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8. Figuring History and Horror in a Provincial Museum: The Water Dungeon, The Rent Collection Courtyard, and the Socialist Undead

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Chapter Summary

This chapter approaches the museum, in its chenlieguan phase, as a material and visual cultural text caught up in the vortex of the Maoist permanent revolution. Toward this end, the author emphasizes the nationalist axis of Chinese communism and how class was racialized and thereby depoliticized in Mao's China. The entire conception of Dayi landlord museum can be said to exemplify the inverted logic of class racism whereby the People-as-One is only conceivable by inferring from the visibility of the class enemy. The remaining parts of the chapter examine the aesthetic and affective politics of the museum's two most famous loci, and conclude by reflecting on the nature and implications of the Maoist political. In the state of exception, class designations and political labels worked in tandem to render all lives precarious. Today, the museum is no longer a heterotopia of estrangement that reifies the class enemy as the stranger.

Keywords: chenlieguan phase; Chinese communism; provincial museum



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