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This talk will explore contemporary different perceptions and constructions of Mao's China and the Cultural Revolution, with a particular emphasis on material and visual culture. It draws on British popular culture sources to consider how China was constructed in the 1960s and 70s, on the one hand, as a 'problem' nation and a danger to world peace, and on the other hand, as an inspiration for the British left, which saw the PRC as constructing alternative socialist modernity. Both supporters and critics often drew on the same material culture to demonstrate these opposing positions, and this talk looks particularly at the Mao suit (中山服 zhongshan fu).

The Mao suit was an object capable of embodying, for China's critics, the totalizing nature of the communist state, in which the masses were reduced to identical 'blue ants', but also conversely, for China's supporters, the anti-capitalist and militant nature of the regime so appreciated by these admirers. This talk will consider the role of material and visual culture in shaping perceptions of Chinese Communism at this crucial moment in its history.

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