Arts and Humanities Book Talk: Curating Revolution: Politics on Display in Mao's China

students standing in front of a bust of Mao
April 13, 2018

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 the 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.

Denise Y. Ho is an historian of modern China, with a particular focus on the social and cultural history of the Mao period (1949-1976). She is also interested in urban history, the study of information and propaganda, and the history of memory. Ho teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern and contemporary China, the history of Shanghai, the uses of the past in modern China, and the historiography of the Republican era and the P.R.C. 

Denise Y. Ho received her B.A. in history from Yale College and an A.M. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

The Book Talk takes place on April 19th in the International Room at Sterling Memorial Library at 4:30pm. Coffee and cookies will be provided before the talk at 4:00pm.