'Father Mao' and the Country-Family

Mixed Feelings for Fathers, Officials, and Leaders in China

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Independent scholar j.steinmuller@lse.ac.uk
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What does it mean when Mao Zedong is called 'Father Mao' and when ordinary people in central China put a poster of Mao in the place of their ancestors and the emperor? This article analyzes ordinary affection for the Chinese state and explores changing ideas of the leader as a father and the country as a family. The first part deals with the historical transformation of these metaphors from the late Qing dynasty to the Communist Revolution and Maoism, describing the vernacularization and sentimentalization of the 'Confucian order of the father/son' in twentieth-century China. Against this historical background and based on fieldwork material from central China, the second part deals with the 'mixed feelings' that people in the present day now have for fathers at home, for local officials, and for national leaders.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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