Area: China and Inner Asia
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Sanjiao Tang, University of Auckland, New Zealand (organizer, presenter)
Lan Wei, Fudan University, China (presenter)
Zi Chen, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (presenter)
Shiho Matsumura, Hokkaido University, Japan (discussant, chair)
This panel discusses the everyday life under the interaction between the socialistic workers and the state mechanism in Maoist China. The first presenter explores how the identities of the porcelain potters were transformed from “backward” craftsmen to “advanced” socialistic workers during the social transformation in the 1950s. Based on ethnographic data, this study examines the historical transformation of a potter’s life within the context of the interaction between the macro-historical background and contemporary local society. From the bottom-up and microcosmic perspective, the second presenter discusses the individual experiences of Sanxian (Third-Frontier) workers in Sichuan during the collective era. From the mid-1960s, plenty of workers migrated from coastal areas to hinterland, devoting to the Sanxian Movement. They formed an impressive immigrant group, while individuals’ migration was strictly limited by the regime at that time. This research contributes to the exploration on the life of ordinary workers under the effect of the politicized circumstance. The third presenter conducts a case study through 922 private letters, written from 1972 by a worker couple. These letters show the transformation of their thought connected with personal experiences, in which they tried to operate their social network (guanxi) for migrating back to Shanghai. She indicates that the ultimate goal of the young people—the happiness of family life—had not been “reformed” by a series of social movements. Instead, their agony and the pessimism to politics were mainly caused by the predicament of accomplishing this ultimate goal.
To Devote There, Also to Live There: Sanxian Workers’ Life in Sichuan
Throughout the era of planned economy in China (from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s), individuals’ migration was strictly limited. A few groups of people, in contrast, were motivated and organized governmentally in migration. Besides the zhiqing (sent-down youth), another noticeable migrating group was the workers and their families of Sanxian (Third-Frontier) factories. This research focuses on their life experiences in the process of moving to and settling in Sichuan. The aim of this research is to access parts of the realities of ordinary Chinese life experiences during those years. Throughout the Sanxian Movement starting from the mid-1960s, many enterprises and institutions resettled into Sichuan from the eastern and coastal parts of China. Migrating across half of the country into the hinterland, those workers and their families had great changes in their life. Firstly, their migration was highly organized and structured. At the same time, although being separated from the local society geographically, the specific natural and cultural environment of Sichuan also characterized the everyday life of these immigrants. Meanwhile, the arrival of these urbanites from more developed areas exerted fresh and attractive influences among local people. This research is based on the local materials, including a number of individual resources such as private diaries and notebooks, as well as plentiful records in gazetteers. From the bottom-up and microcosmic perspective, this research will contribute to the studies on Chinese people’s daily life under the politicized circumstance during Maoist era.
Way Back to Home: Evidences from a Couple’s Private Letters (1972-1995)
This article will conduct a case study through 922 private letters written by a couple from 1972 to 1995. These private letters clearly recorded the transformation of the personal thoughts and emotion during the time when they tried to make and operate their personal social network (guanxi) to move back to Shanghai. These private letters show that the ultimate goal of the young people at that time—the happiness of the family life—has not been “reformed” by a series of social movements such as “Down to the countryside movement” and the Cultural Revolution. Instead, their agony and the pessimism to politics mainly caused by the predicament of accomplishing this ultimate goal.
Becoming a Member of the Socialistic Working Class: Craftsmen's Daily and Social Lives in a State-owned Porcelain Factory
This paper concerns the impact of the social transformation during the 1950s on the changing identities of the potter group in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China, known as the most prominent porcelain capital in China. This city, known for its ceramics, is an important entity that was remolded by the socialistic state into a “modern” industrial city during the period of socialist transformation. Ethnographic data based mainly on oral histories and archives from the local government and factories have been collected in the field using established anthropological methodologies. My participation in the daily lives of potters particularly aided in comprehending their life experiences, cultural logic and social relationships. Potters as research objects have traditionally been conceived as a group of itinerant craftsmen, traveling between cities and villages. The productive and social characteristics around the guilds were rooted in kinship and lineage in the group, and were generally changed and supplanted by the political and cultural features of the socialist state institution operated in the factories as units The identities of the potters were transformed from “backward” craftsmen to “advanced” socialist workers. This paper explores how the identities of the porcelain potters were transformed during the social transformation in the 1950s by analyzing the history of a potter’s individual life placed within the context of the interaction between the macro-historical background and contemporary local society. The goal of this paper is to understand how individual potters had participated as agents in the reconstruction of their own identities
This panel is on Tuesday - Session 04 - Room 7
Go to Room 7