From Minguore to Mao-merobilia: The Politics and Mechanics of Nostalgia in Modern China
3: From Grassroots Nostalgia to Official Memory: Red Relics in Contemporary China
Saturday, March 26, 2022
6:00pm – 7:30pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 311
Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China (People's Republic)
This paper examines the collection of ‘Red relics’, which are objects that relate to CCP history. The collections were initially understood primarily as a form of grassroots nostalgia for the supposed purity and equality of the Mao era and a reaction against the changes of the Reform era. This paper argues that in recent years, these objects, particularly those from the revolutionary pre-1949 period, have been increasingly co-opted by CCP figures into the Party’s narrative about the rejuvenation of China under its leadership. This paper explores a recent media campaign in Suzhou that invited school children to search for "red treasures" in their homes and use them to tell "red stories." This is theorized as a form of "constructed nostalgia" in which an emotional link is created between the younger generation and their revolutionary forbearers through the practice of telling the object’s red story. The changing role of Red relics in contemporary China is thus understood as reflecting the complex relationship between objects and memory, particularly as distance from the original events grow.