China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: This panel uses the acts of reading and writing as a prism onto the transformational first decades of Communist rule in China. For writers and readers, neither pre-existing norms and values, nor the newly engineered socialist system fully dominated discursive practice before the socialist state consolidated its control over the cultural field in the late 1950s. Print materials were a mixture of old and new, and both writers and publishers were faced with a bewildering array of options in terms of ideas, writing styles, languages, and even materiality.
The panel brings together junior and senior scholars of print and reading culture from the PRC, Europe, and North America to explore the political and cultural significance of what was written and read during the 1950s. Culp analyzes how multivocality in early-1950s youth league publications generated an echoing effect that discursively realized a mass line politics; Zhou examines labor hero propaganda as knowledge production; Dong probes how Mao’s works were popularized and concretized through daily practices in rural Fujian; and Yang discusses the ideological challenges presented by reading practices related to the Beijing Dong’an Second-hand Book-market. With the discussant and chair, Judge and Reed, we aim to investigate the gaps between the state’s ideological goals and the ecology of everyday cultural practices. Questioning how these processes resulted in transformation, acceptance, or refusal of certain modes of reading and writing, we illuminate the dynamic cultural landscape of the 1950s.
Paper Presenter: Robert Culp – Bard College
Paper Presenter: Sisi Dong – Minnan Normal University
Paper Presenter: Haiyan Zhou – Nanjing University
Paper Presenter: Lara Y. Yang – University of Freiburg