Clandestine Cosmopolitanism: Foreign Literature in the People's Republic of China, 1957-1977

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This essay examines the circulation and consumption of foreign literature in socialist China, showing that even during the most xenophobic times of High Maoism, Chinese readers had access to foreign literature through a variety of channels. An unstated though widely shared commitment to the intrinsic value of foreign culture, I argue, reveals deeply ingrained cosmopolitan practices that belie a nationalistic surface rhetoric. To trace the interest in and commitment to foreign literature, this article inspects three distinct yet overlapping modes of literary circulation: The private sphere, the restricted public sphere of internal publications, and the open public sphere. Access to foreign literature was limited, but the flow of transnational culture never stopped, as editors and readers alike perpetuated an intellectual framework that was grounded in the valorization of transnational culture and that predated the People's Republic's founding in 1949. These findings call for a reevaluation of Chinese socialist cultural consumption and production from a transnational perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-210
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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