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Jennifer Altehenger – A History of Legal Lessons: law, propaganda, and the state in socialist China
September 11, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Jennifer Altehenger, King’s College London
In 2016, the PRC embarked on the seventh five-year plan for the popularization of law. Today, the dissemination of basic legal knowledge is an established part of CCP governance, closely associated with the extensive legal reforms that followed the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Yet people learned about laws under state auspices throughout the twentieth-century (and before). Following the establishment of the PRC in 1949, the CCP carried out numerous campaigns to get people to study and implement key national laws such as the Marriage Law, Election Law, and state constitutions. Teaching and learning laws was part of mass line politics, intended to make laws accessible and transform people into law-making and law-abiding socialist citizens who contributed to China’s liberation. This talk – part of research for a recent book – shows why the CCP cared about disseminating laws from early on, how law propaganda was produced, circulated, and censored, and how people responded to learning about laws. Far from a simple propaganda exercise, law propaganda contributed to fostering a legal culture in China that bolstered and threatened CCP rule at the same time.
Jennifer Altehenger is a Lecturer in Contemporary Chinese History at King’s College London. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1989 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018) and has also published on the history of propaganda production, information, lexicography, political satire, and on Communist China’s links to other socialist countries before 1989. Funded by the British Academy and an Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership fellowship, her current work examines the social, economic, and cultural history of everyday material culture and industrial design in China after 1949.