du 15 au 16 décembre 2014
Popular Memory of the Mao Era and its Impact on History


French Centre for Research on Contemporary China in the framework of the ANR-RGC collaborative project “New Approaches to the Mao Era” (CEFC-HKU)


Languages: English and Mandarin with consecutive translation



Since the 1990s, a series of remarkable forms expressing the collective memory of the Mao era has appeared in China, against a background of amnesia and explicit restrictions in the official media, academia, and public commemoration. While some of its expressions may seem anecdotal, it has also produced a crop of unofficial testimonies and investigative studies, on the margins of official channels. Some are about the Educated Youth movement during the Cultural Revolution, others pertain to the political movements of the 1950s, such as the Anti-Rightist movement and the Great Leap Forward (Yang Jisheng). In a similar way, literature has played a key role in documenting alternative views of everyday life in the Maoist era. While writers of the “scar literature” school of the 1980s were easily co-opted into official narratives of the Cultural Revolution, in recent years more radical works have appeared, documenting the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution (Yan Lianke, Yang Xianhui). Unofficial journals like Lao Zhaopian (Old Photographs, edited by Ding Dong), Jiyi (Memory, edited by Wu Di), Kan Lishi (Looking at History, edited by Yang Xiaodong) or Hei wulei (The Five black categories, edited by Jiao Guobiao) are disseminated via the internet. The last 15 years have seen an outpour of independent documentary films, made by ordinary individuals thanks to cheap equipment, documenting family histories and personal memories of various moments in the Mao era, from collectivization to the Cultural Revolution (Hu Jie, Ai Xiaoming). These literary or filmic works, made by ordinary citizens, and published or disseminated through various channels including the internet, also contribute to challenging the existing historiography.

This challenge to history has deep-reaching consequences for a regime whose legitimacy is grounded in the “correct” understanding of history. Since 1981, when the Party put an end to historical debates previously encouraged by Deng, by adopting a resolution “On several points in the history of our Party,” the Party’s monopoly on historiography has remained massive. In this perspective, the struggle for the interpretation of history has potentially major implications for the relations between society and the Chinese Party-state.

By offering an opportunity to present findings from recent fieldwork on various forms of unofficial or popular memory of the Mao Era (social organizations, unofficial journals, literary reportage and documentary film, oral history), this conference proposes to discuss how these various forms of memory can transform our understanding of Chinese history and perhaps Chinese historiography itself. 

Day 1 - 15 December, Maison Suger (FMSH)

第一天: 十二月15号 ,Maison Suger (人文之家基金会Suger楼)

9:30-12:30 The Institutionalization of minjian (popular) memory


Discussant 评论人: Patricia Thornton (Oxford University 牛津大学)

Kirk Denton (Ohio State University 美国俄亥俄州立大学)

“Do Private Museums Offer Space for Alternative History in China? The Jianchuan Museum Cluster, Anren, Sichuan”

 “民办博物馆是否为非主流中国历史提供了空间?- 四川安仁,建川博物馆聚落”

Daniel Leese (Universität Freiburg 弗莱堡大学)

“Redressing Past Injustices in the People's Republic of China: The Case of Beijing Fengtai District, 1978-79”


Wu Si 吴思

“On the collective memory of the Mao era: the case of the journal Annals of the Yellow Emperor


12:30-14:30: LUNCH 午餐

14:30 - 17:00 Vectors of popular memory


Discussant 评论人: Luba Jurgenson (University of Paris-Sorbonne 巴黎索邦大学)

Judith Pernin 朱迪 (CEFC, IHTP 法国现代中国研究中心,现代历史研究所)

“Recording and staging memory – Two independent films about the rightist Zhang Xianchi”


Sebastian Veg 魏简 (CEFC, EHESS 法国现代中国研究中心, 法国高等社会科学院)

“Fictional and documentary writing about the Mao Years in the 21st century: Yang Xianhui, Yang Jisheng, Yan Lianke”


17:00-17:30: BREAK 休息

17:30-19:00 Film Screening  电影放映

Presented by Anne Kerlan (CNRS, Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent), filmmaker Hu Jie

Anne Kerlan (法国国家科学研究中心,史研究所)和导演胡杰主

Spark (Xinghuo 星火, dir. by Hu Jie 胡杰, documentary, 2013, 100 min.)

Followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker.

星火, 胡杰导演,纪录片,2013,100分钟.随后安排与导演胡杰问答交流

Trailer and info on the website of the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival:




Day 2 - 16 December, CERI, Salle de conferences

第二天: 十二月16号,法国国际研究中心,会议室

9:30-12:30 Reconsidering history: Grassroots Resistance


Discussant 评论人: Lucien Bianco (EHESS 法国高等社会科学院)

Jean-Philippe Béja 白夏 (CNRS 法国国家科学研究中心)

“Resistance against Mao’s transformation of society before the Cultural Revolution: opposition organizations  in activists’ autobiographies”


Frank Dikötter 冯客 (HKU 香港大学)

“The Silent Revolution” 无声革命

This presentation will use fresh archival evidence to look at the many ways in which ordinary people in the countryside relentlessly pursued their own interests, regardless of all the efforts made by Beijing to lock them into a planned economy.

Wang Aihe 王爱和 (HKU 香港大学)

“Apolitical Art, Private Experience, and Alternative Subjectivity in China’s Cultural Revolution”


12:30-14:00 LUNCH 午餐

14:00-17:00 Popular history’s contribution to historiography


Discussant 评论人: Nicolas Werth (CNRS 法国国家科学研究中心)

Michel Bonnin 潘鸣啸 (EHESS 法国高等社会科学院)

“How to understand the sudden end of the rusticated youth movement and how to explain the Xinjiang exception ? The contribution of popular history and memories on this topic.”


Ding Dong 丁东

“Oral History and reflecting on the Mao era” 《口述历史与毛时代的反思》

Wu Di 吴迪

The common memories of the Mao era and their influence on history: the two narratives in oral history



Lieu : La Maison Suger
Localisation : Et le 16 au CERI, 56, rue Jacob, 75006 Paris
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