Martin Fromm (History and Political Science) was the organizer and chair of a panel at the annual Association of Asian Studies Conference that convened on March 16-19 in Toronto. The panel, entitled “Wenshi Ziliao and the Post-Mao Reconstruction of the History of China’s Borderlands,” dealt with the politics of historical memory production in China after the Cultural Revolution.
In addition to organizing and chairing the panel, Fromm presented his paper, “‘Seeking truth from facts?’ Wenshi ziliao and the production of post-Mao historical identity.” This paper examines the regional politics of a national state-sponsored oral history project conducted in the 1980s to refashion and reconstruct Chinese historical identities in the aftermath of collective trauma and chaos. It closely analyzes the internal communications of the teams of interviewers, editors, and local officials who participated in the project, teasing out their approaches to constructing new regional and national identities at a time of regime transition.
This paper is based on Fromm’s book manuscript, Producing the Past: Borderland Memories, Nationalist Ideology, and the Search for Historical Identity in Post-Mao China. The book, which is currently under review with the Columbia Weatherhead East Asian Monograph Series, argues that this “cultural and historical materials” project sheds light on the complex and often ambiguous social processes by which national history and ideology are produced in PRC China.