Destabilising the Truths of Revolution: Strategies of Subversion in the Autobiographical Writing of Political Women in China

  • Nicola Spakowski


During the second half of the 1980s, China witnessed an explosion of autobiographical texts dedicated to various periods in the political history of the country.1 Most of these political autobiographies deal with the history of the Chinese Communist Party (???) and the Communist revolution in its various periods, places and institutions. The autobiographical texts by political women which are the focus of this essay are a sub-genre of these political autobiographies. What I mean by ‘political women’ is those who participated in the Communist revolution in various political, military or supporting roles, within or outside the major institutions of the revolution — party, army and Communist women’s organisations — at lower or higher levels of the political hierarchy. Their texts usually fill from a few to around 30 pages in edited volumes that bear titles such as Recollections of Women Soldiers (Niibing huiyilu), Women Soldiers in the Mighty Torrent of Revolution Da geming hongliu zhong de niibing), Youth in the Flames of War (Qingchun zai zhanhuo zhong) or The Road to Yan’an Yan’an zhi lu)


Chinese Communist Party Explicit Evaluation Master Narrative Communist Revolution Authoritative Voice 
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  1. 3.
    For a discussion of these problems with regard to wartime experience, see Penny Summerfield, Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives: Discourse and Subjectivity in Oral Histories of the Second World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 2–42.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Joan W. Scott, ‘The Evidence of Experience’, Critical Inquiry 17 (1991): 777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 9.
    Luisa Passerini, ‘Introduction’, in Luisa Passerini, ed., Memory and Totalitarianism, International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, vol. 1, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 9.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Rubie S. Watson, ‘Memory History, and Opposition under State Socialism: An Introduction’, in Rubie S. Watson, ed., Memory, History, and Opposition under State Socialism (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1994), 2.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    This master narrative is also the point of reference for the autobiographies examined here. For a more differentiated assessment of party historiography, see Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, ‘Party Historiography in the People’s Republic of China’, Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 17 (1987): 77–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Nicola Spakowski 2013

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  • Nicola Spakowski

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