Jie LiDec 24, 2023
Propaganda, Projectionists, and Audiences in Socialist China
Columbia University Press 2023
Welcome to the latest episode of New Books in Chinese Studies! I am your host, Julia Keblinska, and today I will be talking today to Jie Li, about her new book, Cinematic Guerrillas: Propaganda, Projectionists, and Audiences in Socialist China (Columbia UP, 2023). The book describes the Chinese media revolution, namely the enormous media project undertaken by the communist state to “solder” a dispersed and heterogenous populace into the revolutionary masses. Li shows how in the face of postwar material constraints and technological shortages, cultural workers (and audiences) became human components of audiovisual media networks that connected and built the new nation. Through a careful reading of archival sources and oral interviews, Li excavates two historically grounded terms, the guerrilla and the spirit medium, to develop a theoretical framework that explains how cinema and propaganda functioned in the socialist state. Her chapters explore the top-down visions of the cinematic image economy (the directives laid down by Mao and Jiang Qing), the grassroots labor of mobile projectionists, and the memories of film workers and audiences who, respectively, struggled to contain and enjoyed the polysemy inherent in socialist film experience. I’m very eager to hear Jie Li tell us more about this fascinating text! NOTE: I apologize for sound issues in the recording and hope you can enjoy our conversation despite them!
Julia Keblinska is a postdoc at the East Asian Studies Center at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.