How to Study the Cultural Revolution by Forgetting About It - Rethinking the Opening Episode of Mao's Last Revolution

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Live via Zoom

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How—and why—Mao Zedong initiated a great upheaval during the last years of his rule remains perhaps the single greatest puzzle in the crisis-ridden history of Communist China. Existing scholarship on how the Cultural Revolution began has generally stressed the centrality of Mao’s political agency and ideological vision, and the major events leading up to the breakout of the upheaval in mid-1966 have usually been viewed as forming parts of the Machiavellian maneuver by Mao and his associates and reduced to the Chairman’s preconceived intent and manipulative actions. In this talk I will reconsider the opening episode of Mao’s last revolutionary endeavor and the critical events leading up to it, with the aim of understanding of how the great turmoil began in ways less dependent on teleological, essentialist premises and more sensitive to historical contexts and path-dependent contingencies.

Yiching Wu is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the history and politics of the People’s Republic of China during the Mao era, in particular the Cultural Revolution. His book, The Cultural Revolution at the Margins: Chinese Socialism in Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2014), won the President’s Book Award from the Social Science History Association and was also shortlisted for the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize (for any fields other than Canadian history) from the Canadian Historical Association. He is currently working on a book that reconsiders the origins and beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, with the tentative title of The Coming of Mao’s Last Revolution.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies