Cogs and Wheels: The material culture of revolutionary China

December 27, 2007

Mao suits and revolutionary dress

Here’s a fascinating little online exhibition from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney that charts the development of Chinese revolutionary dress, and in particular the Mao suit (zhifu).  It’s part of a larger virtual exhibition entitled Evolution and Revolution: Chinese dress 1700s-1990s.  Check out the page on the sartorial ideology of the Cultural Revolution as well.  When I was  much younger I desperately wanted to be a costume historian when I grew up.  Perhaps there’s still a chance!

(Via The Museum of Online Museums)


Modern Mao papercuts

To commemorate the Great Helmsman’s 114th birthday, Wu Suizhou, whom CCTV describes as a ‘folk artist’, has produced a set of papercuts.  The photographs on the CCTV website aren’t very clear (Xinhua is better), but it looks like he has chosen classic propagandist modes of representations of Mao and other communist icons as his models.  Indeed, there’s nothing very new here.  In the bottom right-hand corner in black is a papercut showing Mao, Lenin, Marx and Engels in profile.  This is a copy of similar papercuts available during the Cultural Revolution.  (The British Museum and Musee du Quai Branly have examples in their collections.)

December 22, 2007

More ethical concerns about Mao kitsch

Leading on from yesterday’s post, and also featuring a link which has sat overlooked on my desktop for far too long, is this blog post about the draw of Mao (and ‘Commie’) kitsch in both China and the West.  Also features a link to a small exhibition of Mao memorabilia held during 1998-1999, which I hadn’t previously come across.

I don’t feel there’s much point trying to analyse these posts too much.  They sum up my feelings about the appropriation of Communist iconography in popular cultural contexts perfectly.  Though, I have to admit, I bought a (reproduction) Mao badge in the British Museum shop last week.  Let’s call it ‘research’.  😉

LolMao…that made me smile!

I found thisages ago, and it’s been sitting on my desktop waiting for me to do something with it.  I think the author cogently expresses the ethical grey-area into which communist propaganda (as kitsch, or otherwise) falls.  Not to mention the fear of one’s intention by displaying this material being misinterpreted.  I enjoyed reading the comments best.  Particularly those suggesting that the poster of Mao be modified in a Duchamp kind of style.  Oh, the irony.  😉

December 10, 2007

Writing up – argh!

Filed under: My research — amyjaneb @ 3:38 pm

One of the reasons why I’ve been so quiet recently, is because I’ve been trying, desperately, to get some of this thesis written up.  And, in brilliant timing, I came across the following book, thanks to Mary’s recommendation:

Patrick Dunleavy.  2003.  Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation.  Palgrave MacMillan.

What a godsend!  It’s absolutely brilliant (clearly all the reviewers on Amazon think so too!).  Thanks to Prof. Dunleavy I now have the words to describe the methodological thrust of my written-up research;  my thesis going to take an analytic, plus descriptive approach.   To fully appreciate what that means, you’ll have to read the book.  But, suffice to say, it’s going to take a little bit of work to turn my current purely descriptive chapters into something a little more ‘analytic’. 

Actually,the plan for my thesis has always been to start with case studies and open out in a broader narrative, weaving in some theory and historical stuff – I just didn’t know how I was going to achieve it.  But this book really does give clear advice about how to ‘author’ a thesis to best show off your original research.  I think it could, over the next six months or so, become my bible!

December 3, 2007

No comment is necessary…

Filed under: Uncategorized — amyjaneb @ 1:25 pm

_44276748_nashi_afp203in.jpg …methinks.

(Image from BBC News Online.)

Create a free website or blog at