Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.770451
Title: The Chinese party-state's use of model worker narratives to legitimize reform and maintain order, 1977-1992
Author: Sorensen, Bo Aerenlund
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 8127
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Abstract:
This dissertation investigates how and why the Chinese party-state used the figure of the "model worker" in the state-owned media in the period 1977-1992. Through close reading and digitally-aided analysis of articles published in the People's Daily, the dissertation demonstrates that model workers were employed to frame and discuss the most important political, economic, and social issues of the period. Through analysis of newspaper articles, the dissertation shows that the party-state sought very determinedly to alter popular norms and expectations so as to fit with the evolving reform policies, and model workers appeared frequently in these efforts. Under Hua Guofeng, and later Deng Xiaoping, the party-state sought to create a national community based on narratives of common past suffering, joy over the PRC's athletic triumphs, and pride in the country's improving ability to produce consumer goods. What characterizes the roles assigned to model workers in the narratives of the People's Daily is that they invariably appear as moral paragons, particularly in their eagerness to suppress individual material desires so as to benefit the larger community. For this reason, model workers almost never appeared in stories about workers benefitting materially from the economic reforms, except when they could justify their newfound wealth through philanthropy. The great number of articles devoted to influencing workers' norms and expectations indicate entrenched popular resistance to the economic reforms. The sustained efforts of the People's Daily, along with the many articles published in this period aiming to explain to local cadres how best to do "thought work" among the general population, also show how methodically the party-state leadership approached the task of changing popular norms and expectations. Finally, the dissertation advances the claim that the concept of "porous personhood"-a concept borrowed from anthropology and further developed-presents a useful way of understanding why concerns about models and modelling have been so prevalent in the PRC. The dissertation demonstrates that porosity remains an important element of how personhood is made sense of in the contemporary period, and it is suggested that porous personhood may provide a useful lens through which to integrate cultural and psychological insights into the analyses of Chinese media policies and state-society relations.
Supervisor: Murphy, Rachel ; Harrison, Henrietta Sponsor: Scatcherd European Scholarship ; Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.770451  DOI: Not available
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