Newborn Socialist Things: Materiality in Maoist China
Contemporary China is seen as a place of widespread commodification and consumerism, while the preceeding Maoist Cultural Revolution is typically understood as a time when goods were scarce and the state criticized what little consumption was possible. Indeed, with the exception of the likeness and words of Mao Zedong, both the media and material culture of the Cultural Revolution are often characterized as a void out of which the postsocialist world of commodity consumption miraculously sprang fully formed. In Newborn Socialist Things, Laurence Coderre explores the material culture of the Cultural Revolution to show how it paved the way for commodification in contemporary China. Examining objects ranging from retail counters and porcelain statuettes to textbooks and vanity mirrors, she shows how the project of building socialism in China has always been intimately bound up with consumption. By focusing on these objects—or “newborn socialist things”—along with the Cultural Revolution’s media environment, discourses of materiality, and political economy, Coderre reconfigures understandings of the origins of present-day China.
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