Behind the Gate

Behind the Gate: Inventing Students in Beijing

FABIO LANZA
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/lanz15238
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  • Book Info
    Behind the Gate
    Book Description:

    On May 4, 1919, thousands of students protested the Versailles treaty in Beijing. Seventy years later, another generation demonstrated in Tiananmen Square. Climbing the Monument of the People's Heroes, these protestors stood against a relief of their predecessors, merging with their own mythology while consciously deploying their activism. Through an investigation of twentieth-century Chinese student protest, Fabio Lanza considers the marriage of the cultural and the political, the intellectual and the quotidian, that occurred during the May Fourth movement, along with its rearticulation in subsequent protest. He ultimately explores the political category of the "student" and its making in the twentieth century.

    Lanza returns to the May Fourth period (1917-1923) and the rise of student activism in and around Beijing University. He revisits reform in pedagogical and learning routines, changes in daily campus life, the fluid relationship between the city and its residents, and the actions of allegedly cultural student organizations. Through a careful analysis of everyday life and urban space, Lanza radically reconceptualizes the emergence of political subjectivities (categories such as "worker," "activist," and "student") and how they anchor and inform political action. He accounts for the elements that drew students to Tiananmen and the formation of the student as an enduring political category. His research underscores how, during a time of crisis, the lived realities of university and student became unsettled in Beijing, and how political militancy in China arose only when the boundaries of identification were challenged.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52628-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    There were 12 minutes and 28 seconds remaining.

    I had never bid on eBay. It takes too much energy, too much attention to follow the vagaries of an online auction. And there never seems to be anything I want that badly. But I wanted that propaganda poster—a reproduction of an oil painting, mid-1970s—depicting, with the imagination and rhetorical power possible only in socialist realism, the May Fourth movement of 1919 (see fig. 0.1).

    In the painting, the sky is clearing and clouds are dissipating behind the imposing presence of Tiananmen, which dominates the scene. The students, young men...

  7. PART I: LIVED SPACE
    • 1 THROUGH THE WALLS: EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 23-50)

      Russell Baker once remarked in the New York Times how “patting yourself on the back once in a blue moon is forgivable, but constantly thumping your chest about how wonderful you are soon makes you an embarrassment to friends and neighbors.”¹ In the case of Beijing University (Beida), it is indeed difficult not to find utterly embarrassing such excessive (and, one could say, borderline comical) displays of pride as the one quoted in the epigraph. The slim volume Beida bu bai (Beida is invincible)² is the most glaringly and unabashedly laudatory example in the flood of commemorative publication put into...

    • 2 UNTRAINED BODIES AND FRUGAL HABITS
      (pp. 51-70)

      At the center of all descriptions of daily life at Beida in the May Fourth years lies a puzzling conundrum, an almost schizophrenic split. The anticommunitarian spirit described in the previous chapter seems to have become the defining trait of the university precisely at the time when Beida students showed what was probably the highest degree of organizational ability in the school’s history. The uniform and reiterated picture of a largely atomized environment of almost asocial individuals is, at first sight, very difficult to reconcile with the collective organizing roles that many of these same individuals played during the May...

  8. PART II: INTELLECTUAL SPACE
    • 3 THE DISPLACEMENT OF LEARNING
      (pp. 73-98)

      The research university is a quintessentially modern creation. And, like many modern inventions, it seems to be have been affected since birth by a psychological unbalance, a specifically “modern” disease. In this particular case, it is something that looks very much like clinical schizophrenia. William Clark, in his masterful Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, investigates how the university (in the form we all are very familiar with and that some of us have the luxury of inhabiting) became part and parcel of the modern order, one in which “the visible and the rational triumphed over the...

  9. PART III: POLITICAL SPACE
    • 4 LEARNING POLITICS
      (pp. 101-121)

      May Fourth is stubbornly political. Notwithstanding the attempts to separate cultural reform from political activism and to depict the latter as an anomaly or an aberration, the question of politics lies at the core of our understanding of the May Fourth movement. In the most obvious sense, the whole period before and after 1919 is subsumed under the date of an unequivocally political event—people do not get more directly and overtly political than when they are marching in the streets. Protagonists of the events then and scholars up until today have discussed whether “May Fourth” (the political event) should...

    • 5 IMPROPER PLACES
      (pp. 122-146)

      The polisemic character of the word politics, which plays such a large part in our understanding of May Fourth, was also crucial in framing student activities inside Beijing University and defining them in the eyes of both the school administration and the government. Cai Yuanpei’s stated vision of politics as an activity centered on the state was meant also to shelter (at least in theory) the university from any involvement with and any intervention by political powers. In this narrow perspective, politics was thus reduced to service in official posts and participation in political prties—both activities were either prohibited...

  10. PART IV: SOCIAL SPACE
    • 6 BETWEEN STREETS AND MONUMENTS
      (pp. 149-179)

      In the first decades of the twentieth century, “new” intellectuals who resided in or traveled to Beijing came to adopt and employ an increasingly uniform palette of colors, a shared set of adjectives, and a common array of metaphors when they described the capital in novels, memoirs, and essays. The Beijing of literature was an old, stuffy, and corrupt place.¹ Beijing, especially in comparison to Shanghai, and China’s port cities in general, was a backwater in which the self-described forces of the new felt they were in constant danger of drowning. The persistence of a long tradition of official habits...

    • 7 THE PEDAGOGY OF THE CITY
      (pp. 180-200)

      Students did not go into the city only as individual consumers, spectators, or political protestors.¹ Just around the time of the May Fourth demonstrations, Beijing University students created organizations precisely with the purpose of approaching the urban space and the social realities of the capital. This chapter examines three of these associations (the Night School for University Personnel, the Night School for Commoners, and the Lecture Groups for Popular Education), which were crucial in shaping the particular development of the relationship between students and city residents, and which epitomized the evolution (and involution) of student politics as deployed in urban...

  11. EPILOGUE
    • 8 THE END OF STUDENTS?
      (pp. 203-216)

      In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault famously argued that “man,” far from being a timeless concern, came into being only when a modern space of inquiry was traced by the intersecting fields of the human sciences. “Man” was the disciplinary horizon that coalesced out of a radical redefinition of the epistemic structure in the late eighteenth century; a horizon, he concluded, that in the late 1960s, seemed on the verge of disappearance. Foucault was writing at the liminality of the death of man, at the time of the impending dissolution of the epistemic order that allowed his existence.¹ This,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 217-272)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 273-290)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 291-300)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-302)