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Leisure, lifestyle, and youth subcultures in China, 1949–1987

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Shi, Yifan
This is a study of how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) managed to achieve a totalitarian rule over the Chinese people through leisure regulation during and after the Mao Zedong period. I focus on tensions between the CCP's regulations of leisure and subcultures among young people in Beijing from 1949 to the 1980s. From the perspective of the "participatory totalitarian model," I argue that while the CCP established a totalitarian regime as it aimed to direct and dictate the most private sphere in people's everyday life (i.e. leisure), it did not achieve this goal by mass terror, but by mass pleasure through organized leisure activities. This dissertation suggests that although elements of youth subcultures can be observed throughout the Mao era, we should not treat them as a way of passive resistance. Instead, we must position these subcultures between different layers of the Party's leisure regulation to examine what the CCP actually achieved. Many people who engaged in subcultures defied the blatant politicization of their leisure, some might have defied the process of collectivization, but few defied the process of institutionalization during which people did not find state intervention contradictory to their own way of pleasure-seeking. This dissertation also suggests that instead of regarding the Deng Xiaoping era as a breakaway from Maoist totalitarian rule, we need to see the historical continuity as revealed by the Party's uninterrupted policy of leisure regulation.
288 pages.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Brown, Jeremy
Thesis advisor: Cheek, Timothy
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