Jan 10: Alice Yeh, “Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession”

Tuesday, January 10, 12:00-1:15pm (Swift 208)
Alice Yeh, Ph.D. student in Anthropology
“Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession in China”

We will be discussing a grant proposal by Alice Yeh (Ph.D. student in Anthropology) for her dissertation research on Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession in China. Please email contact-global-christianities@uchicago.edu for a copy of the proposal, which should be read in advance.

Overview: This project investigates how the pedagogical legacy of Maoist self-examination has informed Christian confession in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, where economic prosperity and Christian growth have influenced the cultivation of self and subjectivity. How does confession reproduce and recirculate not only Euro-Christian forms of “sin” but also contemporary Chinese understandings of civic cultivation and the self? In what ways has the discourse of Cultural Revolution-era criticism and self-criticism continued to circulate in Chinese society? What are the political economies of the discursive interaction between secular aspirations and religious belief? By following the linguistic practices of self-discipline in both Protestant and Catholic contexts, my research seeks to delineate the multi-faceted tensions that construct and contest the object of “Chinese Christianity.” How do different orientations toward the state and distinct ideologies of sincerity inform the style and content of Protestant testimonies and Catholic confessions? Understanding how secular pedagogical discipline inflects the religious labor of converting self into discourse is critical to re-conceptualizing the shifting place of religion in the postsocialist state. The corpus of sample or parodic confessions I plan to collect will illuminate the most salient stylistic features of the confessional genre and the metapragmatic awareness its composition requires. This ethnography of confession engages with and aims to contribute to scholarship on linguistic ideologies of the public/private distinction, the metapragmatics of ritual, and the anthropology of Christianity.