Sedated by Progress: Nostalgia as a Force for Self-continuity in Contemporary Shenzhen
Scholars in different disciplines hold vastly different views of nostalgia, a powerful, pan-cultural emotional longing for an idealized past. This thesis bridges the conceptual gap between theoretical and scientific understandings of nostalgia, balancing the view of nostalgia as important to psychological health with its susceptibility to cooptation by outside forces. The example of Shenzhen, China illustrates how nostalgia enables people who feel alienated by “progress” to thrive in the face of rapid change by fostering a sense of personal and collective self-continuity. Nostalgia can be harnessed by powerful forces to project the present and future as the inheritance of a golden past. As an emotion, nostalgia does not serve any specific set of interests; its malleability makes it a tool for a wide array of politically diverse causes.
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