China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The emergence of mass society and its popular participation in politics was a defining feature of the 20th century. With this overarching change came a systemic politicization of collective rituals, defined here as repeating practices governed by a set of explicit and implicit norms. From small reading groups to mass rallies, from newspaper-reading to radio-listening to movie-going, from struggling against landlords to eating bitterness meals, this panel examines a variety of collective rituals central to Chinese Communist Party’s political legitimization and mass mobilization. Covering a period from the 1940s to the late 1970s, we explore how, when, and what collective rituals became part of the hegemonic reality of socialist China. Belinda He analyzes the ritualistic and spectacular violence of “struggling against landlords” during land reform of the early 1950s. Sei Jeong Chin explores theatrical and performative aspects of collective newspaper-reading in the 1950s. Jie Li investigates the quasi-religious nature of Maoist propaganda through collective movie-going and radio-listening practices. Damian Mandzunowski presents research on rituals of guided reading groups for workers and cadres in the late 1970s. In her role as Discussant, Madeleine Y. Dong’s comments on the papers will also draw on her research on food culture in Maoist China. As a whole, the panel aims to answer in how far an established collective ritual could continue to exist outside politics and in how far its transformation into political communication was inevitable under the CCP's rule.