Consuming the Pastoral Desire : Li Ziqi, Food Vlogging, and the Structure of Feeling in the Era of Microcelebrity

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)7-39
Number of pages33
Journal / PublicationGlobal Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021



This article studies how the new cultural form of food vlogging intervenes the perennial debate on tradition and modernity by focusing on the case of Li Ziqi, whose cinematic videos celebrating bucolic life won her popularity in China and overseas. A study of the production and reception of Li’s videos not only shows urbanites’ nostalgia for a pastoral way of life but also reveals the role played by the more structural forces—that is, the market and the state—in appropriating and managing the desire for and consumption of the pastoral for the construction of modern identities—both individually as a consumer and collectively as a nation. The market forces, including the ideology of consumerism, its attendant aesthetics, and the entire regime of social media marketing, were present throughout Li’s celebrification. Meanwhile, the state became involved after Li’s rise to fame, when it became aware of her value for domestic and international publicity. If the market promotes a narrative that caters to the “aesthetical turn” in everyday life in a consumer society, the state’s validation and appropriation of Li points to a cultural nationalism that departs from political nationalism and is more commensurate with consumerism. However, the Chinese state also tries to transcend the market discourse, whose egalitarian form conceals substantive inequality by positioning itself as an integrative force that bridges the urban-rural gap. By making Li Ziqi a social media phenomenon, the market uses the rural as a resource to meet the urban desire for authenticity while the Chinese state reappropriates the icon of marketized media in its “rural rejuvenation” design to help the disadvantaged rural other regain its agency.

Research Area(s)

  • Li Ziqi, vlogging, urban-rural relations, microcelebrity, consumerism, cultural nationalism, structure of feeling, food media, tradition and modernity

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