Acting out reform: Theater and village in the Republican Rural Reconstruction Movement

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Rural theater reform was a component of the Republican Rural Reconstruction Movement from its mid-1920s beginnings in mass literacy efforts. Amid the economic and political upheaval of the 1920s and 1930s, reformers argued that national salvation depended on the unity and continued relevance of village communities, and they believed that rural theater could contribute to bringing village communities together. One important example, the Mass Education Movement project in Dingxian, illustrates how reformers used the theater to reinforce the village as the unit of reform and national reconstruction. Reformers hoped rural theater would transmit to villagers ideas about citizenship and the new responsibilities this political role entailed. However, it was equally important that the reform theater - a group activity performed for a village audience - enable and sustain a reconstitution of the village community. In this way, the Rural Reconstruction Movement demonstrates an alternative to the top-down rule that characterized most Guomindang state-making efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-180
Number of pages20
JournalTwentieth-Century China
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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