China Colloquium

"Nostalgia, Resistance, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Group, Memory, and China’s Zhiqing Generation," Prof. Bin Xu, Dept. of Sociology, Emory University

Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Location: Modern Languages 201, 532 Kilgo Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322

Free and open to the public

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese government sent about 17 million secondary school graduates (the “educated youth” or “zhiqing”) to villages, state farms, and military corps, to achieve some practical and ideological goals. The "send-down" program, however, failed dismally and had detrimental impacts on the zhiqing generation’s life courses. Despite its failure, the zhiqing’s memory of their sent-down years is a mixture of grievance, resentment, self-congratulation, nostalgia, and heroism. Drawing on an ethnographic study (2013-2018), Bin Xu provides a fine-grained account of several groups and associations organized to commemorate their shared past. Xu describes and explains each group’s narratives, symbols, rituals, speech norms, and other communications and symbolic practices. He explains variations, paradoxes, and commonalities in their group memories by their major memory entrepreneurs’ class status and habitus, internal interaction dynamics, the groups’ dual tasks of commemorating the past and maintaining the interaction order, and the groups’ relations with the political system and the market, and inter-gene.

About the speaker

Bin Xu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Emory University. His research interests lie at the intersection of politics and culture. He is the author of The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford University Press, 2017), which has won two book awards from the American Sociological Association. His research has also appeared in leading sociological and China studies journals. He is currently writing a book and a few related articles on the collective memory of China’s “educated youth” (zhiqing) generation—the 17 million youths sent down to the countryside in the 1960s and 1970s.