Through autoethnographic accounts, this chapter explores Mother’s long journey in China’s Cultural Revolution and present-day market reform to examine the fraught relations between the party-state and its youth, between education and political socialization, between public values and authoritarian limits that continue to tug the social fabric of today’s China. I argue that the state works as a powerful pedagogical node shaping people’s sense of self, social change, and their own place in the midst of it. Nevertheless, life is a performative space of self-making, where one receives whatever comes and gropes to make better meanings out of it. Mother’s narratives highlight the state’s shifting modalities of power and illustrate that post-socialist conditions are mediated by the continual assertion of political authority alongside people’s creative agency.
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Many born in 1949 were literally named “liberation” by their parents to commemorate the nation’s founding.
The post-1980s (ba ling hou 八零后) generation refers to those born in the decade of the 1980s.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the “Five Red Categories” (hong wu lei 红五类) were adopted by the Communist Party to designate favorable social class types, namely “poor and lower-middle peasants,” “workers,” “revolutionary soldiers,” “revolutionary cadres,” and “dependents of revolutionary martyrs.” On the contrary, the “Five Black Categories” (hei wu lei 黑五类) referred to social groups considered enemies of the Cultural Revolution, namely “landlord,” “rich farmers,” “counter-revolutionaries,” “bad elements,” and “rightists.” The Red/Black class dichotomy worked to divide the country, especially its youth, into intense ideological conflicts and enmity (Chan et al., 1980, pp. 401–402).
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With affection and gratitude to Mother, whose love and spirit are not contained within these pages. Acknowledgment is also due to Professor Howard Wolf (Department of English, State University of New York at Buffalo) for his perspicacious comments that inspired this paper’s title.
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Wu, J. (2018). Erasure and Renewal in (Post)Socialist China: My Mother’s Long Journey. In: Silova, I., Piattoeva, N., Millei, Z. (eds) Childhood and Schooling in (Post)Socialist Societies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62791-5_11
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Print ISBN: 978-3-319-62790-8
Online ISBN: 978-3-319-62791-5