PhD studentship: Mining ‘realms of memory’ for alternative histories of Mao’s China

SOAS University of London, UK
Deadline: 14 Mar 2019

In recent years the history of the early decades of the PRC has attracted considerable attention in both Chinese and Western-language historiographies. Standard accounts of ‘liberation’ and the subsequent building of the New China on the one hand and violent coercion and subsequent failed socio-economic experiments on the other are increasingly challenged. Instead questions arise about the ways in which grass-roots experiences of that time might be recovered and used to understand the complexity of historical processes and their continuing impact on present realities. Given the importance of mythologised versions of the past in the current political environment in the PRC, a sophisticated reading of China’s lieux de mémoire – to use Pierre Nora’s concept (1989) – seems to be an urgent task. As the recovery and preservation of various types of heritage has emerged as an undertaking of considerable proportions (ranging from various forms of preserving old industrial sites to private museums and public memorials), various ways of collecting oral histories covering the 1950s to 1980s are being explored, and local archives are, if not always easy to get access to, not entirely out of reach, there are ways to transcend the existing streamlined narratives. We invite proposals for projects on these complex and evolving relationships between memory and history, based on local case studies, which could involve people’s everyday lives, the local impact of various economic and political campaigns, or the experience of extraordinary events and disasters. We envisage this as including the exploration of both personal and collective memories on the one hand and public commemoration and official historiography on the other hand, with the aim to explore the scope for the writing of alternative histories to both the standard narratives of failure and total disaster and the bowdlerised official historiography. One example could be the massive, secretive project to move strategic industries into remote, mountainous areas of China’s southwestern provinces, which was at the heart of China’s industrial and defence policies in the 1960s. Variously described as a failure of colossal scale, more disruptive than the Cultural Revolution for China’s economic development (Naughton 1988), or a positive contribution to the long-term integration of backward provinces through e.g. the construction of railway lines, that was overall successful despite the enormous human cost (Meyskens 2015), an understanding of those events that is more nuanced and less focused on either the economy or political ideologies, but rather focuses on the ways these histories are constructed and on alternative histories that are suppressed at the same time is needed. Other case studies that address the key issues outlined above are equally welcomed.

The studentship is for a duration of three years and will cover course fees (at the usual level for UK and EU studentships) and a student stipend (£16,777 per annum for 2018/19.)

Applicants from non-EU countries may apply for this project but will be required to meet the additional costs of overseas fees from other sources. The difference between overseas fees (£17,967) and UK/EU fees (£4,396) for a full-time research degree is £13,571 for 2019-20.

Principal supervisor: Dr Andrea Janku, SOAS University of London

Co-supervisors: Dr Julia Lovell, Birkbeck, University of London

Award includes tuition fees and a stipend of £16,777 including London Weighting (at 2018/19 rates, so slightly higher for 2019 entry)

100% FTE for 3 years, from September 2019.

Read the complete announcement at: External Link…