Consuming Revolution: Yangbanxi as Material Culture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


East Asian Languages and Cultures


This study examines how the circulation and exchange of quotidian objects during the Cultural Revolution, 1966-76, prefigured postsocialist marketization. It argues that, despite the standard historical narrative to the contrary, the commodity consumption with which the Chinese postsocialist period is so closely associated did not emerge out of a vacuum. Rather, it was anticipated by the intense remediation of the yangbanxi, originally, a repertoire of eight model works. As the pinnacle of the socialist performing arts, the yangbanxi were promoted using objects spanning every media form. This dissertation focuses on the constellations of things brought together by yangbanxi ‘tie-ins’ pertaining to three media: ceramic knickknacks, amateur performance, and recorded sound. Each of these constellations invoked different modes of consumption, which are examined in relation to the Cultural Revolution’s constructions of time, the body, and space, on the one hand, and postsocialist commodity consumption, on the other.