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Ironic 'resistance' in Chinese citizen media online

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Abstract

Chinese netizens have developed various strategies to circumvent gov- ernment censorship of the Internet, giving rise to a subculture known as egao. One aspect of this ironic egao culture is the play with homonymous or near-homonymous words that can help an individual get through censorship software whilst simultaneously critiquing and ridiculing the censorship. This chapter draws on a range of online materials to discuss this form of ironic engagement in Chinese citizen media online, and the assumptions with which scholars approach its study. Where much previous scholarship has attempted to pin down this form of expression to mean only one thing, particularly focusing on whether or not it constitutes a form of political resistance, this chapter argues instead that what is most interesting about many examples of egao is their undecidability as simultaneously either/or and neither/nor. It suggests that making the a priori assumption that these phenomena have to mean only one thing, either resistance or not resistance, will hinder rather than help researchers in understanding their complex role in the political play of Chinese citizen media.