Cai Xiang is Professor of Chinese Literature and Director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Literature at Shanghai University.Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University and the author of
Technological Revolution and Narratives of Working- Class Subjectivity
2016. "Technological Revolution and Narratives of Working- Class Subjectivity", Revolution and Its Narratives : China's Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966 , Xiang Cai, Rebecca E. Karl, Xueping Zhong
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This chapter takes up the problem of technology and working-class subjectivity in their narrativizations through late-1950s literature and cinema. If science was to be the measure of the modern, how was technological know-how to be turned into the assets of the proletarian masters of society, and not just the property of a few experts? Narratives of the time had to grapple with the problems of being both “red” (revolutionary) and “expert” (knowledge-bearer) by opening both categories out to include previously apolitical or uneducated populations. The resultant narrations of class conflict and class reconciliation engaged in the factory space by proletarian writers is a major topic dealt with here. How to transform an artisanal spirit into a proletarian class consciousness? How to transform urban subalterns into masters of the state and socialism? This was the challenge of socialist cultural production of the seventeen years (1949–66), and particularly of the late 1950s, during the Great Leap Forward’s push toward heavy industrialization at breakneck speeds. Demonstrating that the socialist revolution was not merely about modernization, Cai takes seriously the fact that the real challenge of cultural narrativization was the rendering of the formerly “weak” of the world—workers—into the proletarian class masters of the Chinese socialist state. Attention to narratives of labor became key to this endeavor.