Project I: Flesh and Stone: Contested Memories of Chinese Female Revolutionary Martyrs
- This project grows out of my long time interests in ideological maneuvering and gender studies. Growing up in China with great exposure to the stories of revolutionary heroes and heroines, my admiration for revolutionary martyrs also generated my question about why people determine to sacrifice their lives for abstract ideals. In 2007, I did field trips for my research on burgeoning creative industries in China. I visited art spaces in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. The research resulted in a book which addresses media, art and fashion industries in China. In the field trips, I encountered artist Yang Tao’s sculpture of the iconic female revolutionary martyr Liu Hulan, and found the contrast between the sculpture made for commemorating Liu in 1951 and a post-modern parody of statue of the female revolutionary martyr cannot be more striking. I started to conduct research on representations of revolutionary martyrdom from a gendered perspective. As someone who regularly works closely with news media sources, I also wrote many op-eds and reviews of contemporary Chinese culture for Chinese newspapers. I believe that contemporary cultural phenomena could not be understood without the sense of history. I therefore started to investigate both the historical roots and the contemporary representations of female revolutionary martyrdom.
- My current book project Flesh and Stone: Contested Memories of Chinese Female Revolutionary Martyrs interrogates the modern promotion of revolutionary female martyrs and its connection to the idolization of female chaste suicide in late imperial China. Through examining fictional and historical records, stone monuments and artistic representations of female martyrs, I analyze flesh and stone as metaphors for two different discourses on female martyrdom. Flesh refers to the literary representations of the flesh and blood bodies of female martyrs that disrupt the state discourse on martyrdom by introducing the embodied individual. Stone, on the other hand, is a metaphor for the discourse of the state.
- Two research essays, which are closely related to my book project, have been published in Comparative Literature Studies and Ming Studies. Another peer-reviewed article on female martyrdom titled “Meat, Ghost, Tumor and Goddess: The Afterlife of a Female Martyr” has been accepted for publication in Chinese Oral and Performing Literature.
Project II: Producing Socialist China: The Aestheticization of Labor in Seventeen-year Literature (1949-1966)
- My second book project tentatively titled Producing Socialist China: The Aestheticization of Labor in Seventeen-year Literature (1949-1966). It examines the representations of “labor” and “production” in Chinese art and literature of the 1950s and 60s, and investigates the relationships between production and consumption, distribution and leisure. It explores how the idealization of selfless labor helped to create a new socialist ideology and the new socialist subject.
- My published journal article on Maoism provides a theoretical framework for my second book project that reinterprets socialist China and Chinese socialist literature. I have been invited to submit a paper to the journal Modern Fiction Studies for the special issue “Peripheral Literatures and the History of Capitalism”. My essay for the special issue is a part of my second book project. It analyzes the aestheticization of labor in literature on the agricultural cooperative movement in 1950s China, including Zhao Shuli’s Sanliwan Village (1955), Zhou Libo’s Great Changes in a Mountain Village (1957), and Liu Qing’s The Builders (1959). It argues that the aestheticization of labor is essential for establishing socialist subjectivity and eliminating the capitalist elements in 1950s China.
- As another part of my second book project, I am also working on an article titled “Producing the Socialist Family: The New Marriage Law in 1950s Chinese Propaganda Films.” The article examines the overarching theme of “production” and “labor” in Marriage Law propaganda films, and situates the marriage reform of the 1950s within the context of Chinese land reform, which emphasized class struggle and mobilized women to leave the household and join the workforce. It argues that the primary goal of the Marriage Law of 1950 was to reshape the family-state relationship rather than to liberate women.
Project III: Propaganda and Counterpropaganda in Popular Culture
- My third research project on “Propaganda and Counterpropaganda in Popular Culture” is in the beginning stage. When I was conducting research on representations of female revolutionary martyrs, I was drawn to the issues of digital activism, media censorship, and the popular trend of everyday consumers and artists rewriting socialist history and mocking socialist heroes in contemporary China. In my major future project, I plan to pursue this inquiry into contemporary Chinese literature, film and social media, with special focus on the tension between grassroots discourse and official discourse in popular culture. I published a book on creative industries in China, which addresses media, art, fashion and popular culture in 2007. My thorough training in cultural studies and my previous research on ideological maneuvering and Chinese popular culture allow me to explore “Propaganda and Counterpropaganda in Popular Culture” in an innovative way.