"Kinning Immigrants" with Revolutionary Narratives: Localising Monuments of Revolutionary Martyrs and Transforming Traditional Festival in the North Korean-Chinese Borderland
Shiwei Chen (Nanyang Technological University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper examines the entry of revolutionary narratives into the life of migrants in the North Korean-Chinese borderland in the form of state-sponsored stone monuments and traditional festivals. It discusses how various actors strategically place such narratives and how they are treated locally.
Paper long abstract:
Monuments of revolutionary martyrs are common sites in the North Korean-Chinese borderland. Based on fieldwork in a borderland village where most of the residents are Chinese citizens and trace their ancestral root to the Korean Peninsula, and combining with recently declassified official documents collected in the region, this paper presents the role of those monuments and the narratives they represent in attempting to include the cross-border immigrant Koreans in nation-building processes. The findings show that the Chinese Communist Party utilized membership categories related to the "socialist revolution" to dilute ethnic boundaries and include Koreans in the pre-1949 revolutionary struggles. After coming to power, the revolutionary narratives were continuously promoted by both the state and Korean-Chinese elites. A major artefact that is frequently placed in the villages are stone monuments that promote this narrative by memorising the Korean war. These monuments at times become important ritual spaces but may also be neglected by the villagers in everyday life mainly due to discrepancies of local understandings of this part of history. The practice of honoring revolutionary martyrs has also become embedded in local festivals. For instance, Qingming, a festival originally revolving around paying tributes to ancestors, was reorganized to memorize the wars that Han Chinese and ethnic Koreans fought together and now aids the proliferation of a new membership category that embraces both Han Chinese and ethnic Korean Chinese nationals - the descendants of revolutionary martyrs. However, local residents have different interpretations and display more complicated sentiment toward the revolutions and wars.
Heritage geographies in the age of mobility