Semantron 23 Summer 2023

The interior self in Maoist China

sense of the nation’s shared collective struggle during the war elevated the daily rituals of ‘normal’ life to greater importance.

This emphasis on the notion of the collective, even under opposing ideologies and governments, was shared in Chin a through Mao’s stress on the importance of group struggle and unified beliefs. Nonetheless, the fragility of the diary as a truthful source and its interpretive challenges ‘ usefully complicate our understanding of the wider social and cultural histories ’ 16 in which they exist, with the unquestionable value of the diary being its status as a record of the ‘ development of modern ideas of selfhood . . . and the history of everyday, domestic, and private life ’. 17 To conclude, the diary as a physical form of personal reflection holds great value to the individual, but if used effectively, can be transformed into the most efficient and fruitful tool of authoritarian regimes. The CCP’s focus on revolution izing diary production allowed it to permeate the barrier between an individual’s public and private thought. The interior self is, one might argue, the most precious space to be protected in such a context. It is hard not to be depressed about the ease with which this space was taken over by the state. But the story of the nameless individual tells us that when placed in a different context (Hong Kong), that same brainwashed citizen can ‘recover’ their interior, authentic self as a result of the change in context. Ultimately, this may suggest that as individuals our interior space is salvageable. There is a difference between the interior self and the diary: the diary is a form of recording, while the interior self is a form of experiencing and ‘remembering’ that can exist outside the record a diary represents.

16 Moran, J. (2015) ‘Private Lives, Public Histories: The Diary in Twentieth - Century Britain’, Journal of British Studies Vol. 54, 1: 138-162. 17 Ibid.


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