Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Revolution’

Memory as History

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

“The narrator looks for objective history, but he must submit to fiction as the only way to retrieve the past. The resulting narrative is revised while being told.”1

Is there really an objective history of the Cultural Revolution? Here was an event that influenced virtually everyone in China, yet no two people had exactly the same reaction to it. And as we move farther from that time, new generations are adding their own historical perspectives and ideas about what happened while their parents or grandparents were younger. Therefore, there really isn’t a coherent “memory” of the Cultural Revolution itself. Xiaojun’s inability to recount his story as it “actually happened” mirrors China as a whole’s struggles to recall and make sense of those ten years on a national level. The history of the Cultural Revolution didn’t end with the end of the Cultural Revolution itself, but continues to evolve as time moves on and people come to terms with what happened. Any fictionalizations are not inherently “wrong,” just a part of that changing narrative.

  1. Yomi Braester, “Memory at a Standstill: From Maohistory to Hooligan History”, 198/

Cultural Revolution Posters

Monday, January 31st, 2011

“There are layers of trajectories of meaning that are common throughout the visual imagination of a society or group and that operate on the key level of assumption.”1

I thought the idea of “hegemonic discourse” that the authors introduce was rather interesting. During the Cultural Revolution posters were everywhere and dealt with a variety of topics, yet somehow amidst all of that visual stimulus a certain common meaning developed for different colors, symbols, or designs. But, as the authors point out with their example of the Red Guards’ behavior, common understandings can still provoke different reactions. Each individual viewer brings her or his own unique perspective to every poster seen on the street or in a home. As the posters were generally made to have a quick impact, viewers may only have had a few seconds to form an overall impression of what the poster meant or was asking. That leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation. My question is, how much did the Cultural Revolution posters play off of colors, motifs, or images already common in Chinese society? How much of the meaning behind these things existed before the revolution and how much grew out of it?

  1. Harriet Evans & Stephanie Donald, Picturing Power in the Cultural Revolution (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 17