China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: This panel aims to stimulate critical discussion on the intersection of everyday life, subjectivity, state-building, and thought work in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the 1950s-1980s. Drawing on new scholarship and previously underexplored historical sources, the four papers explore the dynamic roles and relationship of the state, society, and individuals in constituting subject-positions at different sites of production—from industrial factories and urban work units to the agricultural field. Yi Ren examines how blind storytellers laid off by the Maoist propaganda system in the 1960s later utilized newly available political language and power in the Cultural Revolution to assert their entitlement to government provision of goods and services. Damian Mandzunowski argues that official collective reading activities at urban factories in the 1960s-70s promoted socialist knowledge of the moment that was at the base of forming industrial socialist humans. Shan Windscript explores the spatial imaginings of revolutionary selfhood in unpublished diaries by the sent-down youth, highlighting complex processes of self-construction within and beyond state socialist discourse of space. Benjamin Kindler looks into the reconfiguration of socialist subjectivity within the discipline of human sciences during the reform-era, showing how PRC intellectuals adopted and reinvented western scientific theories to envision the “post-socialist human” of labor. The panel hence expands our understanding of how diverse work spaces and their corresponding modes of subject formation were transformed through the incorporation of new kinds of knowledge production at the local and national level during different periods of the PRC.
Paper Presenter: Yi Ren – University of Pennsylvania
Paper Presenter: Damian Mandzunowski – University of Freiburg
Paper Presenter: Shan Windscript – University of Melbourne
Paper Presenter: Benjamin Kindler – Columbia University