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Death Ritual as a Site of Subject Formation: Religious Variations on Socialist Funeral Ritual in Shanghai, China

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University presents a talk "Death Ritual as a Site of Subject Formation: Religious Variations on Socialist Funeral Ritual in Shanghai, China" by Huwy-min Lucia Liu on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 12:15pm to 1:30pm.

September 23, 2014 12:15pm to 1:30pm

When ordinary Han Chinese die in contemporary Shanghai, they are commemorated in “memorial meetings” (zhuidaohui). The main event of these meetings is a highly conventionalized speech by the deceased’s work unit representative focusing on the deceased’s work history and extolling their contributions to “building socialism.” Since China’s transition toward a market economy in 1978, instead of abandoning it to embrace either traditional Chinese death rituals or “modernist” personalized funerals, Shanghai people have sacralized this secular-socialist ritual. These religious variations on socialist ritual construct religious subjectivities in conjunction with the socialist subjectivity of dead bodies. Huwy-min Lucia Liu will explore death ritual as a site of subject formation: explaining what these socialist memorial meetings are, how they came about and still remain today, how Shanghai people have created religious variations to them, and what these mean for subject formation.

Huwy-min Lucia Liu is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Boston University. Her dissertation explores, both historically and ethnographically, changing modes of governance and subject formation in China through an in-depth study of the Shanghai funeral industry in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her research is focused at the intersection of interests in urban Chinese modernities, China’s partial experiments at privatization of state industries, and the formation, enactment, and contestation of different ideas of citizen and selfhood in Shanghai’s modernist funeral rituals. Her past published work has dealt with class, masculinities, and the consumption of stimulant substances in Taiwan.

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