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    Hongping Annie Nie, University of Oxford, on “China’s War with Japan (1937-1945): A Study of Chinese History Textbooks”

The Resistance War against Japan has always been political leverage for the Chinese Party-state.  While the Party-state has always been using its ‘legacy’ in the Resistance War to maximize its legitimacy, the official narrative of the war has undergone considerable changes in response to the new world order since the end of the Cold War. How the Party-state reconstructs and communicates the new narrative of the War to a mass audience, therefore, serves as a lens through which to observe the innovative strategies of the CCP propaganda work in the increasingly commercialized environment. This study examines Chinese school history textbooks in relation to CCP effort to propagate the new historiography of the Resistance War. It examines the changes of the war narrative as found in a series of history textbooks published by the People’s Education Press in the past 50 years.  It also pays attention to the recent culture system reform and its impact on the government supervision over the production and consumption process of history textbooks. It is argued that, despite the transformed propaganda apparatus and the commercialized cultural market, the Party-state has been able to maintain its control over the construction of a national memory of the War of Resistance against Japan.

Dr. Hongping Annie Nie (MA in Education, Calvin College, USA; Ph. D. in Cross-cultural Education, Biola University, USA) is currently Faculty Tutor of Chinese Politics at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. She is also a core member of the Leverhulme funded China’s War with Japan Project, History Faculty, University of Oxford. Her research interests include moral/ideological education, mass communication, patriotism, and national memory. Among her publications are The Dilemma of Moral Education Curriculum in a Chinese Secondary School (University Press of America, 2007) and On-line Gaming, Ideological Work, and Nationalism in China (Journal of Contemporary China, forthcoming).

  • Celine Righi, London School of Economics, on “Memory in post-Civil War Lebanon under artistic scrutiny: a space for individual and social autonomy in the public debate?”

The emergence of experimental and contemporary artistic discourses that aim to grapple with taboos of memory of the Civil War (1975-1990) in Lebanon provides a case in point to examine the potential of critical art to constitute a space where contested and sensitive issue of memory could be debated in societies. In this presentation, I propose a psycho-social approach to highlight the relations between memory, identities and subjects’ involvement with art. Can subjects invest artistic works as means to bypass obstacles that hinder a collective memory of War to be shared in the Lebanese public realm? What psycho-social dynamics are played out when subjects engage with subversive artistic registers? And, how does cultural and ideological context in Post-War Lebanon shape people’s involvement with art? Drawing on the research I conducted at the Beirut Art Centre in 2009 with the exposure of 36 young Lebanese adults to the exhibition ‘Closer’ followed by focus group discussions and individual interviews, I will focus on two main findings. The involvement of some young Lebanese with the intimate and subjective register of the artworks in ‘Closer’ enabled them to recast their representation of the past War, namely to humanize the War. Yet, the very intimate register of the artworks also deepen young Lebanese’ entrenched identities, thereby delegitimize any alternative artistic attempt to reconcile personal narratives and public memories of the War.

Celine Righi completed a Master in Political Sciences at Science Po Lyon in 2000 and a Master in Social Psychology at Paris IX Dauphine University in 2001. After working for a think tank in Paris and Lyon in the field of social and economic development, Celine embarked in her PhD in 2008 at the Institute of Social Psychology at London School of Economics.