China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Recent years have witnessed significant developments in expanding our understanding of children and childhood in modern China. While this scholarship demonstrates the centrality of children to China’s twentieth century, more research is needed that reconstructs the lived experience of children as historical actors. This panel addresses this unevenness by featuring scholarship that highlights the sociocultural life worlds within which children grew and their responses to top-down adult prerogatives. Kyle David explores the Chinese Communist Youth League’s (CYL) 1920s conception of a “communist child.” He argues that the CYL attempted to realize this ideal-type youngster in the flesh by mobilizing children’s involvement in direct political action. Examining reading materials from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 1930s Jiangxi Soviet, Margaret Tillman argues that the CCP enlisted children too young for military duty in alternative services, which included fundraising, farming, and participating in enlistment drives. Focusing on territories governed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Zhenyu Gao analyzes how the KMT’s conceptualization of citizenship prompted it to pursue student self-government as an educational strategy. Finally, Jing Xu studies child-to-child learning in rural 1960s Taiwan. Surveying anthropological field notes, she argues that a close reading of sibling interactions demonstrates the ways in which children acted upon peer communities, learning and transmitting socio-moral norms. Taken together, these papers uncover how a host of public and private actors sought to instill citizenship, morality, and social responsibility in society’s youngest members, while also showcasing the often-unanticipated ways in which children responded to such efforts.
Paper Presenter: Margaret Mih Tillman – Purdue University
Paper Presenter: Jing Xu – University of Washington
Paper Presenter: Zhenyu Gao – Hangzhou Normal University