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Title: Domestic Privacy in Cultural Revolution Shanghai
Keywords: domestic, privacy, cultural revolution, shanghai, private life
Issue Date: 7-Aug-2009
Citation: GUO JINGYU (2009-08-07). Domestic Privacy in Cultural Revolution Shanghai. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In this thesis, I examine domestic privacy and its possibilities in Shanghai during the Cultural period. The Cultural Revolution is depicted differently in contemporary observation, and post contemporaneous studies and memoirs. While contemporary observations depicted domestic and neighborhood life to be communal and friendly, works and memoirs produced after depicted the same phenomenon negatively. In both cases, domestic privacy was deemed absent for different reasons. Contemporary works assumed that no notion of privacy existed because of the communal mindedness of the residents, while the latter genre depicted neighborhood surveillance to drastically curtail privacy. In chapters one and two, I argue that contrary to post contemporaneous depictions, neighborhood surveillance from residents? committees, militia and police personnel were not as intrusive as depicted. The surveillance of neighbors was not intrusive, but benign. While this depiction may mirror contemporary observations, I argue that this picture does not indicate that residents had no desire for domestic privacy. Rather, domestic privacy was protected by neighborly vigilance that kept out non neighborhood elements, while ensuring that neighbors did not intrude upon fellow domestic spaces. In chapter three, I examine the principles behind how households allocated living space. Households tried to satisfy various claims on private space arising from how much non disclosure they felt that family members of different age, gender and status needed. Married couples made the heaviest claim on private space, while the need to separate a grown sister from her brothers was important too. At times, the claims on private space in a household conflicted with a need to set aside space for the execution of public functions involving non familial people. In chapters three and four, I examine illicit possessions and acts at home against what memoirs and studies depicted. I conclude that most people did not have illicit possessions nor commit the illicit acts most commonly depicted in memoirs and studies. Families of bad class backgrounds committed selected illicit acts only if such acts improved their future prospects, while eschewing illicit possessions beyond that needed in committing said illicit acts. Families of good background, however, kept politically dangerous forms of wealth while eschewing illicit acts and illicit possessions that were not valuable. A strategic mindset dictated the illicit acts people committed and the illicit possessions kept. The issue of illicit acts and possessions reflect also the strength of domestic privacy that could be secured even with a highly visible domestic life by relying on the trust between neighbors. In my conclusion, I examine `privacy? was applicable in describing how people then conceived of their experiences in withholding things from others. I argue that people had a sense of things to be withheld from others. However, the contents to be withheld covered a broad spectrum. `Privacy? as understood by the West suggests the intimate and personal, as opposed to `secrecy?. Such a distinction, however, did not apply to people during the Cultural Revolution, despite the prevalence of the term `privacy? in memoirs and observations about the Cultural Revolution.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

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