OSA lunchtime lecture series | Making Revolutionary Subjects in Time: Shan Windscript
Shan Windscript | School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne
Making Revolutionary Subjects in Time: Narrating State Socialist Temporality in Diaries of the Early Cultural Revolution
The everyday “realities” of Mao-era China have been subject to growing scholarly interest. “Ordinary” people, once considered products and victims of state propaganda, have begun to figure in recent literature as sovereign subjects who fulfilled their selfhood through strategies of circumvention and resistance. Aiming to complicate existing literature, this paper examines unpublished personal diaries written during the early Cultural Revolution (1966-1968).
Approaching Mao-era diary-writing as a practice of self-construction within, and in relation to, dominant historical and discursive systems of subject-positioning, I explore how journal-keeping enabled the diarists to develop a historical consciousness central to the production of revolutionary subjectivity. A close reading of their personal documents reveals an active process of political self-imagination through narrative engagement with authoritative discourse of time and history.
Assisted by the diary’s temporality of “dailiness,” the writers eagerly embraced the state-socialist time as a framework by which to synchronize their mundane narrative self into an imagined national and global revolutionary community. In addition, the journal’s function as a personal marker of “occasional time” enabled many writers to situate themselves within the Maoist “regime of historicity” (Hartog, 2003; 2016) through symbolic self-commemoration. Writing quotidian life into an extraordinary time, the Mao-era diarists constituted themselves as both witnesses and subjects of History in the making. Yet this process was also marked by tensions and contradiction, highlighting the complex dialogical nexus between ideology and individual capacities in generating unintended meanings at the grassroots.
Speaker Bio: Shan Windscript is a final-stage Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Melbourne. Her research examines unpublished personal diaries written by ordinary Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution and, more specifically, how everyday writing shaped the construction of revolutionary selfhood within and beyond state ideology.
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In 2020 the Oriental Society of Australia will hold online lectures showcasing the work of early career and higher degree researchers working across different geographical and cultural understandings of Asia. We hope to develop a network of perspectives from across the region. Please join! And get in touch if you would like to present at a future date.