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EAS Postgraduate Research Seminar

When Jan 19, 2017
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
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Yevgen Sautin, PhD candidate, Faculty of History
Furnace of Revolution: Manchuria and the Creation of Modern China

Manchuria in the first half of the twentieth century was a fiercely contested space, both politically and in terms of its identity. The aim of my dissertation work is to chart how the new PRC government set about reintegrating this contested space, teeming with outlaws and under foreign influence, into the Chinese state and how Beijing dealt with the sizable enclaves of foreigners that remained. Japanese experts played an important role in starting up the heavy industry that was damaged both by war and Soviet pilfering. The Korean angle is more obscure, but fears of potentially having to deal with a North Korean government in exile in Manchuria may have been one of the reasons for Chinese intervention in the Korean War. On the local level, from 1949-54 Northeast China was transformed by CCP campaigns to reduce illiteracy, create socialist economic planning, and stamp out “Manchurian localism” by bringing in and training a young generation of party cadres. All of these initiatives required mass mobilization which was further spurred on by the Korean War and Chinese direct military involvement. As PLA soldiers, scientists and intellectuals, CCP cadres, and Soviet advisers arrived in the region, Manchuria quickly became both red and expert. The region was also shaken by the first major political purge in CCP’s post 1949 history, the Gao Gang affair. Showing that after playing a decisive role in the communist victory in the Civil War, Manchuria played an equally vital role in the state building efforts that gained traction after 1949.

Alexandra Forrester, PhD candidate, FAMES
Institutionalising the uninstitutionalisable: Daoist Householder priests and the Chinese State

In Reform era China, religion has undergone a period of revitalisation following the strict prohibitions of the Maoist period.  The 'opening up' of China has given rise not only to economic reform but to a relaxation of religious policy.  My research focuses on Daoist Householder 'Huoju' priests of the Zhengyi sect.  These priests live 'scattered' within local communities where they provide ritual services within parishes, treading an often blurred line between the officially sanctioned and the 'superstitious', and are not subject to an overarching hierarchical structure. This makes them difficult to control and regulate.  In recent years, a certification system has been implemented and government-sponsored training schools established in an attempt to disrupt traditional ritual training patterns, impose approved curricula and monitor these priests.

By examining the inevitable tensions between 'traditional' structures and the state (both at a centralised and local level), the unevenness in policy implementation, the origins of Householder priest certification and attempting to ascertain its effectiveness, I seek to answer the question 'can Householder priests be institutionalised?'


This presentation will be based on my MPhil dissertation, which comprised of a review of scholarship pertinent to this question and analysis of official studies commissioned by Chinese government bodies including the Daoist Association

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Cambridge has a long and distinctive tradition in the study of the Middle East and Asia. This Faculty prides itself on exploring these fields through the local languages and encourages students to learn through real world engagement. If you are interested in these world regions and want to discover their languages, cultures, histories, religions, and politics, then this is the home for you. 


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