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Chairman Mao's Children
Generation and the Politics of Memory in China

$110.00 (C)

  • Author: Bin Xu, Emory University, Atlanta
  • Date Published: June 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108844253

$ 110.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, around 17 million Chinese youths were mobilized or forced by the state to migrate to rural villages and China's frontiers. Bin Xu tells the story of how this 'sent-down' generation have come to terms with their difficult past. Exploring representations of memory including personal life stories, literature, museum exhibits, and acts of commemoration, he argues that these representations are defined by a struggle to reconcile worthiness with the political upheavals of the Mao years. These memories, however, are used by the state to construct an official narrative that weaves this generation's experiences into an upbeat story of the 'China dream'. This marginalizes those still suffering and obscures voices of self-reflection on their moral-political responsibility for their actions. Xu provides careful analysis of this generation of 'Chairman Mao's children', caught between the political and the personal, past and present, nostalgia and regret, and pride and trauma.

    • Provides a fresh perspective on the legacy of the Mao years in contemporary China
    • Theoretically grounded analysis of generation and memory in historical context
    • Addresses important political and ethical issues related to social inequality and historical responsibility
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    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘Questioning the mythologizing of the Educated Youth experience as embodied by elites such as Xi Jinping, Bin Xu gives us well-rounded portraits of losers as well as winners of this Cultural Revolution policy, while making a major contribution to the sociological study of the construction and consequences of memory.' Thomas Gold, University of California, Berkeley

    ‘Since it was first formulated in the 1920s by sociologist Karl Mannheim, the problem of generations has been notoriously difficult to study empirically. Yet Bin Xu has managed to capture China's recent generational story here without simplifying it unduly. Chairman Mao's Children is thus a model of sociological clarity and an important contribution to the literature on political culture, collective memory, and social change in China and beyond.' Jeffrey K. Olick, University of Virginia

    ‘Chairman Mao's Children authoritatively and sympathetically analyzes current identity dilemmas and memory challenges of China's zhiqing generation, a generation of urban youth sent to rural villages in the 1960s and 70s. Beautifully written, theoretically sophisticated, and methodologically rigorous, Bin Xu reveals the multiple ways these individuals and their society do, and don't, come to terms with the consequences of such rupturing historical events.' Robin Wagner-Pacifici, The New School for Social Research

    ‘… Xu’s study is a fresh experiment and an undoubted contribution to the already relatively mature research field of educated youth, as it not only fills academic gaps but also meets the needs of the general public.’ Jiawen Sun, The China Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108844253
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.56kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Winners' stories
    2. Unequal memories
    3. The wasted years and a land of wonder: The literary memory
    4. Regretless Youth and Long Live Youth!: Exhibits and museums as sites of memory
    5. Nostalgia, resistance, and the pursuit of happiness: Generation and memory in groups
    6. 'Comrades from five lakes and four seas!': When groups chuanlian (link up)
    Appendix: Methods and data.

  • Author

    Bin Xu, Emory University, Atlanta
    Bin Xu is Associate Professor at Emory University, and the author of The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (2017), which won the 2018 Best Book Prize for Cultural Sociology and Honorable Mention for Asia from the American Sociological Association.

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