Alice Yeh

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9568

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Yeh, Alice, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Politics of Confession: Self-criticism and Christian Visions of Private Life in Late Socialist China,' supervised by Dr. Michael Silverstein

The rapid growth of Christianity in China has lately contributed to the Chinese state’s anxiety over its public secular identity. The nostalgic revival of the practice of ‘self-criticism,’ a socialist genre of confessional self-renewal, testifies to the state’s fear that the neoliberal desire for personal progress has come at the expense of an ethical political society. By analyzing the intertextuality of religious and secular discourses of confession and self-criticism, this project will examine the changing political economy of private life in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, a province nationally recognized for both economic prosperity and a worryingly growing Christian population. I aim to understand how Protestants and Catholics engage with new ideologies of the ‘private’ that have come into being during the transition from the Maoist regime to the economic and religious liberalization of the post-Mao era. What can their divergent approaches to and practices of confessional self-construction reveal about the emergent, unstable, and contested politics of the ‘nonpolitical’ private life? This ethnography of confession aims to contribute to scholarship on linguistic ideologies of the public/private division, the metapragmatics of ritual, and the anthropology of Christianity.