The Making and Remaking of Socialist Subjects in the People’s Republic of China, 1950s-1980s
2: When the Production Stops: Collective Reading Activities at the Industrial Factory in Late-Mao Era PRC
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 305B
University of Freiburg, Germany
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) employed mass campaigns to communicate political goals; these also attempted to guide the people along the desired path of socialist subject-formation. A key practice aiding such political communication was collective reading (dushu huodong): officially-organized and party-led activities during which texts were read and discussed. By means of direct engagement, these collective readers were to embody the texts—and, by extension, socialist values and principles the texts stood for. Joining recent scholarship in bringing the lived experiences of the worker under state socialism back to center (Andreas 2019, Farley 2019), this paper discusses how the act of reading socialism together was carried out at the factory. Given that the industrial work unit provided the basic social necessities for its extended members—healthcare, schooling, entertainment, housing, and work—mass campaigns had a particularly tangible impact on workers’ everyday life. Yet, what did it mean to all the readers to analyze political texts during, after or even instead of production work? And what was it like to read about socialism with others during the late-1960s and 1970s, when one mass campaign after the other—often in mutually-contradictory ways—had an impact on the many? Through an in-depth analysis of party-internal documents, workers’ publications, and visual media, this paper provides novel insights into the ideological production of the “late-socialist human,” and the role of the factory within this process.