Cultural Foundations of Chinese Communism: The Anyuan Revolutionary Tradition

22 Mar 2013
Elizabeth J. Perry
Venue: Seminar Hall 1 & 2, Kamaladevi Complex, IIC, New Delhi
Time: 6:00 PM


The 7th Giri Deshingkar Memorial Lecture 

Cultural Foundations of Chinese Communism: The Anyuan Revolutionary Tradition

About the Speaker

Elizabeth J Perry is Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. She is a comparativist with special expertise in the politics of China. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, she sits on the editorial boards of nearly a dozen major scholarly journals, holds honorary professorships at six Chinese universities, and has served as the President of the Association for Asian Studies. Professor Perry's research focuses on popular protest and grassroots politics in modern and contemporary China. Her books include Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945 (1980); Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Rebellion (1981); The Political Economy of Reform in Post-Mao China(1985); Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (1992); Urban Spaces in Contemporary China: The Potential for Autonomy and Community in Chinese Cities (1995);Putting Class in Its Place: Worker Identities in East Asia (1996); Proletarian Power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution (1997); Danwei: The Changing Chinese Workplace in Historical and Comparative Perspective (1997); Chinese Society: Change, Conflict, and Resistance (2000);Silence and Voice in the Study of Contentious Politics (2001); Challenging the Mandate of Heaven: Social Protest and State Power in China (2002); Changing Meanings of Citizenship in Modern China (2002); Patrolling the Revolution: Worker Militias, Citizenship and the Modern Chinese State (2006); Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China (2007); Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (2011); andAnyuan: Mining China's Revolutionary Tradition (2012). Her book, Shanghai on Strike: the Politics of Chinese Labor (1993), won the John King Fairbank prize from the American Historical Association. Her article, "Chinese Conceptions of Rights" (2008), won the Heinz Eulau award from theAmerican Political Science Association.


How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese revolution?  Why did it take such a different path from its Russian prototype?  An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and since.  Skillful “cultural positioning” and “cultural patronage” on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades, and successors helped to construct a polity in which a once-alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly “Chinese.”  Drawing on her recently published book, Perry traces this process through a colorfully illustrated case study of the Anyuan coal mine, where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution.  Once known as “China’s Little Moscow,” Anyuan came over time to serve as a touchstone of “political correctness” that symbolized a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition.  Perry examines the contested meanings of that tradition as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.


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