"Functional Memory Among China's Counter-Historians" with Ian Johnson

When and Where

Tuesday, February 06, 2024 3:00 pm to 4:40 pm
Room 208N
Asian Institute
1 Devonshire Pl Toronto, ON M5S 3K7


Ian Johnson


The JHI Working Group, Emerging Interventions in Contemporary China Studies, is pleased to announce two upcoming sessions with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Ian Johnson, author of the recent book, Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future (OUP 2023). The book brings to light the work of writers, film makers, publishers, and journalists -- counter-historians who are tenaciously wrestling with Xi Jinping to control the historical narrative and create a more just accounting of the past.

EVENT 1: Functional Memory Among China's Counter-Historians

Date: Tuesday, Feb 6th, 3pm-4:40pm

This will be a JHI Working Group session with a pre-circulated work-in-progress paper by Ian Johnson, “Functional Memory Among China's Counter-Historians.”

Discussant: Daisy Yunshi Liang, PhD student, History, York University

Please contact Anup Grewal if you plan to attend and to access the working paper.

EVENT 2: “The Battle for Memory in China,” a Book Talk with Ian Johnson.

Date: Wednesday, Feb 7, 2:30pm-4pm
Location: York University, room 280N Second Floor, York Lanes.

The Battle for Memory in China

Newspaper headlines describe a China that is uniformly bleak: a slowing economy, tensions with the West, and a surveillance state that seems to have crushed all opposing voices. But in his new book Sparks: China's Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future, Ian Johnson presents a more nuanced picture of Xi Jinping's China, one where a vibrant movement of underground filmmakers, magazine publishers, and authors challenge the Communist Party on its most important source of legitimacy: its control of history. Join us as Ian presents his book and introduces us to China's counter-history movement, which echoes struggles in our own countries for a more equitable and just accounting of the past.
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, researcher and senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, shows how—despite the best efforts of Xi Jinping’s surveillance state—a nationwide movement has coalesced to challenge the Communist Party on its most hallowed ground: its control of history.

Register for this event. This event is part of the Knowledge Production in East Asia series at YCAR.

For more information: ycar@yorku.ca


Jackman Humanities Institute


1 Devonshire Pl Toronto, ON M5S 3K7