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Huwy-min Lucia Liu

Sun, June 26, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 118


Regardless of how they lived, Shanghai people today first and foremost die as socialist citizens. By this I mean that they are primarily commemorated in “memorial meetings” (zhuidaohui), a Republican invention that evolved significantly under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At such meetings, representatives of the deceased’s work unit and family each give highly conventionalized speeches. They narrate the deceased’s contributions to constructing socialist China by reviewing the deceased’s work history chronologically and describing socialist ethics the deceased embodied such as selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. Although memorial meetings are by no means the only event of a funeral, they remain the dominant performance. They are both the most public and the most consistently present parts in urban Shanghai even after three decades of economic reform and even now that it is no longer a state requirement. This paper describes what a contemporary standard memorial meeting is and how it evolved historically under the CCP. Specifically, I argue that memorial meetings are performative and formalized acts that say very little about the deceased. Instead, they do something. What they do is enact and construct socialist subjectivities for the deceased in the public domain. This public act of commemoration epistemologically transforms dead bodies into proper persons, socialist citizens.