Consuming Fragments of Mao Zedong : The Chairman's Final Two Decades at the Helm

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


In a radical departure from conventional historical accounts of China’s recent history, this paper (the original working title of which was “The Great Leap Forward and All that Shit”) adopts an absurdist approach to what the conference organizers in their call for papers call “images and fragments of the past… produced and distributed by the dictatorial actors and then consumed by the mass.” Instead of attempting to probe the metaphors employed in contemporary political discourse in search for a presumed reality hidden behind them, the paper arrests the analysis at the level of the metaphors and with their help strings together an extraordinary narration of events from Mao Zedong’s launch of the so-called Great Leap Forward in 1958 to the high point of his “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (1966–1976). The author’s subjective intention, in all of this, is to provoke forth a different—complementary, it needs to be stressed, rather than alternative—appreciation of a tragic chapter in China’s past that allows not only for intellectual binary conceptualization of dictatorship in terms of victims/perpetrators, but also for infinitely more basic human responses like alienation, disgust, and laughter.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History and Archaeology


  • Cultural Revolution, China, Mao Zedong, politics, food, Great Leap Forward, metaphor
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Critical Introduction to Mao
EditorsTimothy Cheek
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)9780521711548
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

An earlier version of this article appeared in Korean in the anthology Gender Politics and Mass Dictatorship: Between Mobilization and Liberation, edited by Jie-Hyun Lim and Woonok Yeom (Seoul, 2010) (ISBN 978-89-5862-305-2), pp. 217-238.

Related projects

Michael Schoenhals


Project: Research

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