National Past-Times

Narrative, Representation, and Power in Modern China

National Past-Times

Body, Commodity, Text

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Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 6 b&w photographs Published: October 1997

Author: Ann Anagnost

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies

In National Past-Times, Ann Anagnost explores the fashioning and refashioning of modern Chinese subjectivity as it relates to the literal and figurative body of the nation. In essays revealing the particular temporality of the modern Chinese nation-state, Anagnost examines the disparate eras of its recent past and its propensity for continually looking backward in order to face the future.
Using interviews and participant observation as well as close readings of official documents, propaganda materials, and popular media, Anagnost notes the discontinuities in the nation’s narrative—moments where this narrative has been radically reorganized at critical junctures in China’s modern history. Covering a broad range of issues relating to representation and power—issues that have presented themselves with particular clarity in the years since the violent crackdown on the student movement of 1989—National Past-Times critiques the ambiguous possibilities produced by the market, as well as new opportunities for "unfreedom" in the discipline of labor and the commodification of women. Anagnost begins with a retrospective reflection on the practice of "speaking bitterness" in socialist revolutionary practice. Subsequent essays discuss the culture debates of the 1980s, the discourse of social disorder, the issue of population control, the film The Story of Qiu Ju, and anomalies at the theme park "Splendid China."


“[A] collection of exceptionally perceptive essays . . . . These essays are at once ethnographic, historical, and deeply analytic in their close attention to language and micro-technologies of power. National Past-times stands at the intersection of literary criticism, history, anthropology, and cultural studies, enabling it to make an original and long-needed contribution to the theorization of power, subject formation, and nation fundamental to understanding contemporary China and other post-socialist contexts.” — Emily Chao, CSSH Notes

"These are essays in cultural criticism of a type rare in the China field. They have the power to make one regard the everyday differently." — Gail Hershatter, University of California at Santa Cruz


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Price: $25.95

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