  • lectures

  • exchanges through the PAA website

  • publications in Chinese and in French

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