Reinventing the “Red Classics” in the age of globalization
The resurgence of revolutionary literature or Red Classics at the turn of the century is indicative of the cultural logic of the revolutionary hegemony during Mao and post-Mao China. Revolutionary hegemony served quite effectively to legitimate Mao Zedong’s, and much of Deng Xiaoping’s reign, but it has become increasingly difficult to sustain its viability and efficacy. From the beginning of the new century, both the state and consumer popular culture sectors have pushed for a Red Classic resurgence. While the ideological content and styles of the Red Classics are apparently incommensurable to China’s social reality today, their current popularity suggests a success in capturing or eliciting emotional responses from the audience primarily derived from their lived and felt experience during the Mao era. For the state, the Red Classics and the entire revolutionary legacy can now exist only as mummies of history, serving as a nationalist, “patriotic” narrative of the recent past. Meanwhile, the Red Classics is reinvented as nostalgia, a commodity in China’s cultural market. The paper examines the genealogy and current reinvention of the Red Classics, in order to shed some light on China’s post-revolutionary cultural politics.
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