History and Text: A Study on the Changing Forms of Governmentality of the Communist Party of China

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 57
Oral Presentation
Qiuyuan HUANG , Department of Sociology, Peking University, China
Following the traditions of New Historicism, this paper explores the historicity of text and the textuality of history through a case study on the changing forms of governmentality of the Communist Party of China (CPC) before and after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The paper focuses on two social movements initiated by CPC: Land Reform before the foundation of PRC and Patriotic Hygiene Campaign afterwards. The former movement intended to classify ‘class backgrounds’ of people in rural China in order to distribute private properties to create an egalitarian society. While the latter aimed to arouse awareness of public health so as to win an alleged germ warfare and raise people’s standard of living.

The first part of the paper uses two literature texts to analyze the change of governmentality. One is Ding Ling’s award-winning novel the Sun Shines on Sanggang River which portraits the Land Reform. The other is Clear Skywritten by renowned playwright Cao Yu which tells the story of how an American-sponsored hospital transformed during the Patriotic Hygiene Campaign. Under CPC’s ideological influence, both texts served the purpose of political propaganda. While the structure, character and storytelling reveal the change of CPC’s governmentality from absolute dependence on violence to reliance on mastering and discipline of knowledge and discourse.

Second part of the paper further discusses the practice of the new form of governmentality in later years of the Patriotic Hygiene Campaign. Using news reports and official archives, the paper uncovers the changing meaning of the idiom ‘class enemy’. From American imperialism to wrong methods of economic development, and later, dissidents within the Party, the change of the designatum of the same word unveils the fact that history is more of a narrative open to various interpretations than a solid causality between events.