Jennifer Altehenger and Denise Y. Ho, "Material Contradictions in Mao's China" (U Washington Press, 2022)


I'm joined today by Profs. Jennifer Altehenger and Denise Ho to talk about their new edited volume, Material Contradictions in Mao’s China, published in December 2022 by the University of Washington Press. Our editors have brought together ten chapters or “case studies” by scholars in various disciplines, as well as a theoretical and methodological reflection on materiality, contradiction, and "the socialist uncanny" (by Jonathan Bach) that ends the book. 

The book moves through various types of materials and attendant tensions that characterized everyday life in Mao’s China. In addition to exploring the role of materiality in producing social life and thus redeeming the complexity of socialist material life, the authors in this volume employ the methodological tools of not only their own disciplines, but of dialectical materialism. They seek to better understand Mao’s China precisely through the material practices and contradictions that the Chairman himself understood as crucial tools of social practice. We’re here today, in other words, to talk about another new book in Chinese studies that asks us to take socialism seriously. It’s really an incredibly generative text for anyone who is thinking about materiality, temporality, and the way that social life was constructed and experienced in socialist China. In addition to the Material Contradictions volume, we will also discuss The Mao Era in Objects, a related material culture project on which our two editors have also collaborated.

Julia Keblinska is a member of the Global Arts and Humanities Society of Fellows at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

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Julia Keblinska

Julia Keblinska is a postdoc at the East Asian Studies Center at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.

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