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2016 - American Political Science Association Annual Meeting Words: 268 words || 
1. Nagy, Eugen. "Tan Dun’s The First Emperor: Empire and Ecumene in Politics, Art, Consciousness" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, TBA, Philadelphia, PA, Sep 01, 2016 <Not Available>. 2019-08-20 <>
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Chinese composer Tan Dun’s opera deals with the efforts of the “first emperor”, Qin Shi Huang, to unify many provinces and peoples under one rule, one empire - to create one ecumene under the rule of “Qin” (pronounced ”chin”). The work depicts both the violence inherent in such an imperial attempt, as well as the creation and use of symbolisms in order to bring it about (a common written script, a common “anthem” etc.). Thus, the political, symbolic and existential dimensions of this imperial / ecumenical project are all depicted in their tragic dimensions.

But the ecumenical relevance of this opera is not limited to its content. Tan Dun, the composer, is himself engaged in such an attempt, artistically and existentially. While writing the opera, he consciously tried to create a new, ecumenical musical language, at and through the intersection of two very different ones – of the Chinese traditional opera, and of Western classical opera. This process of symbolization is reflective of the composer’s own existential journey, which took him (literally) from the rice fields of China, to studying and (later) premiering this lavishly produced work in New York (at the Metropolitan Opera).

Thus, both in content and in form, the opera expresses the struggle for ecumene, addressing the political, the symbolic, and the existential. In the presentation / paper all these aspects will be addressed. We will do so with the help of the footage from the performance, the libretto of the opera, historical analysis regarding the nation- and state-building processes depicted in the work, insights from the author, and critical and scholarly responses to the work.

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