History and memory have been the foci of Chinese studies during the past two decades in the Anglophone sphere. Informed by New Historicism and the trauma theories that flourished after World War II, scholars in Chinese studies have reached a consensus on the role of power in both historiography and memory formation. This power, whether in the authoritarian or democratic system, is primarily executed top-down.

Jie Li's Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era investigates an alternative to the top-down execution of memory formation: what multivalent stakeholders—no matter how insignificant they seem to be—can contribute to memory formation and memorialization. Li blurs the dichotomies in the discourse of memory: elites versus grassroots, official versus unofficial, public versus. private, and collective versus individual. The dismissal of binarism is built on the fluidity even between the two extremes of power. With the case of the police files of Nie Gannu,...

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