Zhongwei Li

PhD Researcher

Department of Media and Communications

About me

Research topic

Tuning in with the cut-out: Profane music and subcultural politics in 1990s China

Li's research explores the subcultural politics of the 'cut-out (dakou) generation' in 1990s mainland China. It places the relationship between two central objects under investigation: a) profane music, namely, the cut-out CDs/cassette tapes (and the Western rock/alternative music they contain) and b) the 'cut-out generation' as a subcultural group.

Throughout the 1990s, the 'cut-out generation'  were confronted by and strived to make sense of, on the one hand, the bizarre and mysterious sound, images and materials brought, from out of nowhere, by the cut-out music products and, on the other hand, the shifting sociocultural circumstances of the post-Tiananmen, Reform-deepening Chinese society – caught between its socialist past and capitalist future – which forms the unique condition of existence of this generation of youth. Their relationship with the cut-out CDs/cassette tapes will be viewed as one in which music, including its sensuous sound and concrete medium, was creatively exploited by the cultural group as a profane resource for pride, pleasure, bodily fulfilment and self-expression. Through this process, the group lived out an active articulation of and a collective response to the society in which they grew up. It is in this sense a relationship of situated human creativity – anchored in music - within a special historical context.

Supervisors: Professor Myria Georgiou


Before joining the Department of Media and Communications at LSE, Li completed his MPhil Degree in Sociology at The University of Cambridge, where he studied the Chinese cut-out market under the perspective of cultural globalization. He has a BA in Education from Beijing Normal University. Li's Bachelor's thesis explored the educational theories of the philosopher Paul Feyerabend. He has also led an educational research project on migrant children in Beijing funded by Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. During the academic year 2012-2013, he studied as an exchange student at the Faculty of Humanities, The University of Manchester.

Expertise Details

subculture; music; China