2017 Wat Lecture: Living the Cultural Revolution—Impact Events and the Making of Cultural Memory

China, Handicraft. Licensed from Adobe Stock |Portrait of Mao Zedong at Tianamen Gate. Photo by Richard Fisher used with CC BY 2.0 license. | Mao Zedong-ding. Photo by John Naughton. Used with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

with Prof. Barbara Mittler (University of Heidelberg)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
6:00pm Reception
7:00pm Lecture
Auditorium, Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall
Free and open to the public – registration required

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Abstract:

Why is it that for a while in the early 2000s, Mao’s portrait dangled in almost every taxi? Why is it that Mao’s image is to be found everywhere today, in high-market as well as popular accessories? Why do numerous Chinese websites feature memories of producing and consuming Maoist propaganda art? Why do people get married in “Cultural Revolution style”? Why are the model works and revolutionary songs most prominent during the Cultural Revolution reproduced in never-ending varieties of pop, rock and jazz covers, even in karaoke bars, and on home videos? Why, in short, do people appreciate the products of a period in Chinese history known for its radical politics and the horrors it inflicted on so many?

In addressing these questions, Barbara Mittler will argue that the Cultural Revolution was an “impact event” that touched not only those who have written about it—intellectuals, the well-off, the middle class—but everyone down to peasants and workers. The Cultural Revolution was there for—or against—everyone. Taking her point of departure from three recent films, fictional and documentary: Bloody Snow by Peng Tao and My Cultural Revolution and Crime Summary by Xu Xing, Professor Mittler will illustrate how, in innumerable and even counterintuitive ways, the Cultural Revolution’s political hysterics reached even the most remote corners of a vast country. She will explore how the all-encompassing experience of living through the Cultural Revolution has influenced the making of cultural memory in and beyond China.

Speaker Bio:

Prof. Dr. Barbara Mittler is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg and Director of the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies—Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Her hundreds of publications include the books Dangerous Tunes: The Politics of Chinese Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China since 1949 (Harrassowitz, 1997); A Newspaper for China: Power, Identity and Change in Shanghai’s News Media (1872-1912) (Harvard, 2004); and A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard, 2012), which won the 2013 John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association. She is a graduate of Heidelberg (Habilitation and Ph.D.), Oxford (B.A./M.A.), and Pearson College (I.B.) in Victoria, B.C.


Associated Events

Screening of Xu Xing’s Independent Documentary Film, Criminal Records 罪行摘要

Documentary film director Xu Xing

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
2pm – 4pm
Room 221, West Mall Swing Space, 2175 West Mall

Details >>

Research Seminar: A King’s two Bodies? Mao’s Death and his Legacy

Mao Zedong lying in state in Beijing in 1976

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
4pm – 6pm
Room 604, UBC Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall

Details >>