From 1966 to 1968, students and workers in urban China were embroiled in deadly factional battles in what many of them believed to be a revolution of a lifetime – the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the middle of factional violence, they also expressed radical ideas of political dissent. Advancing a performance theory of collective violence, this paper argues that both violence and dissent were the results of the dramatic enactment of a revolutionary ethic. The mechanism of this enactment was revolutionary competition. This conclusion has direct implications for understanding the role of political culture in collective violence in today’s world. This talk is based on the speaker’s recently published book The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China (2016).
Guobin Yang is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Columbia University Press, 2009), and The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China (Columbia University Press, 2016), and Dragon-Carving and the Literary Mind (2 vols, Beijing, 2003). He is the editor of China's Contested Internet (2015), The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China (with Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein, 2016), and Re-Envisioning the Chinese Revolution: The Politics and Poetics of Collective Memories in Reform China (with Ching-Kwan Lee, 2007). He co-edits the new SAGE journal Communication and the Public.