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CGED Research Seminar Series

The Gendering of the Cultural Revolution: The Barefoot Doctor in High Socialist Narrative Feature Film

The Gendering of the Cultural Revolution: The Barefoot Doctor in High Socialist Narrative Feature Film

Speaker: Angie Baecker, Lecturer, Department of Art History, School of Humanities, HKU

Respondent: Vivian Sheng, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, School of Humanities, HKU

Moderator: Alvin K Wong, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, School of Humanities, HKU

Date: 26 May 2021 (Wednesday)

Time: 7:30 PM

Delivery: via Zoom

From late 1975 to early 1976, three films featuring barefoot doctors (chijiao yisheng) as protagonists were released: Chunmiao [Spring Shoots], Hongyu [Red Rain, or The New Doctor], and Yanming hupan [By the Side of Goose Crying Lake]. In this presentation, I trace the rise of the barefoot doctor as a discursive figure of the socialist period, with the trio of barefoot doctor films as testament to their ubiquity in the cultural imaginary of the period. Provoking powerful praise and dissent even within the explicitly revolutionary context of their own times, the barefoot doctor’s emergence signified the undertaking of an ambitious, epoch-defining, but ultimately failed attempt to reposition medical labor within society. Using studio and film bureau production materials, I argue that filmic depictions of the barefoot doctor used gender as a site of revolutionary articulation, as the barefoot doctor sought to transform the medical field into a culture of lay expertise and everyday grassroots healers. Through the embrace of the rural female subject, I find that these discursive attempts at reorganizing labor and society were ultimately produced through the gendering of revolution itself.

Angie Baecker is a Lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on the cultural and material history of Maoist China, the politics of the aesthetic, and the postsocialist legacy in contemporary China. She received her PhD in 2020 from the department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where she wrote her dissertation on the theorization and representation of social reproduction in works of literature, film, and art from the Maoist period. She holds a master’s degree in modern Chinese literature from Tsinghua University. She is a 2020 recipient of the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writers Grant, and her writing on contemporary art has been published widely in venues including Artforum, ArtAsiaPacific, frieze, LEAP, The New Statesman, and Vulture. She previously worked as an art critic and art book editor in Beijing.

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