Moulding the Socialist Subject

Cinema and Chinese Modernity (1949-1966)


What role did cinema play in the Chinese Communist Party’s political project of shaping ideal socialist citizens in the early People’s Republic? In Moulding the Socialist Subject, Xiaoning Lu deploys case studies from popular film genres, movie star culture and rural film exhibition practices to argue that Chinese cinema in 1949–1966, at once an important political instrument, an enjoyable yet instructive form of entertainment, and a specific manifestation of the socialist society of the spectacle, was an everyday site where the moulding of the new socialist person unfolded. While painting a broad picture of Chinese socialist cinema, Lu credits the human agency of film professionals, whose self-reflexivity and individual adaptability played an intrinsic role in the Party’s political project.

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Xiaoning Lu is Lecturer in Modern Chinese Culture and Language at SOAS, University of London and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures (Oxford University Press, 2020).
"Moulding the Socialist Subject by Xiaoning Lu is a concise yet insightful book. It addresses the instrumental role of cinema in textual form and as a state apparatus in ‘remoulding’ (改造, pp. 5 and 165) socialist subjectivity, as well as the intersection and interaction of cinema with other key discourses such as sport, ethnicity, theatre, melodrama, spectatorship/reception, and the urban/rural dichotomy. [...] Moulding the Socialist Subject is a welcome addition for students who love diverse movies, the general public eager to understand the ‘structure of feeling’ prevalent in a socialist regime, and scholars of China studies."
-Lunpeng Ma, Communication University of Zhejiang, in China information, Vol 35 (2021), pp. 113-114
"The book provides clearly written and engagingly illustrated pathways to understand the underlying histo-ries of contemporary conundrums"
-Stephanie Donald, Monash University Malaysia, in The China Journal , No. 86, July 2021, pp. 208-210

 1 The Socialist Subject for a New China (1949–1966)
 2 Cinema within a Socialist Society of Spectacle

1 Terror and Mass Surveillance: the Counterespionage Film
 1 The Counterespionage Film and Political Campaigns against Counterrevolutionaries
 2 Cinematic Articulation of Mass Surveillance: The Might of the People

2 The New Physical Culture and Volatile Attractions: the Sports Film
 1 The New Physical Culture
 2 Promoting Workers’ Sport and Heterogeneous Laughter: Trouble on the Basketball Court and Big Li, Young Li and Old Li
 3 Sports, Ethics, and Melodramatic Imagination: Woman Basketball Player No. 5 and Ice-Skating Sisters

3 Ethnicity and Socialist Fraternity: the National Minority Film
 1 Reconfiguring the Ethnic Landscape: From Ethnicity to Nationality
 2 The National Minority Film
 3 Flames of War in a Border Village: Cross-Ethnic Performance and the Politics of Recognition
 4 Daji and Her Fathers from Page to Screen: Typifying Ethnic Fraternity in Socialist China

4 Modeling the Model: Red Stardom
 1 Problematizing “the Star”
 2 Star Image
 3 The Stanislavski System and Modeling the Red Star

5 The Cultural Politics of Affect: Villain Stardom
 1 Negative Characters, Performance Context, and Production of Affect
 2 Villain Performance as Negative Pedagogy

6 Mobile Attraction: Itinerant Film Projectionists and Rural Cinema Exhibition
 1 Itinerant Film Projection: a New Attraction in Rural China
 2 Rural Film Exhibition: Problems and Challenges
 3 Film Projectionists and Their Machines
 4 Film Projectionists and Their Exhibition Practices

Students at different levels, as well as general audiences interested in film studies, Chinese cinema, and history and culture in Mao’s China.
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