By Elizabeth J. Perry
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The Autumn Harvest Uprising in September 1927, which propelled Mao down the path of peasant revolution, was planned and launched from Anyuan with the participation of hundreds of coal miners. By the fall of 1930, thousands of Anyuan workers had enlisted as soldiers in the Red Army. Due to its close connection to these formative events, Anyuan affords a revealing vantage point for examining the origins and evolution of the Chinese revolution. The success of the Anyuan mobilization effort, we will discover, was closely related to the ability of the young Communist cadres to convert cultural capital into valuable revolutionary currency.
In order to be convincing, cultural positioning demands intimate familiarity with prevailing norms and habits as well as a keen eye for the possibilities of meaningful invention within tradition. Social protests (and protest leaders) vary considerably in their success at meeting this common challenge. Although the “cultural turn” in the social sciences has been underway for over a generation, it is often conducted as discourse analysis in which writings, speeches, films, festivals, and other communicative materials are treated for the most part as disembodied texts whose meaning emerges through the process of scholarly deconstruction.
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