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Comrades share time: A study of participation in a Chinese village

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Hauck, Byron
Has China's countryside left socialism behind? Is the rise of digital connectivity an indication of, as Jodi Dean argues, the foreclosure of opportunities to participate in society towards collective empowerment? This dissertation addresses these questions via a case study of Heyang Village in Zhejiang's mountainous Jinyun county. Taking advantage of the village's sustained material culture I develop a historical review of the media used to organize village life over time informing values and providing opportunities for political, economic, and cultural participation as members of the village. This review is used to inform an analysis of the current dynamics of village life in Heyang today. Six months of fieldwork over a period of four years between 2015 and 2019 comprises the majority of this research. Focus group interviews help to provide local interpretation of events. Participant observation research, in particular with working aged men and seniors, provides deeper insights on the values, actions and positive trajectories identified in the focus group interviews. Barbara Adam's timescape perspective is employed to bring the multiple elements of the case study together. This perspective helps to draw out how communication technologies that are used to keep time enable opportunities for specific forms of political belonging. While a postsocialist discourse on individual's qualities (suzhi) is predominate, socialist values of comradeship persist. This comradery is particularly evident in seniors' use of mobile phones to keep the time via hourly announcements recalling the temporality previously provided by the Chinese Communist Party's mass line inspired use of wired-radio loudspeakers. This temporality is premised on bringing the people and leaders together to share time in order to affect mutually transformative experiences and unite the collective towards shared political goals premised on sustaining basic wellbeing. I identify "shared time" as a socialist temporality that is still maintained and can be used to recognize positive actions and recommend ways forward to fan the embers of socialism into a revitalized commitment to communism.
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Thesis advisor: Zhao, Yuezhi
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