Kirk A. Denton
Exhibiting the Past
Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China
University of Hawaii Press 2014
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network June 15, 2016 Carla Nappi
Kirk A. Denton‘s recent book explores the role of the state in China in shaping particular visions of the past through work in and with museums. Focusing on history museums in particular, Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China (University of Hawaii Press, 2014) has two main goals. First, the book aims to analyze the exhibition of the past in a variety of Chinese state museums and the role of these museums in nation building, the construction of national identities, and political legitimization. In addition, the book promises to investigate how these representations of the past are changing in the new political and economic climates of postsocialist, neoliberal China. In doing so, Denton takes readers into a series of case studies devoted to museums dedicated to premodern, revolutionary, and modern histories, memorial sites and halls of several types, military museums, ethnographic museums, museums devoted to modern literature, and more. Denton also looks closely at the phenomenon of red tourism as a new form of pilgrimage, and considers how urban planning exhibition halls function as museums of the future. Amply illustrated and clearly argued, it’s an engaging and worthy read for readers interested in modern China, museum studies, or the practices by which spaces of the modern historical imagination are made. Enjoy!