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AAS in Asia 2020

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Communist Soundscape in Mao’s China: The Newspaper Reading Group and Chinese Political Modernity (Paper Presented)
This paper focuses on the historical origin, development and significance of newspaper reading groups in early socialist China and examines a handful of visual material, literary works and newspaper archives that described this cultural practice, whilst asking questions about Chinese political modernity and the development of mass and popular culture. Established in Yan'an in the 1940s, the newspaper reading group played a crucial role in the top-down grassroots mobilization and political education by delivering the Party's political instruction as well as domestic and foreign news, which resonated with Mao Zedong'sdiscourse of a "Mass Line." Rather than considering the newspaper reading group as a pure propagandistic mechanism, this paper instead views it as a democratic (media) technology that reconstructed the relationship between elite intellectuals and the broader masses in imaginative and practical ways. At the first superficial level, newspaper reading group leaders, who were usually highly-educated, organized the populace to discuss selected topics and to propagate their own ideas. Anyone with a good command of common knowledge could volunteer as a new leading reader for others. In a sense, newspaper readings appeared as a transformative way to gradually shape a populace with low-literary skills into new masters of knowledge. At a deeper level, an "audio turn" in the newspaper reading group meant that the dissemination of knowledge via the spoken "mass language" overcame the visual obstacle, namely, the written language. As a result, the newspaper reading group contributed to a particular communist soundscape where the subjectivity of the masses emerged.

Research Unit / Event Journal/Book Series


TitleAAS in Asia 2020
LocationThe International Academic Forum (IAFOR)
Degree of recognitionInternational event