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Living the Socialist Modern- The Chinese Communist Party at 100: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

CATS Virtual Lecture Series 2021

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. What did it mean to “live with the Specter”, to experience what one might call the making of the “Socialist Modern” that found a first point of culmination with the foundation of the CCP in 1921?

Living the Socialist Modern

In a digital lecture series organized by the Center for Asian and Transcultural Studies in Heidelberg (CATS), in cooperation with the ERC sponsored project READCHINA: The Politics of Reading in the People's Republic of China in Freiburg and the European Institute for Chinese Studies (EURICS) in Paris, we suggest unpacking the impact of this event on lives on the ground in a long century of Chinese and global history. Deliberately designed to offer alternative “histories” of the Chinese Communist Party, we will provide interdisciplinary views and experiences of the “Socialist Modern” and its many variants in a century now past, but also in the present and in the future, probing into different positions from not only from Political Science and Party History, but also from from Everyday History, Anthropology and Cultural Studies, Literary Studies and Sociology, Art History, etc.

Each lecture will focus on a specific time slot, marked by ten-year steps in the century of history that we are looking back to: 1921, 1931, 1941, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011, 2021. Lectures will begin on a particular date branch out, back and forth to the decades before and after so as to provide a long-term view of the situation at hand! We will encourage the use of a variety of different sources and global perspectives on the materials at hand.

For access links and updates on the program, please register here:

ProgramAdobe Full program | iCal

Upcoming Events

October 27, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CEST)
Isabelle THIREAU (EHESS, Paris):Forms of Credibility, Patterns of Identification: Assessing "Who is one for the Other" Before and After 1981
The 1981 Resolution on the Cultural Revolution and the rehabilitation process of CCP leaders sanctioned during that decade have encouraged broader appeals for the revision or rehabilitation of former political verdicts. Such appeals are embedded in a wider process of re-interpretation of past actions and interactions in local villages, factories, danwei, as well as they are grounded in complex feelings of justice and injustice. Such historical sequence has revealed the difficulty observed before 1981 but still present after more than four decades of "economic reform and opening" to take others' reliability and credibility for granted, to assess "who is one for the other".
Isabelle Thireau is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris) and Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Her last book is Des lieux en commun. Une ethnographie des lieux publics en Chine (Paris, Editions des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales, 2020).
18:30-19:00 (CEST)
Daniel LEESE (Freiburg University)1981: The Chinese Communist Party and the Search for Historical Justice
How can a dictatorship cope with historical injustices committed in its own name? The CCP presented its answers to a domestic and international audience over the course of 1981, as it first sentenced a small number defined as perpetrators through legal means and then provided a standard narrative of how to evaluate the past in its famous second resolution on party history. In my talk, I will take these events as a starting point to offer a critical account about how the party approached questions of historical guilt and the need for societal reconciliation in more general terms in the decade after the death of Mao Zedong.
Daniel Leese is professor of Sinology at the University of Freiburg, Germany. His most recent publications include Maos langer Schatten. Chinas Umgang mit der Vergangenheit (2020) and Victims, Perpetrators, and the Role of Law in Maoist China (with Puck Engman, 2018).

November 03, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CET)
Jennifer Altehenger (Oxford University):Modular Socialism: Interior Design for Everyday Life in 1980s China
In 1981, Furniture and Life magazine (Jiaju yu shenghuo) was first published in the city of Xi’an. Within a few years, the magazine became one of China’s most popular design and home-making publications, well-known for its DIY guides, advice columns, home stories, and close engagement with readers. Each issue discussed how to “beautify” homes and how to turn “socialist material civilization” into lived experience. Modular furniture was central to the magazine’s vision of a new everyday life and for many readers it soon became a material signifier of economic reform. This talk explores the colourful history of Furniture and Life, illustrating how writers, artists, designers, architects and engineers presented but also made the socialist modern during the 1980s.
Jennifer Altehenger is Associate Professor of Chinese History and Jessica Rawson Fellow in Modern Asian History at the University of Oxford and Merton College. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1989 (Harvard, 2018) and has also written on the history of propaganda, lexicography, and on China's exchanges with other socialist countries at venues such as the Leipzig trade fairs. Funded by the AHRC and the British Academy, her current work examines the history of materials and everyday industrial design in the PRC.
18:30-19:00 (CET)
Francoise SABBAN (EHESS, Paris)Restoring the Food industry in Reform Era China
With the beginning of the Reform and Opening Period, at the end of 1978, the different food sectors began to be revived, foremost among, them the food industry which had been developing very slowly after 1949. Already in 1980, various specialists have made proposals for this restoration with the aim of improving the standard of living and the diet of the population. While in fact, the awareness of the importance of the food industry for a developed society had only gradually emerged, a number of high officials in the Chinese Communist Party quickly understood its relevance. By 1981, the issue of the food industry was openly addressed in an editorial in the People's Daily on October 18. It announced the directives of the Central Committee and the State Council on the need to develop a Chinese food industry worthy of the name. A National Association of Food Industries had been created in the spring and a first draft of a development program had been presented to its members at its meeting in October. While ot took three years of maturation for this program to take shape and to be finally launched in the summer of 1984. It would serve as a framework for a profound evolution of minds in terms of food, both daily and festive.
Françoise Sabban is Professor Emerita at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris (Research Center on Modern and Contemporary China) and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA - University of Tours). Her fields of research are the history and anthropology of everyday knowledge and techniques, and food in a comparative perspective (mainly China, but also France and Italy). Her publications include Le temps de manger. Alimentation, emploi du temps et rythmes sociaux (with M. Aymard & C. Grignon, 1993; partial translation in Food & Foodways, 1996, Vol. 6 (3-4)); The Medieval Kitchen. Recipes from France and Italy (with O. Redon & S. Serventi, 2000); Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food (with S. Serventi, 2002); Atlante dell’alimentazione e della gastronomia, Risorse, Scambi, Consumi, Vol 1; Cucine, pasti, convivialità , Vol. 2 (with M. Montanari, 2004); Un aliment sain dans un corps sain – Perspectives historiques, Collection “À boire et à manger”, n°1 (ed. with F. Audouin-Rouzeau, 2007). See also “A Scientific Controversy in China over the Origins of noodles ” Carnets du Centre Chine. October, 15, 2012. URL : See, and

November 10, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CET)
Deborah DAVIS (Yale University):The Imprint of Maoist Socialism on Private Life in urban China: Shanghai in the 1980s
The 1980s were a tumultuous time of transition and upheaval for individuals and society. The Maoist blueprint of economic development was being steadily discarded, but intimate and family relationships constructed during the first decades after 1949 still shaped what men and women understood as possible for themselves and their families. Using Hershatter‘s distinction between public and private time, history and memory, I use fieldwork from Shanghai between 1981-1989 to reflect on the intersections and boundaries between public and private life.
Deborah Davis is a Professor Emerita of Sociology at Yale University where she served as Director of Academic Programs at Yale Center for Study of Globalization , Chair of the Department of Sociology, Chair of the Council on East Asia, and Co-Chair, of the Women Faculty Forum. Since 2016 she has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and on the faculty of the Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University. Her primary teaching interests include inequality and stratification, contemporary Chinese society, and methods of fieldwork. She serves on the editorial boards of The China Quarterly and The China Review and as an advisor to the Universities’ Service Center Library Collection at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. One current focus of research is the uneven development of Chinese cities; a second focuses on the marriage, caretaking , and housing experiences among the 80后 and 90后 generations.

November 17, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CET)
Klaus MÜHLHAHN (Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen):Zhao Ziyang and the Voices for Reform
The presentation focuses on Zhao Ziyang’s rise through the echelons of the party state and his surprising metamorphosis from a trusted loyal party official into a unflinching reformer bent on changing the political arch of the PRC. The story of Zhao Ziyang will take us on a journey through the ups and downs of the world of the party in the 1980’s, revealing the deeply conflicting views within the party about the reform of the socialist system.
Klaus Mühlhahn is currently president of Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and a professor for Modern China Studies. He has previously held faculty and senior administrative positions at Freie Universität Berlin, Indiana University and Turku University. His latest monograph is Making China Modern. From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping, published by Harvard University Press in 2019.
18:30-19:00 (CET)
Paola IOVENE (Chicago):Radio Audiobooks in Reform Era China
It is well-known that in the 1980s literary journals served as main venues for the emergence of new authors. Other media, however, continued to contribute to the popularization of literature beyond the written page. This lecture will look at how the radio helped expand the audience of fiction, with a focus on the broadcasting of Lu Yao’s novel Ordinary World.
Paola Iovene is an associate professor of Modern Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Tales of Futures Past: Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China (2014) and is currently working on a book on the uses of location shooting in 1970s-1980s Chinese cinema. Other projects revolve around the ways in which various media contributed to the making of Chinese literary culture in the Reform Era and the genealogies of contemporary migrant workers’ literature.

November 24, 2021

19:00-20:30 (CET)
Perry Link (University of California, Riverside):The CCP Faces a Second Undulation of the Democracy Movement
In the 1980s intellectuals sought democratization in China by trying to influence the highest levels of government, but in the end the 1989 massacre practically closed that door. About a decade later, from the early 2000s until 2008, an effort with similar goals, and some of the same leaders, grew from the opposite end—from the bottom up, by using the Internet to gather popular support for reformist causes.
Perry Link has a B.A. in Western philosophy (1966) and a Ph.D. in Chinese history (1976) from Harvard University and has taught and published primarily in modern Chinese language and literature. Through literature he came to admire dissident writers, like Liu Binyan, and from there became interested in dissidents generally, including the astrophysicist Fang Lizhi. An interest in popular culture came to focus on the study of xiangsheng comedians’ dialogues. He retired from a career at Princeton University in 2008 but continues to teach at the University of California at Riverside as Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines. His latest single-author book is An Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics and he is currently preparing a biography of Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Prize winner, for publication.

December 01, 2021

16:00-16:30 (CET)
Steve Tsang (SOAS University of London):Return to Communism? The Advent of the Xi Jinping Era in China.
Unlike his two immediate predecessors Xi Jinping has made it clear he takes Marxism seriously. By ushering in Xi Jinping Thought on Chinese socialism for a new era, Xi has signalled that China under his leadership will be made great again. This is to be achieved by revitalising the Communist Party so that it will give leadership in every corner of China and across every policy areas. This talk will focus on the direction of travel Xi has set for China and whether this involves taking China back on a Communist path.
Steve Tsang is Director of the SOAS China Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. He is also an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College at Oxford, and an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He previously served as the Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and as Director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. Before that he spent 29 years at Oxford University, where he earned his D.Phil. and worked as a Professorial Fellow, Dean, and Director of the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College. Professor Tsang regularly contributes to public debates on different aspects of issues related to the politics, history, foreign policy, security and development of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and East Asia more generally. He is known in particular for introducing the concept of 'consultative Leninism' as an analytical framework to understand the structure and nature of politics in contemporary China. He has a broad area of research interest and has published extensively, including five single authored and thirteen collaborative books. One of his latest publications is an article ‘Party-state Realism: A Framework for Understanding China’s Approach to Foreign Policy’, in the Journal of Contemporary China (2020), and his current research project is on ‘The Political Thought of Xi Jinping’.
16:30-17:00 (CET)
Ya-wen LEI (Harvard University):Living in the Emergent Techno-Developmental State
In this talk, I will discuss how a techno-developmental state has emerged and consolidated in China since the mid-2000s. I will also examine the ideological foundation and material manifestation of such a state, as well as the social consequences of the rising techno-developmentalism.
Ya-Wen Lei is an associate professor in the department of sociology at Harvard University, and is affiliated with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard. She holds a J.S.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Contentious Public Sphere: Law, Media and Authoritarian Rule in China (Princeton University Press, 2018). Her articles have appeared in American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, China Quarterly, Law & Society Review, Political Communication, Socius, and Work, Employment and Society.

December 08, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CET)
Margaret Hillenbrand (Oxford University):On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China
On the evening of November 18th, 2017, a blaze broke out in the basement of a two-storey building in Xinjian urban village, located just outside Beijing’s Sixth Ring Road. At least 19 people, including 8 children, died in the flames. Yet in the days that followed locals had no chance to mourn. Before the gutted building was even fully soused, the local authorities had issued a comprehensive eviction order for Xinjian. Using fire safety as its rationale, the city government condemned the entire settlement: its inhabitants, perhaps as many as 250,000 of them, were forced to evacuate their homes. Xinjian had emblematized inequality and exclusion well before the fire and evictions of 2017, and its residents long counted among contemporary China’s most precarious people. What kind of change, then, might the evictions mark? Or to put this another way, what does it mean to be officially banished from a place of already de facto exile? In this talk, I suggest that the evictions provoke questions about the limits of inequality and exclusion as meaningful descriptors of social conditions in our times. These limits have prompted Saskia Sassen to argue that we are now witnessing “the emergence of new logics of expulsion” in the global political economy – forces which make the language we use to describe immiseration on a systematic scale too tepid and which compel a rethink of how we define precarity, surely a master concept for the present. In this talk, I explore the logic of expulsion in contemporary China, its capacity to foment both solidarity and social strife, and its relationship with cultural forms. In particular, I look at how people living under precarity in China’s new socialist modern use culture as a space to vent feelings of rage, resentment, distrust, and disdain that are taboo under the diktats of so-called harmonious society.
Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford. Her research and publications to date have focused on literary and visual culture in twentieth-century China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, and her latest book, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, appeared with Duke University Press in 2020. She is now working on a new project about the impact of precarity on cultural practices in post-millennial China.

December 15, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CET)
Jeff WASSERSTROM (University of California, Irvine):From Anti-Imperialist Coalitions of the Past to Today's Milk Tea Alliance: Activists & Exiles, 1921-2021
A century ago, activists with ties to various parts of Asia embraced and then discarded different ideologies and found varying ways to connect with one another, sometimes in exile. What linked them were some shared grievances, such as a dislike with the way their community was being bullied or controlled by people in a distant capital and with limits on their freedom to speak out on issues that concerned them and organize to bring about change. The founders of the Chinese Communist Party, many of whom were attracted by forms of liberal and anarchist thought before embracing Marxism-Leninism, were part of this milieu. Now, in 2021, that organization is in control in Beijing and that city has become a capital that is a source of concern for a very different generation of activists with ties to various parts of Asia, who now often connect via social media messaging rather than exchanging tracts in port cities. This talk, drawing on work on everything from scholarship on the founders of the CCP and the Milk Tea Alliance actions of this year as well as on Tim Harper's magisterial book Underground Asia: Global Revolutionaries and the Assault on Empire, will toggle between 1921 and 2021 with an eye toward reoccurrences, ruptures, and reversals.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, where he also holds courtesy appointments in the Law School and in the Literary Journalism Program. He has written, co-written, edited, or co-edited a dozen books, the most recent of which are Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (Columbia Global Reports, 2020), which he wrote, and The Oxford History of Modern China (forthcoming, 2022), which he edited. In addition to contributing to academic journals, he often contributes to newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times), magazines (such as the Atlantic), and literary reviews (e.g., the TLS and the Los Angeles Review of Books).

Past Events

April 14, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CEST)
Wen-hsin YEH (University of California, Berkeley):Young, Marxist, and Martyred: The First Movers of Chinese Communism
China’s early communism surfaced as a topic of historical inquiry only in the years after Mao. Over time the resurrection of the obliviated memories of those who lived and died in the 1920s went beyond mere gestures of historical rectification. This lecture asks: What is that history of communism that pre-dates the ascendancy of Mao as its top theorist? And how might a rereading of the past point to the future as the Party marks its centennial?
Wen-hsin Yeh is Richard H. & Laurie C. Morrison Chair Professor in History, University of California, Berkeley. She is a cultural and social historian of late imperial and modern China; her research examines spatial dynamics and directed communications. Her published works include The Alienated Academy (1990), Provincial Passages (1996), Becoming Chinese (2000), In the Shadow of the Rising Sun (2005), Shanghai Splendor (2007), History in Images (2012), Mobile Horizon (2013), and Knowledge Acts in Modern China (2016). She is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Professorship, 2012-2013, with residency at the Free University in Berlin. She was the Chair of the Center for Chinese Studies and the Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Berkeley. Currently she serves on the editorial board of the American Historical Review and is researching for two book projects.

April 21, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CEST)
Marilyn LEVINE (Central Washington University):Plutarch and Transcultural Life Narratives: Analyzing Early CCP Leaders, Cai Hesen and Zhao Shiyan
This lecture explores the transcultural experiences and political influence of two important, early Chinese CCP leaders: Cai Hesen (蔡和森1895–1931) and Zhao Shiyan (趙世炎1901–1927). Both Cai and Zhao were critical to the early ideological development of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the spread of mass politics. The lecture will utilize the life cycle paradigm and attributes in Plutarch’s Lives of the Greeks and Romans, to explore the historical significance of these two Chinese Communist revolutionaries. Their life experiences will be examined with a Plutarchian lens of analysis for a more nuanced view of the commonalities and differences in their personae, youth group experiences, politicization in France, travel to the Soviet Union, political-agitation activities, and martyrdom. There also will be a section on transnational influences, particularly the exposure to Leninism and the development of a Soviet Returned cohort of fellow revolutionaries. The transnational focus also will include a comparative segment on three other political/intellectual activists, Wang Guangqi (王光祈1892-1936), Zhang Ruoming (張若名1902-1958), and Sheng Cheng (盛成1899-1997) as an extension of understanding culture across nations, and the life history consequences. In addition to collected writings, archival materials, and memoirs, the lecture utilizes oral interviews conducted in 1985 and 1990 with relatives and friends of Cai Hesen and Zhao Shiyan and with CCP scholars.
Marilyn A. Levine was trained as a historian of Asia, with graduate degrees from the University of Chicago in modern Chinese History and the University of Hawaii in Vietnamese History. She has published two books, over four dozen articles, and created a dozen Web sites for research, teaching, professional, and community service. Dr. Levine's research interests have focused on Chinese political party formation in Europe during the 1920's and exploring new approaches to the field of life history. She published The Found Generation: Chinese Communists in Europe during the Twenties (University of Washington Press, 1993), and with Chen San-ching, The Chinese Guomindang in Europe: A Sourcebook of Documents (Institute for East Asian Studies, Center for Chinese Studies Monograph, 2000). She has delivered over 160 presentations, workshops and public speeches, and organized two international conferences. Levine’s online Chinese Biographical Database (CBD) project [1998-2006] was the first online, scholarly moderated database on the Worldwide Web. Web site:

April 28, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CEST)
Hans VAN DE VEN (Cambridge University):Communist cosmopolitanism: The Wuhan Popular Front Government of 1938
This paper examines the Wuhan popular front government during the Second World War. It will place it in the context of the Comintern's strategy to support popular governments around the world as well as the heritage of 1920s communist insurrections. In this way it will show the linkages between the Netherlands, Spain, the Netherlands East Indies, and China and offer a re-appreciation of the roles Henricus Sneevliet, Wang Ming, and Sutan Sjahrir. The failure of 'Wuhan' opened up the way for the radical nationalisation of Chinese communism under Mao, a form of communism that then became dominant and has remained so.
Hans van de Ven is Professor of Modern Chinese History at Cambridge University. He was educated in Sinology at Leiden University and History at Harvard University. He has written about the history of the Chinese Communist Party, China's Second World War, and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. He is currently working on The Abyss: Asia and the Second World War, 1937-1955.

May 05, 2021

14:00-15:30 (CEST)
ISHIKAWA Yoshihiro (Kyoto University):Living as a Cog in the Machine: A Way of Life in the 1940s
In the first half of 1940s, there emerged a new way of life within the Communist community in China. Young party members were encouraged to live as cogs in the machine of the Yan'an Rectification Movement. This paper attempts to illustrate some changes which occurred in the inner psychological world of young female Communists, in the marriage customs involving male cadres, and in the world of literature by using materials such as the diary of Mao Dun's daughter Shen Xia.
Ishikawa Yoshihiro is a Professor in the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. Prior to working at Kyoto University, he taught at Kobe University from 1997 to 2001. In addition to his major research on the history of the Chinese Communist Party, he is currently focusing on the biography and images of Mao Zedong. His major publications include the formation of Chinese Communist Party (Columbia University Press, 2012) and How Red Star Rose: the Early Images of Mao Zedong(The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2020). In recent years, he has been organizing a research seminar about the historical materials of the CCP.

May 12, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CEST)
Timothy CHEEK (University of British Columbia):Living the Socialist Modern in 1941: Three Worlds of Revolution in Total War
Three worlds met in northern Shaanxi province centered in the county town of Yan’an: the world of Shaanbei local elites fighting for a new order, the world of the Leninist elite of the Party engaged in national power competition, and the world of the cultural elite among metropolitan intellectuals dedicated to a new cultural order. Local revolution, national revolution, and cultural revolution met and contended with their competitors and each other in the fourth year of brutal total war with invading Japanese forces. The crucible year for all three saw the tide begin to turn for the victory of Leninism over local revolution, the victory of Mao and his vision in the Party leadership, and the victory of a nationalist revolutionary culture over the cosmopolitan vision of international socialism (the establishment intellectual cadre in this emerging revolutionary order over the cosmopolitan intellectual visionary).
Timothy Cheek is Director of the Institute of Asian Research and Louis Cha Chair Professor of Chinese Research at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and Department of History at The University of British Columbia. His research, teaching and translating focus on the recent history of China, especially the Chinese Communist Party and intellectual debate in China. His books include The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History (2015), Living with Reform: China Since 1989 (2006), Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions (2002) and Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China (1997), as well as edited volumes, The Chinese Communist Party: A Century in Ten Lives (2021) with Hans van de Ven and Klaus Mühlhahn, Voices from the Chinese Century: Public Intellectual Debate from Contemporary China (2020), with David Ownby and Joshua Fogel, Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-1949, Vol. VIII (2015) with Stuart R. Schram, The Cambridge Critical Introduction to Mao (2010), and New Perspectives on State Socialism in China (1997), with Tony Saich. In recent years Cheek has been working with some Chinese intellectuals to explore avenues of collaborative research and translation, particularly on new approaches to Party history.
18:30-19:00 (CEST)
Ban WANG (Stanford University):Creative Life in Yan’an: Between “National Form” and “World Literature”
This talk considers the debate on the national form and world literature in Yan’an. With the national defense literature shifting to Lu Xun’s idea of a mass literature of revolutionary war, the national form was updated and wedded to Western progressive culture. Rather than primarily nationalistic, the focus was on the nation as constituted by working people. The idea of national form thus favored narratives of working European people combatting the ruling regime and affirmed a realism that cut across to the popular masses of all nations seeking independence. Embedded in the everyday, inherited life-worlds of the common people (laobaixing 老百姓) in rural China, this idea of national form fueled the reinvention of folk and rural arts, gesturing toward socialist internationalist communication between working people around the world.
Ban Wang is the William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of The Sublime Figure of History (1997), Illuminations from the Past (2004), History and Memory (Lish yu jiyi) (2004), and China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision (forthcoming from Duke UP, 2021). He has edited and co-edited Chinese Visions of World Order: Tianxia, Culture, and Word Politics (2017), Words and Their Stories (2011)¬, Debating Socialist Legacy (2014), China and Left Visions (2012), and Trauma and Cinema (2004). He has taught at SUNY, Harvard, Rutgers, the University of Zurich, East China Normal University, Peking University, Yonsei University, and Seoul National University.

May 26, 2021

16:00-16:30 (CEST)
David Der-Wei WANG (Harvard University):1951: A “Truth Regime” in the Making
This lecture addresses three incidents in 1951 that cast a lasting impact on the cultural politics of the PRC. In May 1951, the movie The Biography of Wu Xun武训传 (Wu Xun zhuan, 1950)—based on the legend of the beggar-turned-philanthropist Wu Xun 武训(1838-1896)—was singled out by Chairman Mao as a “poisonous weed” nurtured by feudalist ideology. In June, the novella Between Husband and Wife我们夫妇之间 (Women fufu zhijian, 1951) by Xiao Yemu 萧也牧 (1918-1970) came under nationwide attack for catering to the petite bourgeois taste and mitigating the consciousness of class struggle. In September, the novel Hinterland 腹地 (Fudi, 1942) by Wang Lin 王林 (1908-1984) became the first officially banned literary work in new China. All three works were first published/released to rave reviews as paragons of socialist arts. Their meteoric fall into disgrace, followed by a harrowing record of criticisms and purges inflicted on the authors and production teams, bespeaks not only the treacherous terms of literary and artistic engagements, but also the intricate technology of (self-)censorship in the People’s Republic. In hindsight, these three incidents appeared as overtures to waves of cultural politics in the decades to come, from the Cultural Revolution to “Tell the Good China Story.” More importantly, they are indexes that point to the knowledge production system in terms of the “truth regime.”
David Der-wei Wang is Edward C. Henderson Professor in Chinese Literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He is Director of CCK Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinological Studies, Changjiang Scholar, and Academician of Academia Sinica and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wang’s specialties are Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature, Late Qing fiction and drama, and Comparative Literary Theory. Wang received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and has taught at National Taiwan University and Columbia University. Wang’s recent English publications include The Monster That Is History: History, Violence, and Fictional Writing in 20th Century China (2004), Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule(co-ed. with Ping-hui Liao, 2007), Globalizing Chinese Literature (co-ed. with Jin Tsu, 2010), The Lyrical in Epic Time: Modern Chinese Intellectuals and Artists through the 1949 Crisis (2014), Harvard New Literary History of Modern China (ed., 2017).What Fiction Matters in Contemporary China (2020).
16:30-17:00 (CEST)
Andreas STEEN (Aarhus University):Singing, Recording, Promoting – New Sounds for New China
In September 1951, the People’s Daily announced that the songs “Singing for the Motherland” and “The Hearts of the People all over the World united” should be sung nationwide to celebrate National Day. The broadcasting stations were advised to teach the songs, supported by Shanghai’s recording industry. This presentation “zooms” in onto the early politics of sound in New China. Record production was deemed essential for the establishment of an effective sonic propaganda system, aiming at radically changing and unifying the national soundscape.
Andreas Steen is Professor in China Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark. He has studied Sinology and English Philology (Cultural Studies) at the Free University of Berlin, and Modern Chinese Literature at Fudan University, Shanghai. He received his PhD degree in Sinology at the Free University of Berlin (2003). His fields of research concentrate on modern Chinese history and culture, incl. Sino-foreign relations, popular culture, the cultural industries, sound and memory studies. Related book publications include The Long March of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Pop and Rock Music in the People’s Republic of China (German, 1996), and Between Entertainment and Revolution: Gramophones, Records and the Beginnings of the Music Industry in Shanghai, 1878-1937 (German, 2006). The latter was revised and translated into Chinese as在娱乐与革命之间: 留声机, 唱片与上海音乐工业的开端 1878-1937 (Shanghai 2015). Currently he works on several projects related to recorded sound in China, including the book project Records and Revolutionaries: Sonic Strategies of Control and Resistance in Mao’s China (1949-1976).

June 02, 2021

16:00-17:30 (CEST)
Xiaohong XIAO-PLANES (INALCO Paris):Socialist Transformation of Man: The Case of the Small-Scale Noodle and Soy Sauce Traders in 1950s Shanghai
Based on files compiled in 1957-1958 by the Shanghai Political School for Commercial-Industrial circles, this talk presents about fifteen small traders-artisans of noodles and soy sauces, their living conditions and their attitudes vis-à-vis the governance of the state-party and its ideological basis. By analyzing the words and the form of the self-criticisms of these small trader-artisans, the presentation attempts to identify their mental and socio-cultural universe, and to measure the modality of human transformation represented by the work style rectification campaign — zhengfeng 整风.
Xiaohong Xiao-Planes is Professor Emeritus of Modern Chinese History at the National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilizations in Paris. She is a graduate of the Mirail-Toulouse University (M.A. History 1984 and PhD, 1990); National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilizations (PhD, 1997) and EHESS (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches 2005). She is the author or co-author of three books : Éléments fondamentaux de la phrase chinoise (1998); Éduction et politique: Le rôle des élites locales du Jiangsu, 1905-1914 (2001); Histoire de la République populaire de Chine: De Mao Zedong à Xi Jinping (2018); and editor (with Yves Chevrier and Alain Roux) of Citadins et citoyens dans la Chine du XXe siècle: Essai de l’histoire sociale (2010). Her publications include various works on the Chinese civic and professional associations, the constitutionalism under the first half of the twentieth century, and the history of the Chinese Communist Party during the Maoist era. Her current research concerns the activities of the transferred factories in the southwest of China during the Sino-Japanese war and the transformation of the national bourgeoisie in the 1950s.

June 09, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CEST)
Gail HERSHATTER (University of California, Santa Cruz):A Peripatetic Revolutionary in the 1950s
By 1951, XM had been a CCP member for thirteen years—eight years underground in southwest China during the war, and five years in the United States. He had hidden a Party transceiver under his bed in his father's Guilin house, sold a stash of smuggled goods to finance travel out of the Guomindang area for left-leaning intellectuals, attended graduate school in Massachusetts, listened to Tommy Dorsey and eaten pastrami in New York, written for the Overseas Chinese Daily, convinced patriotic Chinese students in the U.S. to return home to build a new China, and gone to work at the Foreign Ministry. Until 1951, however, he had not lived in the Chinese countryside. This paper explores the lessons he learned when he was assigned to assist with land reform in Sichuan.
Gail Hershatter is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a former President of the Association for Asian Studies. Her books include The Workers of Tianjin (1986, Chinese translation 2016), Personal Voices: China Women in the 1980s (1988, with Emily Honig), Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution in Twentieth-Century Shanghai (1997, Chinese translation 2003), Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century (2004), The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past (2011; Chinese translation 2017) and Women and China’s Revolutions (2019).
18:30-19:00 (CEST)
Julia STRAUSS (SOAS, University of London):Performing New China through Campaigns and Consolidation: The View from 1951
1951 was a time of both high optimism and great promise for China's socialist modern. The country was finally at peace, the leadership was united, and "the people" were being inculcated into the vocabularies, norms and practices of the revolution. Linking 1951 backward to the civil war years and forward to the later Mao campaigns, this lecture will focus on the ways in which New China was performed through campaigns of regime consolidation that simultaneously established the parameters of correct speech, extended the reach of the state, and invited popular participation.
Julia C. Strauss is Professor of Chinese Politics at SOAS, University of London, where she served as Editor of The China Quarterly from 2002-2011. She works on 20th century state building and institution building in China and Taiwan, with her monograph State Formation in China and Taiwan: Bureaucracy, Campaign and Performance (Cambridge 2020) her most recent publication on this topic. She also publishes on performance in politics, BRI (particularly China-Africa) and Chinese forestry.

June 16, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CEST)
Xiaomei CHEN (University of California, Davis):New Cultural Workers and their Self-Identities: The View from 1961
Hospitalized in 1961, Ouyang Yuqian had nine months to live: he dictated his will to protect his self-identity: “Who am I? I am an active participant of the drama movement.” He probably did so to fence off future simplistic glorifications of his career in the official media. Examining half a century of his personal history in ten-years-steps, this lecture begins to trace the year 1911 when Ouyang returned from Japan to embark on his professional career; the year 1921, at the end of his experiments with establishing Nantong Acting School, where he combined Western arts with traditional xiqu in training new actors; the year 1931, when he concluded his leadership of Guangdong Drama Institute, where he built a theater, educated actors, scripted plays, and published theater journals; the year 1941, when his influential history drama The Loyal King of Li Xiucheng was performed to resounding success during the war period, and the year 1951, when he led and participated in the Rectification Campaign in the art circles. Rather than seeing Ouyang’s career as a downhill path toward politicization, propaganda, and victimization, this lecture argues for his creative energies in turning crises into opportunities in pursuit of a transnational theater aesthetics across temporal and spatial boundaries.
Xiaomei Chen is Distinguished Professor at the University of California at Davis where she teaches modern Chinese literature, film, and theater. She is the author of Occidentalism (1995), Acting the Right Part (2002), and Staging Chinese Revolution (2016). She is the editor of Reading the Right Text (2003) and Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Drama (2010) and co-editor, with Claire Sponsler, of East of West: Cross-Cultural Performances and the Staging of Difference (2000)"; with Julia Andrew, of Visual Culture in Contemporary China (2001), with Steven Siyuan Liu, Hong Shen and the Modern Mediasphere in Republican-Era China (2016), and with Tarryn Chun and Siyuan Liu, Rethinking Socialist Theater Reform (2021).
18:30-19:00 (CEST)
Anne KERLAN (EHESS, Paris):Fighting against Mao with words: The story of Lin Zhao
In December 1960, the 29-year-old Beijing University student Lin Zhao was arrested in Shanghai, accused of having complotted against the state. The young woman will spend the last 8 years of her life in jail, but will never recognize the charges against her: for her, it was normal and necessary to criticize Mao and the Communist Party who were tyrannically governing the country. To fight against the regime, to find strengths to survive the terrible conditions of her incarceration, Lin Zhao had only one weapon: her writing talents.
Anne Kerlan is Director of Research at the CNRS (Centre National de la recherche scientifique-French National Centre for Scientific Research) since 2001. After having been a researcher at the Institut d'histoire du temps présent until 2017, she joined the The Center for studies on China, Korea and Japan (CNRS; École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales-the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences; Université de Paris). She is a historian of twentieth-century China, specialized on history of Chinese visual culture and Chinese cinema, teaching at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales for masters and PhD on these topics. Her publications include Lin Zhao: Combattante de la liberté (Fayard, 2018; the book won two Prizes in 2019) and Hollywood in Shanghai. L'épopée des studios de la Lianhua, 1930-1948 (PUR, 2015).

June 23, 2021

18:00-18:30 (CEST)
Karl GERTH (University of California, San Diego):1961, a year of not enough significance? Why some years shape characterizations of the CCP more than others
How much difference does the year make in characterizations of the Chinese Communist Party? What if this lecture series had checked in on the CCP at the end of each decade rather than the beginning? This talk examines 1961, when the CCP began to reverse the policies of the Great Leap Forward, and contrasts that year with 1959, at the height of CCP efforts to catapult the country into Communism. The contrast highlights the massive swings in the policy pendulum that characterizes the CCP during the Mao era (1949-76) and suggests characterizations of the CCP often rely more heavily on one set of policy extremes rather than the other in assessing its history.
Karl Gerth is Professor of History and Hwei-chih and Julia Hsiu Endowed Chair in Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His latest book, Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China’s Communist Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2020) investigates the impact of consumerism in China’s urban centers following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He is also the author of As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), which explores whether Chinese consumers can rescue the economy without creating even deeper global problems and China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2003), a history of economic nationalism in early twentieth-century China. After receiving his PhD in from Harvard in 2000, he taught at the University of South Carolina, Oxford University, and moved to UCSD in 2013. For more information on his work, see:
18:30-19:00 (CEST)
Puck ENGMAN (University of California, Berkeley):Chinese Socialism after the Loss of the Communist Horizon: Class Assignment and the Segregation of Present from Past
This paper considers debates and practices related to class status in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward. Against interpretations of the class status system as a manifestation of "high modernist" ideology, it argues that class status gained importance after the Leap not as a form of regulation but through the efforts to make socialism distinct from a modernity that revolution had rendered illegitimate.
Puck Engman is a historian of China in the postwar era with interests in the legal, economic, and social aspects of socialist transformation. He is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD from Freiburg University following studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (MA), Lund University (BA) as well as Beijing Normal University, Wuhan University, and Jilin University. As a member of the Maoist Legacy project, he helped build a digital archive which collects, curates, and translates documents on historical justice from the People’s Republic of China. His current book project looks at how the Chinese government defined and attempted to solve the problem of capitalists following the state takeover of private enterprises. His publications include Victims, Perpetrators and the Role of Law in Maoist China: A Case-Study Approach (2018, co-edited with Daniel Leese) and “Breaking with the Past: Party Propaganda and State Crimes” (2020).

June 30, 2021

16:00-16:30 (CEST)
Dayton LEKNER (The University of British Columbia):Echolocating the Social: Silence, Audition and Speech in early Communist Campaigns
This talk explores the political and social transformations of the early years under Communism through a focus on sound, hearing, and voice. Taking the Hundred Flowers and Rectification campaigns as central focus, I ask how these movements and their effect on the social might appear if we set aside (temporarily) political and ideological divisions and tune in instead to acts of audition and sound-making. The experiment is an attempt to uncover aspects of experience in the early PRC that defy descriptions as socialist or revolutionary, and thus connect these experiences with a global history of audition, silence, and sound in the 20th century.
Dayton Lekner is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Asian research, University of British Columbia. He is currently completing his first book, which explores the Hundred Flowers and Anti-Rightist Campaigns as movements of literary circulation and practice. From September of 2021 he will begin a project, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, on the practices and cultures of listening and sound-making in Mao-era China. His research and translations have appeared in Modern China, Twentieth Century China, The Journal of Asian Studies, and Contemporary Chinese Thought.
16:30-17:00 (CEST)
Jie LI (Harvard University):1971: Listening to Enemy Radio in the Socialist Media Ecology
This talk begins by unraveling how many ordinary Chinese learned about the death and betrayal of Mao’s “closest comrade-in-arms” Lin Biao on September 13, 1971—by listening to enemy radio—and analyze the incident’s reverberations on the Chinese information ecosystem. I will then track the evolution, revolution, and involution of Socialist China’s wireless and wired soundscape as well as the shifting definitions, boundaries and interactions between music and noise. As the phrase nao geming or “noising revolution” suggests, making noise was an integral aspect of making revolution in Socialist China. The Cultural Revolution decade in particular featured a deafening soundscape of high-volume loudspeakers and jammed shortwave radio. It was a schizophrenic and schizophonic age, a nervous time with electrified sounds waging wars on one’s nerves. This talk will conclude with echoes of enemy radio listening in the 1980s and scaling the Great Firewall in the new millennium.
Jie Li is a John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. With research interests focusing on the mediation of memories in modern China, she is the author of Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life (Columbia University Press, 2014) and Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (Duke University Press, 2020). She co-edited Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution (Harvard Asia Center, 2016). Her current book project, Cinematic Guerrillas: Maoist Propaganda as Spirit Mediumship explores film exhibition and reception in socialist China. She has also published articles on the cinema of Manchuria, on contemporary Chinese documentaries, and on radios and loudspeakers. Li’s writings have appeared in journals such as Grey Room, Screen, positions: east asia cultures critique, Modern China, The Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Twentieth-Century China, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Jump Cut, and Public Culture.

July 01, 2021

16:30-18:00 (CEST)
The Studying Party History Small Group 建党一百周年座谈会:A ROUNDTABLE: Another "Correct Historical View of the CPC Centenary"

July 07, 2021

18:00-19:30 (CEST)
Julia LOVELL (Birkbeck College, University of London):The CCP Goes Global: International Legacies of Cultural Revolution Maoism
In China in 1971, the shocking flight and death of Lin Biao—Mao's designated successor—after an alleged assassination plot against Mao undermined confidence in the Cultural Revolution, and signalled that this exhausting, destructive campaign might eventually come to an end. Beyond China's borders, however, Mao's most radical international admirers were deploying the theory and practice of the Cultural Revolution in rebellions against their own states. This essay will trace the global journeys and reception of Mao's ideas, which inspired and galvanised insurgencies in Asia and Latin America that continued decades after the death of Mao and the end of the Cultural Revolution in China.
Julia Lovell is Professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of Maoism: A Global History, which won the 2019 Cundill History Prize, and The Opium War, which won the 2012 Jan Michalski Prize. Her many translations of modern Chinese fiction into English include The Real Story of Ah Q and Other Tales of China, and Monkey King: Journey to the West, both published by Penguin Classics. She writes about China for several newspapers, including The Guardian, Financial Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
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