Memory, Fluid Identity, and the Politics of Remembering

The Representations of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in English-speaking Countries


The Chinese Cultural Revolution is the single most important internal social event in contemporary Chinese history. The plethora of history, literary, and artistic representations inspired by this event are critical to our understanding of the diversified, often contested, interpretations of contemporary China.

Li Li’s critical examination of autobiographic, filmic and fictional presentations in Memory, Fluid Identity, and the Politics of Remembering: The Representations of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in English-speaking Countries demonstrates that “memory works” not only reflect memories of those who lived through that period, but memories about their past, and, more importantly, about their identity remapping and artistic negotiation in a cross-cultural environment.

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Li Li, Ph.D. (2007), University of California at Los Angeles, is Associate Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at the University of Denver. She has published translations and articles on modern and contemporary Chinese literary and visual culture.
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Mnemonic Practices and the Products of Historical
Changing Concepts of Memory: Setting the Analytical Parameters 2
Contested Memories of the Cultural Revolution: A Historical
Perspective 7
Working with Memory: A Survey of Existing Representations 12
Thesis and Chapter Overview 20
1 Ideologies, Textualization, and Consumption of Chinese Red Guard
The Autobiographical Act and the Narrated Identity 26
The Problematic Creation of Trueness 29
Ambivalence in Narrating Authorial Morality 37
Manufacturing Red Guard Memoirs in the English-language Book
Market 43
2 Alternative Remembrances of the Cultural Revolution in Spider Eaters
and Six Chapters of Life at a Cadre School 49
Multiple Voices, Split Personality, and Unreliable Memory in
Spider Eaters 50
Remembering Between the Extreme and the Everyday in Six Chapters
of Life at a Cadre School
3 The Politics and Pleasures of Visualizing the Sent-down Youth in the
Global Film Market
Illusion, Symbolism, and the Problem of “Translation” in King of the
Body, Perverse Spectator, and the Making of Victimhood in Xiu Xiu:
The Sent-Down Girl
Ethnographic Gaze, Adolescent Fantasy, and the Paradox of
Modernity in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress 90
4 “Mirrors without Memories”: History, Remembering, and Documentary
Though I Was Gone: How Should an Atrocity Be Documented? 104
Morning Sun: Performing History 111
5 In Search of Subjectivity: Memory and Inner Narrative in Gao Xingjian’s
One Man’s Bible
Personal Memory, Self-Imposed Exile, and Individual Voices 128
Shifting Pronouns, Split Self, and Mobile Subjectivity 136
Corporeal Memory, Intimacy, and Private Space 147
6 Sex, Murder, and Bodily Transgression: The Cultural Revolution in
Translational Mass Literature
Red Azalea: Female Subjectivity or Political Fantasy? 156
When Red Is Black: Murder and the Hidden Truth of the Cultural
Revolution 165
Coda: The Future of Remembering the Past 178
Bibliography 189
Index 202
All interested in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, studies on memory and representation, and anyone concerned with contemporary Chinese literature, film, and diaspora identity.