Formal Proposal


History 305

Formal Proposal

This project will traverse the role of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Cultural Revolution in context to the Greater East Asian Communist Movement. This geographical expanse of this project will be limited to China, but will feature important communication between Communist countries in East Asian (Vietnam, Russia, Korea). This piece will trace the Chinese Communist Party from its birth in 1921 in the May Fourth Movement to the peak of the Cultural Revolution in 1968. My observation of these events will follow the story of prominent voices of the time including, Chairman Mao Zedong and the Gang of Four (Jiang Qing, Deng Xiaoping, etc.). My preliminary research has revealed the Chinese Communist Movement to be a fractured Communist movement involving at least three major parties, Chinese Nationalists, Red Guards, and the People’s Liberation Army. My thesis will thus attempt to solve or reveal this essential DH historical question: How did the geography of the Red Guard Movement, meaning the exact cities and universities chosen by the Red Guard, turn public opinion in favor of the Peoples Liberation Army and away from the Red Guard and youth who had ignited socioeconomic tension and violence in Mao’s Chinese Cultural Revolution? Notice that I mention “Mao’s Cultural Revolution”; Mao’s Zedong’s ‘hand’ in state affairs will not be ignored in this synopsis of Chinese political history. The historical significance of this project will be the data visualization and the methodology, largely geographic, in which I analyze this project. Most books, cultural resources, and scholarly articles have chosen sociopolitical and relevant statistical indicators to research and analyze the causes and consequences of the Cultural Revolution. My objective is innovative, utilizing data visualization to break down the traditional cross-disciplinary historical analysis and divide the Cultural Revolution amongst the separate spheres of the social sciences; the sociology, psychology, economics, and politics of the ‘revolution’ in a spatial perspective. The outcome should allow students from all social science disciplines to apply their sphere of knowledge to this historical event, hopefully gaining valuable knowledge and insights that would allow them to add to this open-source project.

My preliminary research indicates that oral interviews and video documentaries featuring first-hand testimony to be the most plentiful primary source materials. I feel that these resources will be excellent sources for a narrative approach to my project. One such film includes the testimony of the first American to interview Mao Zedong. From this source, I will ask questions such as; how do Mao’s words reflect his desire to consolidate power outside of the nationalist party? Books such as The Thoughts of Mao Tse-Tun will answer questions correlating to the underlying political ideology of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. From this perspective I can employ questions targeted at sociological phenomenon such as; how does the political ideology of the Chinese Communist Party reflect sociological and cultural patterns in 20th Century China? Of course, these subjects and questions will need to be narrowed down to address topics of requiring further analysis. The dominant theme of this work will be revolution, addressing East Asian concerns for human rights and liberty. As this particular sphere of history is personally a new topic that I have not previously researched, methodological interpretation for this paper and presentation will be come in contrast to a western perspective. I have yet to find other sources of interest on Jiang Qing, but incorporating gender analysis of the Cultural Revolution and its evolution throughout Communist China into the presentation is a goal of this presentation. The beginning of the paper and presentation will focus entirely on briefing the audience on traditional Chinese culture and society, bearing the assumption that the audience is entirely uneducated on the matter.

Explaining how I will incorporate Digital Humanities into this project is difficult considering the status of my research and the ‘newness’ of the technological resources. I intend to incorporate application TimeMapper JS into developing a geographical timeline of the Red Guard massacres. I envision a homepage utilizing the words of Mao Tse-Tun on the application Wordle. These data visualizations will be incorporated into a website. I will let my research direct the rest of the project and prefer to leave this portion of the planning process open ended. This project will be open source and free to sanctioned scholarly debate.

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