Maoist Cinema as Spirit Medium

Event Date: 

Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Event Location: 

  • 2135 SSMS
Lecture by Professor Jie Li
In examining grassroots film projection and movie-going in socialist China, this talk rethinks Maoist propaganda in quasi-religious terms. Connecting audiovisual media to “spirit mediumship,” this talk treats film screenings as collective rituals, projectionists as clergy, and audiences as congregations. The magic of the film apparatus, communal sing-alongs, localized live performance, lantern slideshows, and choices of location all contributed to a sacred atmosphere akin to both the “hot noise” of Chinese popular religion and the congregational worship of Christian churches. Thus, cinema contributed to the Mao “cult,” converted skeptics of communist “miracles,” and “exorcized” class enemies.
Jie Li is the John Loeb Associate Professor of Humanities. She received her Ph.D. at Harvard University and specializes in modern Chinese film and literature. She is the author of Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life (2014) and Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (forthcoming). She also co-edited Red Legacies: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution (2016).