China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

(76) History and Memory in the PRC: Competing Narratives of the Anti-Rightist Campaign

3/23/2018
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 4, Exhibit Level

Writing memoirs of the Maoist era can be a challenge to the Chinese state control of historical narratives, especially with the increasing suppression of dissent under Xi Jinping. Nevertheless, those who wish to recall pasts diverging from the orthodox have remained resilient and innovative in their efforts. How should we understand these “beneath the radar” works? This panel, taking the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957-58 as a case study, discusses four facets of this interplay between history and memory. We present narratives from across the ideological spectrum that compete not only against the state, but with each other. Though memory is self-serving and therefore unreliable in restoring history, we explore memoirs as a discourse and for the positions taken by their writers.

Dayton Lekner traces the ongoing struggle between Party loyalists and those labeled “Rightist” for appropriation and control of the key imagery, and associated memories, of the campaign. Yidi Wu explores changing perceptions of the label “Rightist” itself - from being marginalized and punished to taking pride and becoming dissidents. William Sima explores the biographies of three victims of the campaign as both a way of challenging Party lore and ideology, and as problematic in their return to the tradition of biography as history. Last, Anja Blanke investigates the interplay of competing narratives among memoirs written by survivors of the campaign. Overall, our panel contributes to a better understanding of the corpus of “unofficial” writing surrounding the Anti-Rightist Campaign and asks what place history, and historiography, might afford these works.

Presentations:

Yidi Wu

St. Mary's College, Indiana, California

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Felix Wemheuer

University of Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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Dayton Lekner

University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Yidi Wu

St. Mary's College, Indiana, California

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Will Sima

Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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Anja Blanke

Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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Felix Wemheuer

University of Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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