The logic behind the fluctuating fortunes of Chinese intellectuals in the early PRC—from hero to scapegoat, prisoner to honored guest—is clarified by examining both the representations of intellectuals in literary and cinematic fictions of the period, and the writing and rewriting of the history of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, an important precursor of the Cultural Revolution. The “revolutionary” intellectual of the 1940s, courted and then spurned by the party, was later refigured as the “patriotic” intellectual of the 1970s and 1980s, whose allegiance was to the ancestral homeland rather than the state. One result of this rethinking of the history of Chinese intellectuals is the emergence of 1957, the beginning of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, as a critical, and tragic, turning point for socialist theory and practice in China and throughout the world.
The Figure of the “Intellectual” in the Early Reform Period
Dai Jinhua is a professor at the Institute of Comparative Literature and Culture at Peking University. She writes on film, feminist theory and culture, cultural politics, and is one of China’s foremost critics of global capitalism. Her work has been translated into many languages. An essay collection entitled After the Post–Cold War: The Future of Chinese History, edited by Lisa Rofel, was published by Duke University Press in 2018.
Lennet Daigle is a translator and PhD student in literature at UC Santa Cruz. His previous graduate work was at Shanghai International Studies University, where he wrote a thesis on the translation of poststructuralist theory. His forthcoming dissertation, “Ethical Exemplarity and Historical Hermeneutics in the Early PRC,” is a study of Chinese historical fiction and its connection to the intellectual origins of the Cultural Revolution. He lives in Munich with his partner and son.
Dai Jinhua, Lennet Daigle; The Figure of the “Intellectual” in the Early Reform Period. boundary 2 1 May 2019; 46 (2): 121–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-7497054
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