Utopias on the Ground: Everyday Life in the Making of Mao’s “New China”

Ms Katherine  Molyneux1, Ms. Shan Windscript1, Ms. Peidong  Sun2, Ms. Ning Zhang2

1University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 2Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Chair: Shan Windscript

Overview:

This panel aims to stimulate critical discussions of aspects of everyday life in Mao-era China, where state-socialist visions for the future radically transformed – often with disastrous consequences – the grassroots’ here-and-now. The four papers in this panel explore the significance and dynamic impact of Maoist utopias on the ground from different perspectives, bringing new insights from previously unexplored or neglected sources into a volatile past suffused with hopes, fears, and uncertainty. Katherine Molyneux examines the fate of street peddlers during Nanjing’s urban commune movement in the Great Leap Forward, demonstrating that the state’s yearning for an industrial utopia reconstituted the city’s daily economy. Shan Windscript examines unpublished diaries of the early Cultural Revolution, showing how ordinary people appropriated official discourse of time to position themselves in socialist space as historical subjects. Peidong Sun explores the dynamic relationship between official censorship and personal reading practices, highlighting the limitations of power in suppressing the individuals. Finally, Zhang Ning looks into the personal documents of a former “educated youth” to discuss the disappearance of the revolutionary horizon in rural everyday life. Together, the four papers argue that the Maoist grassroots, while being transformed by utopias “from above,” fractured state homogeneity from the bottom up.

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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