Special guest lecturer, Matt Wills, will shed light on the propaganda drawings produced to laud Chairman Mao’s forgotten successor–Hua Guofeng (华国锋). The production of these images is conventionally seen as Hua’s attempt to emulate the cult of Mao Zedong, but this view is premised on an incorrect assumption: that Hua propaganda had the same purpose as images of Mao. Paying attention to the different political moment in which the posters were produced, Wills argues that because Hua was a relative newcomer to the political stage, Hua propaganda needed to generate power and authority to an extent not seen for Mao. Wills will discuss some of the mechanisms used by artists to “puff up” Hua Guofeng, including creating space, gender and ethnic hierarchies. Furthermore, Wills is going to talk about Hua’s absence from an important trope of Chinese propaganda image: the juxtaposition of the solitary leader against a natural landscape. Visually, Hua’s image was trapped into a dependency on overtly revolutionary figures, settings or objects for validation.
Matt Wills is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). His research concentrates on propaganda and book publishing in China’s socialist period (1949-1989). Matt’s research has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, Stanford University and UCSD. Originally from the United Kingdom, he studied history as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford.
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