Dying Socialist in Capitalist Shanghai: Ritual, Governance, and Subject Formation in Urban China’s Modern Funeral Industry


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Through an historical and ethnographic examination of the funeral industry and its governance in Shanghai, this dissertation shows the kinds of subjectivities the Chinese state has worked to construct, what alternatives exist, and how they are fostered. It argues that semi-legal private funeral agents generated a platform for alternate subjectivities by pushing the legal and moral boundaries of ritual and economy. This study details how religious and emotional alternatives enabled by these platforms challenge funeral governance. Finally, the research argues that the recent failure of the state’s move toward memorializing the deceased as autonomous individuals rather than as socialist citizens suggests that alternatives to neoliberal-authoritarian governance may also reside in nostalgias for socialist subjectivities.