I am a student of modern Chinese history. In my dissertation, I focus on official reading groups at factories organized in the transitional years between the Mao (1949-1976) and early reform eras (1976-1992) in the People’s Republic of China. Placed at the crossroads of contemporary political history, critical social research and communication/propaganda studies, the project aims to advance our understanding of how the party in power employed collective reading activities within the larger drive to make new socialist humans, and how such activities were also advancing ideological notions deemed crucial at various periods of socialist modernization. Basing my research on semi-archival sources, visuals, and written material from the public media as well as on oral history interviews, this project is a close investigation into the reading practices, the contents studied and the policies behind them. In the end, I hope to discover both the position held by collective reading activities in the everyday lives of vast groups of people and their importance for the sustaining of the party-state.
For a regularly updated list of my publications and other engagements, please go here. I also curate an ongoing online repository of photographs of people reading in China, you can see it here. My other research interests include Chinese film, visual narratives (especially caricatures and comics) and contemporary art. Connect with me on twitter @zhong_daming