Everyday Politics in Maoist China

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Everyday Politics in Maoist China
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Gavin Healy, Columbia University, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Yanjie Huang, Columbia University, United States (presenter, co-chair)
Mengran Xu, University of Toronto, Canada (presenter)
Wilson Miu, University of California-Santa Cruz, United States (presenter)
Yue Du, Cornell University, United States (discussant)


In Maoist China, from the 1950s to the 1970s, the political found expression in everyday life in a variety of ways. From the language used in public and private discourse, to relations between family members, work routines, and economic activity at the village and household level, Maoist ideology touched nearly every facet of daily life. While much of the scholarship on this period has focused on elite political discourse and its impact on state subjects, the papers in this panel look beyond a strict dichotomy of state and society to examine the ways that politics both shaped, and were shaped by, the “everyday.” Mengran Xu (Toronto) analyzes state efforts to popularize the collection and use of methane as a means of fostering self-reliance in energy in Sichuan and Anhui. Yanjie Huang (Columbia) examines letters exchanged between “sent-down” youth and their family members in Shanghai to elucidate the strategies used at the household level to mobilize economic sacrifice to cope with family separation. Wilson Miu (UC-Santa Cruz) addresses the tensions between the political and the familial in South China as the state sought to regulate cross-border marriages. Gavin Healy (Columbia) discusses attempts by Party branch officials on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen railway to help attendants serving Hong Kong passengers steel themselves against the material temptations of the colony. Mara Yue Du (Cornell) will serve as discussant for the panel.