Curating Revolution

Politics on Display in Mao’s China

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 exhibits and its political movements, arguing that exhibitions made revolution material. 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 both ideological lessons and political campaigns. Using archival sources, ephemera, interviews, and other historical materials, Curating Revolution traces the process by which exhibitions were developed, presented, and received. Its examples 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. With its socialist museums and new exhibitions, the exhibitionary culture of the Mao era operated in two modes: that of a state in power and that of a state in revolution.  Both reflecting and making revolution, these forms remain part of China’s revolutionary legacy today.

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Amazon | Cambridge University Press