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Book description

How did China's Communist revolution transform the nation's political culture? In this rich and vivid history of the Mao period (1949–1976), Denise Y. Ho examines the relationship between its exhibitions and its political movements. Case studies from Shanghai show how revolution was curated: museum workers collected cultural and revolutionary relics; neighborhoods, schools, and work units mounted and narrated local displays; and exhibits provided ritual space for ideological lessons and political campaigns. Using archival sources, ephemera, interviews, and other materials, Ho traces the process by which exhibitions were developed, presented, and received. Examples under analysis range from the First Party Congress Site and the Shanghai Museum to the 'class education' and Red Guard exhibits that accompanied the Socialist Education Movement and the Cultural Revolution. Operating in two modes - that of a state in power and that of a state in revolution - Mao era exhibitionary culture remains part of China's revolutionary legacy.


'A lucid and compelling history, Curating Revolution brings Mao-era exhibits to life in vivid, tangible, and deeply human detail. Ho's thoughtful analysis of these 'object lessons' and the purposes they served illuminates as never before the profound relationship between ideology and materiality in Mao-era political culture. In the process, the familiar categories of revolution, history, culture, propaganda, and participation all take on new and rich significance.'

Sigrid Schmalzer - University of Massachusetts, Amherst

'Exhibitionary culture was interwoven into the very fabric of daily life in Mao’s China. Ho tells a fascinating story about the people who shaped that culture - curators, collectors, workers, teachers, schoolchildren, docents, and urban residents - and she does it with exceptional scholarship and rich use of archival sources.'

Kirk A. Denton - The Ohio State University

'China under Mao tried harder than any state in history to inculcate a new consciousness in its citizens. Curating Revolution creatively bridges institutional studies of mass campaigns and oral histories to reveal how the use of objects and exhibitions narrated the past, explained the present, and awakened viewers to defend the revolution.'

Karl Gerth - University of California, San Diego

'A wonderful study, chock full of new information gleaned from impressive archival, documentary, and interview sources. The theme of using exhibitions to 'make revolution' is clearly and convincingly developed. Curating Revolution is destined to be an important book.'

Elizabeth J. Perry - Harvard University, Massachusetts

'The enormous amount of information and invaluable historical findings provided by the book contributes greatly to the rigorous research on the Cultural Revolution. The book would be an insightful text for undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and general readers who would like to study history of museums, curation, and the Cultural Revolution during China’s socialist period.'

Lei Ping Source: New Books Asia

‘The richness of detail and analytical rigour make this book an excellent contribution to our knowledge about Mao’s China and thereby our understanding of contemporary China … Scholars and students interested in modern Chinese history, propaganda and social movements would find this book particularly helpful.’

Chi Zhang Source: Europe-Asia Studies

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