I am a student of modern Chinese history. In my dissertation, I focus on reading groups for workers 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 dissertation aims to advance our understanding of how the party in power employed reading groups for advancing ideological notions it deemed crucial at various periods of modernization. Basing my research on archival sources, visual 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.
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