Theses Doctoral

Writing to the Rhythm of Labour: The Politics of Cultural Labour in the Chinese Revolution, 1942-1976

Kindler, Benjamin J.

This dissertation examines how the complex relations between the problem of the “culture worker” (wenyi gongzuozhe) and the challenges of socialist political economy were articulated and navigated in the Chinese Revolution. The point of historical and conceptual departure for this dissertation is Mao’s Talks at the Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art in 1942. I argue that the Talks provided a conceptual vocabulary for the problem of cultural production that revolved around the problematic of “life” (shenghuo) as the site of possibility for the fashioning of the culture worker under socialism. The demand that intellectuals “enter into life” (shenru shenghuo) necessitated that writers spend long periods labouring amongst workers and peasants, a demand that sought to suspend an understanding of the masses as a reified abstraction. By the same token, this demand called for a transformation of the culture worker, as well, which was to be felt at the level of subjectivity and embodied experience. The goal was that cultural production might itself be able to intervene in the production of new kinds of social relations, above all relations of labour. The dissertation demonstrates that, across the sustained cultural and economic experiment that was Chinese socialism, the cultural itself became reconfigured as a site of labour as it frequently placed demands upon intellectuals to give up a privileged existence, in order that their bodies and pens might move to a new set of social rhythms and temporalities.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Liu, Lydia H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 19, 2021