When nations decide to disown their troubled pasts, how does this strategic disavowal harden into social fact? In Negative Exposures, Margaret Hillenbrand investigates the erasure of key aspects of such momentous events as the Nanjing Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square protests from the Chinese historical consciousness, not due to amnesia or censorship but through the operations of public secrecy. Knowing what not to know, she argues, has many stakeholders, willing and otherwise, who keep quiet to protect themselves or their families out of shame, pragmatism, or the palliative effects of silence. Hillenbrand shows how secrecy works as a powerful structuring force in Chinese society, one hiding in plain sight, and identifies aesthetic artifacts that serve as modes of reckoning against this phenomenon. She analyses the proliferation of photo-forms--remediations of well-known photographs of troubling historical events rendered in such media as paint, celluloid, fabric, digital imagery, and tattoos--as imaginative spaces in which the shadows of secrecy are provocatively outlined.
About the Author
Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Literature, Modernity, and the Practice of Resistance and the coeditor of Documenting China.