Material Culture and Mao’s China

Material Culture and Mao’s China is a collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Altehenger, an historian of modern China at King’s College London.  This project has both a scholarly and a public component.  It brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers working on some aspect of material culture from China’s Mao period (1949-1976).  Two conferences, which will include outside scholars and museum professionals, will take place in New Haven [PDF] and London [PDF].  With panels entitled “Fabrication,” “Building,” “Production and Consumption,” “Circulation and Utility,” “Invention and Reinvention,” and “Performance and the Body,” papers cover a wide range of objects and materials, from badges and watches to bricks and bamboo.  The twelve contributors seek to answer questions such as, “Was there a material culture specific to Maoist China?” and “What can material culture teach us about the Mao period?”  The public outreach aspect of the project expands the list of participants to approximately thirty, who will write essays and contribute primary sources for high school students around the world who are studying modern China.  The resulting website, entitled The Mao Era in Objects, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and designed by King’s Digital Lab.